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Articles of 2002

SHORT LIST IS SHORT ON REAL CREDENTIALS

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Ken Nahigian, the latest self-styled boxing “expert” in these United States, has a little list he carries around in his back pocket. Written on this piece of paper are the names of his preferred candidates to take the role of “national boxing administrator” (otherwise known as the 'boxing czar'), a position that would be created if the “Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002” is passed by Congress.

It exists so that Nahigian, a lawyer working on behalf of John McCain, can show it to staffers who represent United States Senators, with the intention of soliciting support for the legislation (Not that too many of the names are going to mean anything to anybody).

The list is not about producing the best qualified candidates, or in fact to arrive at anyone qualified at all. Getting the “best and the brightest” does not enter into the equation. Neither does the reality that once someone is actually nominated, they'd actually have to have the capacity to PERFORM the duties required for the job.

Forget all that. Hey, it's not like we're trying to educating people on ISSUES here. We're selling. Don't you realize that A-B-C stands NOT for Association of Boxing Commissioners, but “A-Always B-Be C-Closing”?

This is a shell game, more than anything else – it's about the art of deception. Let's point someone in THIS direction, so they won't see what's really happening in the other direction.

Nothing like a good ol' “dog-and-pony show” right? I mean, it's not as if the May 22 Senate hearings were about gathering input for the purposes of constructing a useful piece of legislation. After all, for all intents and purposes the bill had already been written BEFORE the hearings. But wasn't it cool having Muhammad Ali there?

I don't know; maybe I'm naive. Maybe the entire list, in and of itself, is an exercise in deception. Maybe there's a better list, with more serious names, sitting in a safety deposit box somewhere. It must be, because I can't help wondering just how in the world Ken Nahigian honestly believes he can sneak some of these people through a Senate confirmation hearing.

Do you think Nahigian can get enough United States Senators to look the other way for that long?

Hmmmm.

It may be time to introduce Mr. Nahigian to two words that should undoubtedly be part of his vocabulary:

DUE DILIGENCE.

Thankfully, most of Nahigian's candidates probably wouldn't get far past the mountain of paperwork anyway. One of the forms any nominee for a Senate confirmation must complete is the “White House Personal Data Statement”. Here are two of the questions that appear on that form:

“Do you know anyone or any organization that might take any steps, overtly or covertly, fairly or unfairly, to criticize your appointment? If so, please explain.”

“Is there any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could be considered a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President?”

If I can be so bold, allow me to help some of the potential nominees with those answers.

“Yes”, and “yes”.

Please take my word for it.

Let's review the list one-by-one, in alphabetical order:

TEDDY ATLAS

— Trainer of heavyweight Michael Grant; former trainer for Michael Moorer, others. Personally, I like Teddy, and think he has something valuable to contribute in the way of training fighters, and as ESPN's color commentator who has “been there”. But I'm not sure that contribution should manifest itself through a role as the national boxing administrator. After all, whether it's fair or not, Atlas is identified with ESPN, the sports “monster” documented in several chapters of the series as being engaged in business practices that are contrary to the best interests of boxing and quite possibly in restraint of trade. Then, there's that Thomas Williams thing, which still bothers me a little. And if McCain's people have assured him, as is the rumor, that he can have the position in Washington AND keep his job with ESPN – an entity that should be a subject of regulation and (in my opinion) very close scrutiny, then it would reaffirm that the “reform movement” of McCain and government Nahigian is a complete and total sham.

References – Chapters

28

, 29

, 30

, 31

, 32

, 33

, 34

DICKIE COLE

— Currently runs Texas commission. Formerly an all-around political operative of Jose Sulaiman and the World Boxing Council, not to mention its “junior organization”, the North American Boxing Federation. Served as ratings chairman of both the WBC and NABF. During this period of time, operated an insurance company in which he accepted money for boxing insurance policies from clients who were also boxing promoters. These promoters would, in the normal course of doing business, lobby him and his colleagues to have their fighters rated favorably. That's a conflict of interest, but seemingly nothing that was ever self-policed. His son, Lawrence Cole, a referee who inherited the agency and who also accepts money from promoters on whose shows he officiates, and who aspires to some day run the NABF (maybe it's his birthright), is perfectly ready, willing, and able to carry on the family tradition. Dickie have a powerful ally in his corner, as he was appointed to his current position through the administration of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush.

