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Articles of 2002

OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

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No doubt you're aware of the special hearing this Wednesday where the WBA will explain its movements in the latest heavyweight rankings. Such moves have caused a firestorm of controversy – the focus of which involves Kirk Johnson, moved from 1st to 5th after his disqualification loss to John Ruiz, then, inexplicably, all the way down to #10. At this moment ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff wants the WBA prosecuted under the Ali Act, and commissions are lining up to deny sanctioning fees to the organization.

The root of all this trouble could very well be traced back to the fateful September 12 hearing where the WBA rendered a decision that could – over the course of time -greatly reduce its strength in the United States, then took the action that has, in the minds of many, put it into immediate peril.

At this hearing, in which Kirk Johnson protested his DQ in the July 27 heavyweight title fight against Ruiz, the WBA Appeals Committee ruled against Johnson's motion, citing the appeal as “extemporaneous”, which I guess, within this context, meant that it was more or less contrived after the fact and based on nothing more than the Johnson camp's dissatisfaction with the final outcome.

Certainly, the fact that Johnson didn't file a protest, in writing, before the fight took place gave the committee the impression that they were “playing the result”. As Tony Cardinale, the attorney/co-manager for Ruiz pointed out, the fact that there was no written protest in advance would seem to constitute “waiver”, in which Johnson's people surrendered their right to protest subsequent to the fight. Well, the WBA appeals procedures provide for protests to be filed with the Appeals Committee up to eight business days beyond any fight that would be in question, so we could argue about that a little. Whatever.

My arguments, and motivation, were different than either party at the hearing in that it was more academic in nature. My concerns were with the consistency of the enforcement of rules and how that was going to affect organizations like the WBA within the atmosphere that is brewing in boxing here in the United States; one that may or may not change dramatically over the next year or so.

That's why I addressed the committee at this hearing, which, as it turns out, became part of Johnson's case, since according to the WBA, it had to be entered on behalf of one side or the other.

I had no qualms at all about offering testimony at the hearing, since I think what is being done in the process of compiling this series of stories is activist in nature anyway. And I didn't have any problems speaking for the Johnson side, because I considered it to be a logical extension of the conclusion I had already come to – independently – in previous chapters of “Operation Cleanup”.

This is basically what I told them –

Greg Sirb, the director of the Pennsylvania commission and “Past President” of the Association of Boxing Commissions, sent a memorandum to the ABC membership on August 8; he forwarded it my way on August 21, so I figured I had a right to read it and quote it. What it said, as concerned the subject of Kirk Johnson and his protest, was:

“FIRST: the current situation (the appeal of Kirk Johnson) concerning his loss to John Ruiz in Nevada on July 2002. If the WBA does indeed rule in favor of Mr. Johnson that the officials were not 'neutral' (although I have yet to have the term neutral specifically defined) as is according to their rules – then this would put the WBA in direct odds with the federal law – which states all referees and judges must be certified and approved by the local boxing commission.

The Nevada commission, as would any commission, was well within their right to select officials for this and any other match. The problem is that we as commissions are going to continue to have this sort of problem if the WBA and any other organization has in their by-laws/regulations that they indeed must approve officials or that officials must be 'neutral'. The bottom line is that each commission has the backing of federal law to have the final say on the selection of officials. I think each organization should start to take the time to read the federal law and seriously revisit any wording that suggests that they (the organizations) control the authority over the selection of officials because if they don't, then there are going to be many more appeals like the Johnson case. Particularly, if the WBA rules in favor of Johnson.

It is very possible that each time boxer losses (sic) his management team can file an appeal based on the fact that the organization did not follow their (selection of officials) procedures, which as I pointed out is in direct conflict with the federal law!”

In effect, what Sirb was saying was that if the WBA ruled in favor of Johnson, he would have considered that a setback for the ABC; if they ruled against him it would be a victory.

Let me dissect this statement a little further. First of all, the term “neutral”, as applies to the World Boxing Association, is defined very clearly in Section 16, Paragraph 2 of the WBA's “World Championship Regulations and Rules”:

“The officials appointed by the President to act in any Championship fight shall be NEUTRAL, this being understood to mean that they shall not be of the same nationality, residence or origin of the champion or of the challenger.”

The idea that the WBA, by having neutral officials for a fight, would be operating in direct conflict with federal law is inaccurate, at the very least. But it is not difficult to figure WHY Sirb feels this way, when you come to the realization that he did not accurately interpret the federal law that is CURRENTLY IN PLACE.

Here is Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, as is contained under the title “JUDGES AND REFEREES”:

“No person may arrange, promote, organize, produce, or fight in a professional boxing match unless all referees and judges participating in the match have been certified and approved by the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in the State where the match is held.”

