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Articles of 2002




It was erroneously reported in one newspaper that “the WBA screened a tape of the (Ruiz-Johnson) fight for a group of 55 boxing officials and judges, every one of whom agreed that the DQ was warranted.”

Actually, that's not true. What happened was that SEVEN referees were pulled off to the side at the WBA officials seminar and were asked to view the tape.

The conclusion was NOT that all seven would have disqualified Johnson. It was that there was not enough evidence, based on what was available to be seen, to overrule the way Cortez called the fight.

How they came to this conclusion was strange indeed. Basically, the determination was that a couple of low blows Cortez called MAY have been questionable, or borderline. However, at the same time, there were a couple of knockdowns that could have scored for Ruiz but in fact were not – and that pretty much evened things out.

In other words, it was decided, in effect, that Cortez had actually made MORE mistakes than Johnson's camp had even intimated, but it was okay because the mistakes were equal on both sides.

While that's not an indictment, it's certainly not a ringing endorsement.

I don't really want to construct this as overly critical of Cortez' actions – I'm sure he's done a very good job in a lot of fights. Of course, I've also seen him let Roberto Duran take a frightful beating from William Joppy for no apparent reason at all.

At any rate, let's not deify ANY official, regardless of who he is, okay?

I happen to be very concerned when I read things like Greg Sirb wrote to his ABC colleagues – referring to the implementation of neutral oficials for title fights as “a problem”. What the problem is, I don't have a clue. But I'm worried because I don't think he has any idea what it means to remove the APPEARANCE of any conflicts of interest, because he doesn't fully appreciate how important it is.

And as for those ABC people who agree with him – I wonder whether they even know WHY they want complete, unilateral authority in appointing judges.

Sure enough, Sirb noticed the comments I had made about the language in the federal law at the WBA convention, and immediately sprung into action, directing Ken Nahigian to change the wording of the Professional Boxing Amendments Act, which amended Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Act, to read:

“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 SELECTED (this previously said “certified and approved”) by the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in the State where the match is held.”

Other changes:

“(c) Sanctioning Organization NOT TO INFLUENCE SELECTION PROCESS (This previously read “Sanctioning Body to Provide List”).

A sanctioning organization:

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

“(2) SHALL (previously was “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.”

Gee, it's nice to have an impact.

I want people to understand what having a law like this would mean, and what it would allow. If these guys have their way, you could conceivably have a situation where you'd have a Bernard Hopkins defending his title in Philadelphia against someone from overseas, and you could have three judges and a referee from Philadelphia working the fight. That kind of thing could happen over and over. And there wouldn't be a damn thing anyone could do about it, save for an opponent pulling out of the fight, for which he'd probably wind up being suspended by the commission and blackballed off a network.

Any fairness or neutrality you could possibly squeeze out of this process would be completely left to the discretion of a local commission. And after reading about the ineptitude and corruption of some of them on these pages, do you really want to leave that kind of thing totally within their control?

I don't. That's because I can sense what will happen as a result.

And I must admit to something of a reversal of attitude on this, since I now realize that these people, by and large, don't want to cooperate with anybody.

They were presented with a completely workable plan, detailed in

Chapter 41

of this series. And that wasn't the only alternative. Funny thing is, the people I talked to from sanctioning bodies appeared open and willing to forge a cooperative effort, but the ABC leadership simply didn't want to hear any of it. They want control of everything in their hands entirely. And believe me – those are some very shaky hands to put them in.

Frankly, I don't trust their honesty, integrity, or ability any more than I do the sanctioning bodies. At least the WBC, WBA, and IBF have some boxing people in their ranks. As far as the state commissions are concerned, boxing people are few and far between.

If you've followed “Operation Cleanup”, along with the other stories I've written over the past two years, you've seen the following documented misdeeds of boxing commissions, or commissioners:

* Illegally wiretapping phone conversations for the purposes of sabotaging a fellow commissioner at an official state meeting.

* Neglecting to have proper safety provisions at the site of a professional boxing match, contrary to the requirements of federal law, contributing to a life-threatening injury suffered by a fighter.

* Extorting excessive free passes out of promoters, using the threat of punishment, including refusal of licensure, for non-compliance.

* Failure to require that a contract be produced and filed in conjunction with every professional fight, a measure that would ensure that a fighter would get paid what he's supposed to.

* Conducting phony weigh-ins for the purposes of affording one over-the-weight fighter an advantage over another.

* Forging state documents for the purposes of favoring one side over the other in an administrative proceeding.

* Allowing physicians who are not duly licensed or qualified to work professional fights.

* Allowing fighters to compete in their state while under suspension – medical or otherwise.

* Approving gross mismatches that sometimes lead to severe ring injuries.

There's a lot more stuff that could go on this list.

In many cases, their conduct has been WORSE than anything we've seen out of the sanctioning bodies. Do you think anyone should be overly anxious to hand even a minimum of responsibility over to them?

And here's the tremendous irony about all this – the reason the ABC leadership aspires to seize control of this process is to a great degree in response to what is perceived as excessive politics on the part of the world sanctioning bodies.

While I won't exactly defend the sanctioning bodies on that count, it's important to point out that each and every member of a boxing commission, not to mention nearly every administrative director, is a product of the political process, in one way or another. In point of fact, that's how they got their jobs in the first place. EVERYONE in a real position of power or influence is a political appointee.

So let's not have any illusions that we are removing politics from the process of approving, appointing, or naming officials; in fact, we're actually ADDING politics to it. The selection of officials on a local level – that goes for the judges, the referees, the doctors, the inspectors – has a tremendous political element to it; one that can't be fully understood unless you've had direct experience with it.

You know, the term “hometown decision” isn't a figment of my imagination; I think you'll find the vast majority of questionable calls by judges, relatively speaking, don't happen in championship fights, but on the local level, by state officials.

I have been told by people with the ABC that the officials they approve to work at world championship fights within the United States would have to go through their ceritification program; this can only be done by attending an ABC-sponsored seminar, which exists solely at the annual convention now but which may soon be expanded to satellite locations around the country. There is a fee attached, which is not negligible. And what I find interesting is that their lead instructor for this year's seminar was a man (Marty Denkin) who was ejected from the California commission fourteen years ago for allegedly taking bribes to approve certain matches, who has somehow found his way back onto the commission, and who, while an active member of that commission, works for a sanctioning body (the IBA, for whom he referees fights), something that certainly appears to be a violation of Section 9 of the Professional Boxer Safety Act:

“CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. No member or employee of a boxing commission, no person who administers or enforces State boxing laws, and no member of the Association of Boxing Commissions may belong to, contract with, or receive any compensation from, any person who sanctions, arranges, or promotes professional boxing matches or who otherwise has a financial interest in an active boxer currently registered with a boxer registry.”

This is the kind of standard they want to set.

And this is what they want to shove down your throat.

Don't let them.

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

Articles of 2002




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



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



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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