References – Chapters

24

, 38

, 39

JOE DWYER

— Chairman of the IBF's Championship Committee. Former judge and chief inspector in New York. Former police officer in New York City. Dwyer helped to supply some much-needed credibility to the IBF in the wake of the Bob Lee scandals. That was no small feat. However, he comes from a sanctioning body, and in this atmosphere, where everyone in Washington and in the ABC seems to be decidedly “anti-sanctioning body”, that could work against him. Also, Dwyer makes it clear to anyone who asks that he was not put on this earth to be manipulated. While that may be a great quality for the purposes of “Operation Cleanup”, it may not be what the Ken Nahigians of the world are looking for. Understands that the concept of selecting officials for championship fights can work effectively as a “give-and-take” process. Dwyer is the only candidate on this list I could possibly recommend. I hope that isn't the kiss of death.

TIM LUECKENHOFF

— Current president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Known associate of Kentucky's “Minister of Maim”, Jack Kerns, with whom he serves on the ABC Board of Directors. Supported Kerns' inclusion on the board, and his retention even after evidence surfaced about Kerns' disregard for safety and possible criminal neglect in the Greg Page case. No word on whether he would continue to consult with Kerns if he assumed a new office. Opposed to the concept of neutrality in officiating. Nice guy. Law enforcement investigator. Another one of those commissioners, though, who agreed that it is was “financially inconvenient” to have ambulances at fights – the result was a $13.7 million judgment in compensatory damages for a fighter against a Missouri hotel when he suffered brain damage as a result of the lack of available ambulance service. Only afterward was Missouri law changed to require ambulances. Learning on the job. Did an admirable thing standing up to WBC in the Indiana matter. But has taken it to the other extreme, threatening fairness in the officiating of championship fights. An increasing number of fighters and fighter advocates are unhappy about his seeming indifference toward taking on possible Ali Act violators. Could have taken more of an activist role, but hasn't. And Kerns hangs around his neck like an albatross. Hasn't been around the game that long.

References – Chapters

35

, 49

, 56

DR. JAMES NAVE

— Was on Nevada State Athletic Commission for years. Also served as its chairman. Was known as an extremely “hands-on” commissioner, although we don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Notable, in that he was the only Nevada commissioner to vote against Mike Tyson when the state reinstated Tyson's boxing license in 1998. Very political. Also reportedly very cozy with Jose Sulaiman, president of the beleaguered WBC. Some may view him as being too close to the culture of sanctioning bodies, which as we mentioned, doesn't work well in this atmosphere. McCain, Nahigian & Co. really don't want him, but his appearance on this list no doubt reflects an attempt to include a “compromise candidate” to appease Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who can effectively stand in the way of the passage of McCain's legislation. Whether Nave is a “knave” remains to be seen. Let's see – do I want a veterinarian or a boxing guy to be the national boxing “czar”?

GREG SIRB

— Administrative head of the Pennsylvania commission. On the positive side, I like his practice of conducting an “interim” weigh-in between the official weigh-in and the fight, as a way to prevent fighters from putting on too much weight during that period. “Past President” of the Association of Boxing Commissions, a position that was created for him, seemingly out of thin air. Known associate of Kentucky's “Minister of Maim”, Jack Kerns, with whom he serves on the ABC Board of Directors. Did not contest Kerns' retention on the board, even after evidence surfaced about Kerns' disregard for safety and possible criminal neglect in the Greg Page case. Though he controlled the floor, did not voice an objection or even a caution about Kerns' candidacy for First Vice-President of the ABC at the 2001 convention. Has demonstrated a tendency to misinterpret the federal laws governing boxing, and has also circumvented them on occasion (okay, we're getting a little ahead of our story 'queue' there). Opposed, strongly, to the concept of neutrality in officiating. To this day, is the only commission director I've ever seen who has actually hugged the hometown fighter in the ring after a fight (what kind of message does THAT send?). Cozy with Russell Peltz, the ESPN operative/promoter engaged in very questionable business practices at the network. Has Ken Nahigian's ear, which may explain why nothing in the new legislation has offered anything in the way of a check on the activities of Peltz or others like him. Very political. Insiders associated with the ABC are concerned that he vacillates on too many issues. 

References: Chapters

5 , 18

, 39

, 40

, 49

Good thing for Nahigian – his bill won't likely pass too soon, so he'll have a lot of time to get it right.

