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Articles of 2002

ONE MORE ALPHABET GROUP TO SPIT ON

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Over the last few weeks, a bandwagon of would-be boxing reformers has been created, in part, by the people over at ESPN, who seized upon the opportunity to take a shot at an easy target, and denigrate a sanctioning body, for the sake of pumping a commercial enterprise named Ring Magazine. Of course, Ring, which is controlled by a company called London Publishing, is in the business of selling advertising to promoters, managers, and networks who are themselves in the business of making profits that are often directly related to the rating and/or championship status of the fighters they are associated with.

Within the context of boxing, I guess that's what you would call a perfect marriage.

As Michael Katz so aptly put it in one of his columns, “No one person can be the one who decides who is champion, especially one with a commercial interest. Nigel Collins is not the man, either. He knows enough about the game so that if Bob Arum is his rag's biggest advertiser, then Bob Arum's guys become fighter of the year.”

When Ring was perpetrating one of the more disgusting and distasteful scandals in the history of the sport, Max Kellerman, the magazine's new “de facto” public relations director, was four years old. And if he had done the slightest bit of homework, he'd have realized that even at that age, he could have gotten into the ratings – if he had passed enough cash into the hands of Johnny Ort, who was editor of the publication at the time.

But we'll explore the magazine's horrible history of fraud in more depth another time.

For now, let me revisit a situation that indeed has some new relevance, within the context of the ESPN/Ring-inspired “Hate the Sanctioning Bodies” effort.

On June 28, Germaine Sanders and Teddy Reid tangled for the vacant North American Boxing Federation welterweight title in Chicago, on an ESPN-televised card.

Somehow, the people who are so “anti-corruption”, and so “anti-sanctioning body” at ESPN managed to get through the entire telecast without making reference to the fact that the very fight they were featuring was a product of double-dealing and ratings fraud so reprehensible that it made anything the WBA did look tame by comparison.

As we have already covered in

Chapter 22

of “Operation Cleanup”, the fighter who should have been in that bout, defending his title, was Golden Johnson, who had won the NABF title IN THE RING (listening, Max?) and defended just three months earlier, yet lost it not by fighting, but by terminating his relationship with a promoter who ESPN, incidentally, was in business with.

He was stripped of his title after declining to sign a new promotional contract with Arthur Pellulo of Banner Promotions, even though he was ready, willing, and able to go through with the championship defense against Sanders.

The NABF would have been concerned only with the fact that Johnson was available – IF it were an honest organization. Instead, these guys decided to perform a little magic, and presto! – all of a sudden Johnson had his title, and a means of financial opportunity, taken away from him. And all of sudden, in one of those great feats of legerdemain, Teddy Reid, coming off a loss in the JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHT division, had not only gotten back into the ratings, vaulting ahead of other fighters for no reason at all, he had done so while moving up to a division he had not competed in before.

You guys want to talk about “Ali Act violations”? I wouldn't for a minute defend the movement of heavyweights in the WBA ratings that has caused all the controversy. But what the NABF did was far more egregious, because it involved STEALING A TITLE, under the most suspicious circumstances imaginable, THEN following it up with more unexplained ratings manipulation.

Where were all the “do-gooders” then? Where were all the people who now suddenly want to talk about the Ali Act? Where were all the people Kellerman have credited with “putting the heat on the sanctioning bodies”?

For that matter, where was Max himself?

On that June 28 show, I seem to have missed his “acerbic commentary and cutting-edge analysis, designed to reach the younger demographic” when it came to an issue that begged to be explored with a little “attitude”. Perhaps I took a trip to the men's room at the wrong time.

This act of thievery by the NABF was documented publicly, right here in these pages, IN ADVANCE of the fight.

ESPN's people were aware of it. I know, because I talked to some of them about it, IN ADVANCE.

In the positions Bob Yalen and Russell Peltz occupy at ESPN, they would have been required to know about every development, every step of the way, especially when it regarded changing a featured bout.

Yet, not only was the network all too happy to go along for the ride, IT BANKROLLED this absurdity, knowing full well that it was a product of fraud, deception, and lawlessness.

Why?

Because in Bristol, Connecticut, life exists on the basis of 99% commerce and 1% conscience.

Message to Max – the same people who wrote the paycheck for THAT fraud also write YOUR paycheck.