What that means is just what it says – CERTIFIED and APPROVED by the boxing commission. That doesn't say SELECTED or APPOINTED. The way this law is written, it seems to automatically contemplate that there is one entity who would be offering the officials for approval, and another entity (the commission) that would actually APPROVE them.

Otherwise, the law would have specifically stated that the boxing commission is solely responsible for SELECTING the officials. Certainly, if the state commissions were to be selecting the officials unilaterally, the term “certified and approved” would not even be included in the language, since it would no doubt be redundant. After all, one must pre-suppose that if an entity were SELECTING the officials, it would be implicit that the entity would have already APPROVED them, wouldn't it?

It is very clear to me that the spirit of the law was not intended so that one party alone would have the authority to appoint officials, at least for championship fights, without input from the other entity. I know this because when I was reading the brand-new legislation that is going to be up for consideration in Congress – the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002 – it took into consideration the involvement and some degree of participation on the part of the sanctioning organizations. Look at Section 115 (c), at least the way it read as of September 12, the day of the hearing:

“(C) SANCTIONING ORGANIZATION TO PROVIDE LIST – A sanctioning organization —

(1) shall provide a list of judges and referees deemed qualified by that organization to a boxing commission; but

(2) may not influence, or attempt to influence, a boxing commission's selection of a judge or referee for a professional boxing match except by providing such a list.”

This, at the very least, invites input from the sanctioning bodies, while vesting the final authority in the hands of a local commission. This is not as democratic, or as forward-looking, as the plan that was set forth in

Chapter 41

of this series, but it's not necessarily dictatorial.

Like many things, it's open to a fairly wide range of interpretations. For example, one could argue that it means the sanctioning body would provide the list, then the commission would choose FROM that list, without any further suggestion from the sanctioning body, which is okay. Or it could mean that the commission can look at the list, completely ignore the names on it, and name their own officials without anyone having the right to lodge an objection.

Of course it needs to made more explicit. And once again, I stress that for the best solution, go back to

Chapter 41

. Anyway……..

In any event, the wording of that law means nothing because it hasn't passed.

Certainly, though, there is no secret as to the way the leadership of the Association of Boxing Commissions interprets this.

In a memo it gave out to the members at the annual convention in July, entitled “Summary of the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2002”, this bullet point is made –

* Requires that judges and referees be assigned for each match by the appropriate boxing commission without interference from sanctioning organizations.”

Clearly they want the sanctioning bodies to have as little input as possible. And just as clearly, if they had their way they'd put them out of business.

Naturally, if they want to do that, it would help to come up with an alternative. But actually, the legislation that is in place prohibits the ABC from becoming involved with ranking fighters or sanctioning championships.

This is typical of the mentality that pervades the ABC; they're quick to point out a problem, but there's no solution to it that will actually work. Or they want to change something but don't really have a reason for it. They see the forest, but miss the trees. Or else it's the other way around.

Just think about the statement made by Sirb in his memorandum – “The problem is that we as commissions are going to continue to have this sort of problem if the WBA and any other organization has in their by-laws/regulations that they indeed must approve officials or that officials must be 'neutral'.”

I wouldn't think I'd hear someone actually OPPOSED to neutrality, but I guess that's what I'm hearing. And I'm going to assume this reflects the general attitude among the people who in leadership roles at the ABC. I really don't understand what the argument AGAINST neutrality is. I will take issue – strongly – with the sanctioning bodies on many things, but to me, this is one of the rules that makes sense – not necessarily because you're going to, by definition, get better officials or officials that are fairer. But you're removing the possibility that there might be nationalistic considerations involved. And quite simply, by taking enough care that the judges or referee for a fight are NOT from the same country as one contestant or the other, you are removing another thing that one side or the other can bellyache about after the fight is over.

It's probably fair to say that while I do not necessarily stand up alongside the sanctioning bodies, I still stand up for the rule – the principle.

And I thought I could expect that regardless of any rules, or interpretation of them, that may have existed on the part of state commissions, the WBA would have made a statement for THEIR own basic principles – the ones they seem to have taken the trouble to put down in writing.

I figured they'd have though that since they had spent the effort to make neutrality a part of their rules, they would have decided it was important enough to stand up for.

And if they were going to stand up for it, they had to stand up for Kirk Johnson, didn't they?

Well, they didn't.

They provided the ABC people – the people would like to usher them out the door – with the victory they craved.

What they did was fuel suspicion that somewhere, there may have been an inclination to prejudice Johnson before and during the fight with Ruiz. Could you blame Johnson's people for having that kind of paranoia, given the subsequent events?

And as I sit here, I just can't help but think that if those guys would have listened to what I was saying – if they had given Johnson any relief; any road map whatsoever by which to earn himself another opportunity for a title shot, they might not be embroiled in the situation they find themselves in now. That's because some factions in the organization would not have felt compelled to punish him, or to acquiesce to outside parties who for some reason thought it necessary to do that.

And we'd have a whole different ballgame.

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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