And if it's any consolation to him – we only have about 40 more chapters to write about it :))

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

Articles of 2002

$*%@#!

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Walk the dog, stroll through the park, have a picnic at the lake.
There are safer things for IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov to do this month than defend his title against James “Lights Out” Toney.
Barbecue, play softball, fish, visit the zoo. Thank his lucky stars.
Jirov, who lives in California, won’t be fighting Toney on HBO on Jan. 25.
Something to do with his insides.
Ask Toney why Jirov pulled out of their fight and he’ll tell you it was Jirov’s heart that let him down, his backbone that went soft, not his banged-up ribs. Ask Toney and he’ll tell you about heartbreak and lies and revenge and fighting anybody in the universe if it means another title. Jirov claims he suffered the damage while sparring. Maybe. But it’s the fourth time Jirov has found a reason not to fight Toney. How many times you got to be told to go home before you realize the guy doesn’t want to come outside and play? How many times you got to be bit by the same dog before you realize it wants to be left alone? Jirov has more excuses than a politician caught with a hooker on his lap.
In his own eloquent way, Toney recently described how disappointed he was in the cancellation of their title fight on the undercard of the Vernon Forrest – Ricardo Mayorga welterweight title fight.
“The @#%$%*&#@,’’ Toney said after learning of the postponement on Christmas Eve. “Jirov can @&%$#% and then he can @%$#@#$. He’s nothing but a #$%#@#.’’ That said, it doesn’t brighten up the New Year in the Toney household.
“I’m done with it,’’ said Toney, sounding like a guy who finally gets tried of being stood up by the same girl.
As of Dec. 30, there was still no word of an opponent for Toney, though he’s still making regular trips to the gym.
Merry Christmas, James. Have a Happy New Year.
“Bah, humbug,’’ said Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen. “We didn’t have much of a Christmas. I got the news on Christmas Eve. But you just have to bounce back.’’ Funny thing about fighters. Some make excuses, some fight through them. You get the feeling Toney could have cracked five ribs and his right tibia and still climbed into the ring against Jirov.
It raises a lot of questions. What’s Jirov got against fighting? After a busy 2001, he hasn’t fought since last February. How do you hold a title after you’ve gone into retirement? Just who is this guy and why does he like to hide? Is there really a Vassily Jirov out there, or is he a creation of the IBF, a shadowy figure who won the title and decided it was too big a risk to keep defending it? The bottom line is, Toney may be left with a lot of unexpected free time on his hands if they don’t find him another fight, though he knew better than to mark the date on his calendar in ink. There are no promises in boxing. When dealing with a guy like Jirov, all bets are off. But Toney can still hope. The name O’Neil Bell – the WBC’s No. 1 challenger – has been knocked around, and Toney said he doesn’t care what contender or champion he knocks out on Jan. 25. “#@#$%$#,’’ Toney said.
You can say that again.

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Articles of 2002

New Year's Resolutions

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A new year is upon us, which means it's time for new years resolutions. Yeah, never mind that most resolutions are broken, oh, around the third week of January; everybody still makes them.

Here are my resolutions that I'd make for some of the luminaries in the sport of boxing.

* Floyd Mayweather: No more excuses. Anyone else sick of listening to 'the Pretty Boy' whine about what ailments he came into the fight with? Whether it's his fragile hands, a bum shoulder or his squabbles with his promoter Bob Arum, he always has an alibi. Hey Floyd, nobody cares, you get paid plenty to perform and those that buy tickets don't care that you might have a hangnail; they want nothing but the best effort out of you.

Mayweather reminds me of former Los Angeles Dodger slugger Mike Marshall, who's second home seemed to be the disabled list. The bottom line is this guy is lucky to be a boxer where he only has to perform once every 6 months- he simply couldn't handle the rigors of an NBA, NFL or baseball season. Ask any athlete if they are ever 100-percent healthy after the first day of training camp or spring training and they'll laugh at you.

Injuries and ailments are a part of the job, overcoming them is what makes a true professional. Mayweather still hasn't grasped that concept.

* Jim Gray: Respect. I guess this little weasel is whom Aretha Franklin was talking about in her song. Think about it, have you ever seen a guy be so disrespectful to fighters in post-fight interviews like this guy. Don't even mention HBO's Larry Merchant- he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions like a true journalist and he's consistent. Gray looks at boxing as a secondary gig and looks down on boxers in general.