Lesson for Max – if you aspire to be the new Howard Cosell, you need to bring some substance and integrity with you to the rave party.

I'm not saying that Kellerman or Teddy Atlas should rat on their employers. What I AM suggesting, though, is that it's NOT okay to editorialize about the misdeeds of others when your own house is the one that's dirtiest. Because when you do that it takes on the character of having no intellectual honesty whatsoever. Truth be known, they're better off not saying anything at all, and just staying in the “entertainment” business.

All of the ESPN boxing “personalities”, without exception – that includes Kellerman, Kenny, Papa, and Atlas – badmouth the sanctioning bodies. Well, at least the major ones – it's pretty safe, since they don't do many WBC, WBA, or IBF fights; after all, their $50,000 rights fee doesn't buy much.

However, it bears mentioning that the “anti-sanctioning body” people, with seemingly very little hesitation at all, regularly pump main events as USBA, NABF, or – don't get me started – IBA title bouts on their website, when listing the “Friday Night Fights” schedule.

And any promoter who was unable to sell a fight to ESPN because it wasn't for a “title”, please raise your hand.

Here's the litmus test for sincerity:

Do you think, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, if Teddy Atlas' fighter, Michael Grant, were to secure a bout with John Ruiz or Wladimir Klitschko, that Teddy would look in Grant's eyes during his pre-fight pep talk and tell him he wasn't really fighting for a title? Do you think he'd express to Grant that if he won, his own trainer and confidant wouldn't – indeed, COULDN'T – even consider him a champion?

And do you think he'd advocate that Grant – and by way of percentage, himself – take less money for such a fight because it wasn't being contested for the Ring Magazine “championship belt”?

Answer those questions – if you can stop laughing.

So then, what's the point of this ESPN “soapbox”?

Is it for the sole purpose of pushing a magazine?

Is it because some arrangement has been made with McCain's people to push the Senator's agenda on the air in exchange for the regulation of networks being ignored in the legislation (that's called “foreshadowing”, folks)?

Is this an attempt to seize control of the ratings process, like they do everything else, and put it in the hands of one individual who might give them favorable press, or free advertising?

Is it an experiment to see just how much these guys can influence young minds?

Whatever the answers, last Wednesday at the New York Hilton there was a golden opportunity for Kellerman to stand up, be heard, confront the “enemy”, interact with some movers and shakers in a free exchange of ideas, perhaps do something do advance the cause of boxing reform, and yes, in keeping with the ESPN theme, provide a little publicity “bump” as he strides into a new talk show the network has handed him.

Here was the big chance to “spit on the WBA” in person, as Kellerman had previously done on television (Wow, what a visual for that “Around the Horn” intro!).

A lot of people who cared about boxing showed up at that event. I, for one, traveled over a thousand miles for it.

Max had about four miles to travel, but I guess he decided there were more important things to do.

I have my own guesses as to why.

First, it's a lot easier to TALK about something than to actually DO anything pro-active about it.

Second, it's much safer pontificating from the controlled environment of a studio in Bristol than it is to match wits with real, live boxing people, face-to-face.

Am I getting warm?

Frankly, I don't care what excuses Kellerman had. He felt the subject was important enough to use several minutes of network time on several different occasions, so he should have felt it important enough to show his face.

On top of everything else, Max was offered – not once, but twice – the opportunity to sit down and interview Gilberto Jesus Mendoza of the WBA, one-on-one, no-holds-barred, without any public relations spinners in the room – just him and Mendoza. The interview could be held on whatever day and at whatever time he wished. Mendoza would have even extended his stay to accommodate him.

Well, to use boxing parlance, Max decided to “get on his bicycle” at the thought of that.

The delicious irony about all this is that even though they didn't have an explanation to its ratings mess that satisfied too many people, the World Boxing Association at least had the public forum in which anyone with a complaint, question, or statement could stand up and be counted. And the executives in attendance sat there, without running, without hiding, but facing up to every tomato that was thrown at them.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the questionable practices at his own network, Bob Yalen, the head of boxing over at ESPN, won't even FIELD questions from anyone without a network public relations man named Dan Quinn present. And even then the best one can hope for is an answer which is somewhat less than direct.

Hypocritical? Yes.

But then, we've come to expect nothing less from the most dangerous, disingenuous alphabet organization of them all.

E-S-P-N.

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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