Don't believe me? Just compare and contrast his softball interviews that he does for NBC and the hatchet jobs he does on Showtime.

* Max Kellerman: No more over-hyping New York boxers. Look, I get along and respect Max, but when you look up the term 'East Coast Bias' in Webster's, his picture may be used as the definition of it. From Zab Judah to James Butler and to Tokumbo Olajide, he'll have you enshrined in Canastota if you come out of the Big Apple.

What's worse are the excuses he'll come up with for his New Yorkers when they fall on their faces. Max is great for boxing but he's gotta realize New York hasn't been a player on the boxing scene for at least 20 years.

* Crocodile: A new catchphrase. You know Crocodile, right? He was Mike Tyson's hype-man for all these years…the guy with the menacing shades and the army fatigues who used to scream, “GUERILLA WARFARE” at the top of his lungs over and over again.

I've heard that enough and it's about as played out as 'Whoop, there it is' and it's time he came up with a new one. All the great ones can add to their repertoire.

* HBO: Admit they acknowledge the titles. Stop being the Hypocritical Boxing Organization and just stop saying that you don't recognize these organizations. The latest example of their double-talk? Well, for years they dogged John Ruiz and his WBA title, suddenly Roy Jones challenges Ruiz and HBO is hyping this up as some sort of historic challenge of a light heavyweight trying to capture a heavyweight title.
Yeah, the same title they had basically trashed for years.

* Joe Cortez: No more over-officiating. His line is that,' He's firm but he's fair'. I'd argue about that the last couple of years but my biggest gripe with him is that he seems to make himself waaaaay too visible during fights and gets too involved. Nobody is there to watch him and he should just let the fighters fight.
Too often I see these fights with Cortez lose their flow as Cortez continually interrupts the action with his admonishments and warnings. Joe, take a step back and let us watch what we came to see.

* Don Turner: Stop living off of Holyfield-Tyson I- If you ever talk to this guy, he'll talk as though he invented boxing. And his big coup was co-training Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson. 'The Real Deal' upset Tyson and suddenly Turner was being hailed as the new Chappie Blackburn and he became a media darling.

My question is this, did he suddenly teach Holyfield how to fight 35 fights into his career? Also, I contend that my mother and I could work Holyfield's corner and he would whip Tyson everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And ask yourself this, when was the last time he was in the winning corner for a big fight?

* Newspaper writers: Start crediting the Internet. Ok, this is a sore subject with me, but too many times I've seen stories from the major newspaper scribes who amazingly have stories that are eerily similar to stories that I've read on the internet (or that I've written myself) and use quotes that I got in one-on-one interviews and they don't attribute their sources- the internet.

When I take quotes or info from a story I make a point to give credit where it's due. Now, I just wish these guys would do the same.

* Roy Jones: no more hip-hop entrances. Roy, you're a magnificently gifted prizefighter, you can also play just a bit of hoops, but your rhyming skills are that of Shaquille O'Neal. In other words, you're doing street nursery rhymes not Nas.

Please, oh please, stop embarrassing yourself and the sport with your cheesy as nacho's attempt to become a hip-hop performer. His last entrance/performance reminded me of one of those really bad Sir-Mix-Alot videos of the early 90's.

* Panama Lewis: an exit out of the game. You remember Lewis right, the guy who gave Aaron Pryor the mysterious white bottle before the 14th round of his bout against Alexis Arguello, which seemed to give 'the Hawk' a sudden burst of energy that enabled Pryor to brutally KO Arguello. Afterwards, Pryor would skip out on his post-fight drug test.

Then there was the fight with Luis Resto, where he would tamper with his gloves between rounds, and bearing the brunt of this tomfoolery was Billy Collins who's faced was turned into a bloody mess. Collins, in the aftermath of this brutality committed suicide. For this, Lewis was banned permanently from working a corner. But that doesn't mean that he can't go into the gym and train fighters and even attend fights.

The bottom line is simple, this man has no place in the game of boxing and boxing shouldn't tolerate him in any way.

* Cedric Kushner: no more gimmicks. This guy has tried everything from the disastrous 'ThunderBox' to one-day $100,000 heavyweight tournaments- and all have failed miserably.

He can put on a boxing version of 'Survivor' or 'Real World' if he wants but the reality is, boxing fans want good fights and interesting fighters, nothing more, nothing less.

Stop with the shenanigans and stop with the junk.

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Articles of 2002

Dream Fights of 2003

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Hey, we can all dream, right? Isn't it our God-given right as boxing fans to think about fights that should happen – but often times don't?

And not just fights that have the highest profile or the biggest names – because sometimes those fights, like Lewis vs. Tyson – are nothing more than high-profile mismatches. I'm talking about fights that are evenly matched between the game's best and are the most intriguing inside the ring.

Here are some fights I'd pay to see in the upcoming year; full well knowing that most of these fights are pipe dreams as the business end of the sport would bog these fights down quickly. But hey, we can dream right?

* Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera: Name me another fighter that has never won a world title belt that is better than Marquez? You can't and this guys been ducked and dodged long enough. On February 1st he takes on Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title and it says here that he should face one of the game's best known 126-pounders, either Morales or Barrera. Marquez is a master boxer with great counter-punching skills and his hand-speed would give either one of his Mexican compatriots fits. There are some in the industry who have been saying for a while that Marquez is already the game's premiere featherweight; I'm not inclined to disagree that strongly.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: With Barrera, not good, as Ricardo Maldonado sees no real upside in this match-up and would most likely take an easier fight on HBO for about the same amount of money he could make facing Marquez.

With Morales, the logistics are much less complicated. Both of them are promoted by Bob Arum and there is some talk that they could face each other in May if a Morales-Barrera III isn't made.

* Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones: Not only because it's a match-up of two of the very premiere fighters in the world, but Hopkins needs to resume his career with some meaningful fights and Jones should be fighting guys like 'the Executioner' instead of participating in novelty acts like his proposed bout with John Ruiz.

And don't think for one minute that this would be a blowout. Jones couldn't blowout a green Hopkins in 1993 and won't be able to do it now. Hopkins, unlike most of Jones' opponents, isn't in total awe of Pensacola's finest.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not good, Sharon and Arafat will find a common ground regarding the Middle East before these two proud and stubborn men find one in contract negotiations.

* Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vernon Forrest: For fans of pure boxing and strategy this is a fight that can't be missed. Both men have strong jabs and match-up well physically. 'The Golden Boy' has the better left hook and 'The Viper' has a more effective right hand. Between these two well-schooled boxers you can expect a tense and tight boxing match with subtle momentum swings round by round.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: For 2003, not very good because it looks like Oscar will be fighting once in the upcoming year – a September rematch against Shane Mosley – and Bob Arum has stated that Forrest simply brings nothing to the table promotionally. This can be interpreted as another way of saying that he's not Latin, too dangerous or just another black fighter who can't sell a ticket. The bottom line seems to be that unless Forrest raises his profile in the upcoming years, De La Hoya will be facing guys that make economic sense.

* Floyd Mayweather vs. Kostya Tszyu: This would be a face off of the sport's premier lightweight against the game's best jr. welterweight. 'The Pretty Boy' would bring speed, quickness and boxing ability to the dance. While Tszyu would bring a decided edge in strength, size and punching power. They say styles make fights and you have two contrasting ones here.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not likely. This is for a couple of reasons. First, Vlad Wharton who promotes Tszyu, is seemingly deathly afraid to take any risks with Tszyu, who's basically his cash cow. Secondly, Mayweather got a reality check from his two bouts with Jose Luis Castillo, who at 135 pounds was able to muscle him throughout their 24 rounds they fought in 2002. And Tszyu is faster, sharper and just as strong as Castillo. I'm not sure Mayweather is in any rush to make the move up to 140-pounds.

* Lennox Lewis vs. Wladimir Klitschko: The industry is always better off when there is action in the heavyweight division. So why even mess around by having Lewis take on 'the other' Klitschko or knock out Tyson again; getting right in there with the man most pundits are claiming is the heir to his throne in Wlad Klitschko?

The time is now, Lewis is getting up there in age and really doesn't have that much left in his gas tank anyway and it would be prudent for him to face Klitschko now before he gets any better. Remember, that's the tact they took in facing Michael Grant when they did – but it has to be noted that Klitschko is much better than Grant.

Lewis would have the advantages in experience and savvy, but for one of the few times in his career he would be facing a disadvantage in size and perhaps power. The two best big men on the planet squaring off, what else could you ask for?

CHANCES OF HAPPENING: Actually pretty good, since Lewis himself has stated his plans to take on both Klitschkos in between his rematch with Tyson. But with Don King now making a full court press to garner the services of Lewis, who knows what direction he goes to now.

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