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Articles of 2002

WE DON'T MEAN TO JUDGE THE JUDGES, BUT………

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In what was, in my opinion, a somewhat ordinary fight nine days ago in Las Vegas, one thing clearly stuck out in my mind.

It was the sixth round. And Johnny Tapia, who was obviously behind on the scorecards, was giving the appearance of being very aggressive, and effective in doing so, as he had his opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera, covering up against the ropes.

The crowd, which was decidedly in the Tapia camp, had worked itself up to a fever pitch, as Tapia threw what seemed to be more punches than he had in all previous rounds combined.

I sat there watching his round, on the phone with a matchmaker friend of mine. And we were in agreement on one thing in particular – that even though Tapia was doing a great job of playing to the crowd, demonstrating all of that “fighting heart” that had been hyped so well in the pre-fight buildup, in reality he wasn't scoring a whole lot of points.

After an uneventful first 45 seconds, Tapia forced Barrera back toward the ropes, with what was admittedly a clean-landing right hand to the body. But a subsequent flurry produced very little, and Barrera came away from the ropes with a combination of his own, which included a left hook to the body, a straight right hand, and a right uppercut, all of which seemed to go unnoticed, except by HBO's Larry Merchant.

Another flurry from Tapia at the 1:15 mark produced several rather gratuitous body shots, and one good solid scoring blow – a right uppercut that was almost immediately countered by a left hook by Barrera. But most of Tapia's punches either landed on Barrera's elbows or were picked off by his gloves.

Shortly after that, Tapia actually knocked himself down with a right hand that grazed Barrera's left shoulder. And he later phonied up the claim of a low blow – a move that may or may not have been designed to sway a judge or two, not to mention the referee.

Tapia landed one more punch that could considered substantial in the round – another right uppercut which Barrera actually rolled with. And with about 15 seconds left, Tapia came forward, throwing bombs and missing, while Barrera countered with some more good shots that landed cleanly.

Barrera also connected with jabs. Several hard ones, in fact. Don't they count? They certainly should, considering that it was the jab that had Tapia completely under control up to that point.

One thing characteristic of this round – and in fact the entire fight – was that with every punch Tapia threw, whether it was picked off or not, the crowd reacted. Solid shots landed by Barrera brought little or no reaction, either from the crowd or from HBO announcers Jim Lampley and George Foreman.

My friend and I concurred that, in point of fact, not only did Tapia NOT get the better of Barrera in the round, it was actually a pretty good round for Barrera – one of his best of the fight.

As it turned out, though, only Chuck Giampa scored the round for Barrera. Two of the three Nevada judges – Bill Graham and Dave Moretti – gave it to Tapia.

And sure enough, when Jim Lampley asked him, Harold Lederman, who keeps a scorecard for HBO, had given the sixth round to Tapia as well.

“In Round 6, for two minutes, Johnny Tapia used his tremendous experience and didn't let Barrera get off the ropes,” said Lederman. “No matter what Marco did, he couldn't get off, and Johnny Tapia beat him up on the ropes.”

But had he?

To me, this illustrated a point that was detailed, to an extent, in Chapter 67 of this series – not to disparage anyone, but sometimes I'm not sure if the judges – and this includes Lederman – are scoring based on what they are seeing, or on other factors entirely.

To put it as gently as possible, there are instances where something audible can most definitely affect that which is visual. In this case, perhaps the background noise created an “optical illusion”.

Interestingly enough, according to the statistics kept by Compubox, in the sixth round, Barrera landed 34 of 56 punches for a 60% accuracy mark, by far his best in the fight. And the 34 blows landed were his most with the exception of the first round and the last round. He was 23-for-30 in the “power punches” category, for an astounding 76%. By contrast, Tapia was just 41% overall in the sixth round (22 for 53), with less power punches landed (21). He was recorded to have landed just ONE jab in the entire round.

Tapia's 22 scoring punches indeed turned out to be the most he chalked up in the fight. Certainly it can be argued that the sixth was his best round of the evening.

Sentimental favorite or not, though, it doesn't provide enough reason to GIVE Tapia that round. Barrera still won it.

I'm not saying it was so obvious, so blatant. You had to watch it closely. It was subtle. But I don't think it's too much to ask that professional boxing judges be able to notice the subtleties. Otherwise, why not just get any three people off the street to judge a fight, kind of like they select a jury?

Here's a scary thought – what if Tapia had summoned up the resolve to do the posturing, exhibit the “aggressiveness”, or to paraphrase the way Larry Merchant accurately described it, had been able to “sell” that he was fighting, over the course of all twelve rounds of this bout, with the crowd more and more solidly behind him as events proceeded? Would we have seen more fights scored like the sixth round was? Could he have actually come out of that fight “stealing” a decision win?

How many times, I wonder, does this happen in club fights across the country, when you have a “hometown” fighter, a “hometown” crowd, and “hometown” judges involved?

More from the Scary Thoughts Department – Chuck Giampa, who scored the round correctly, would have been classified as the “odd man out” in Greg Sirb's system for evaluating officials, in which, for some reason, the judges who vote with the majority the most are considered the most efficient.

We debunked that philosophy in Chapter 67 as well. But if Giampa stepped away from the consensus enough – if he, in fact, exercised different judgment than his colleagues on enough rounds like the sixth round of Barrera-Tapia (oddly, he had the fight CLOSER than the other two in the end, giving Barrera a four-point decision), he actually would DISQUALIFY himself from getting plum assignments, at least outside Nevada, if the ABC were ever to take control of this process and put someone like Sirb in charge of handing out judging duties for title fights.

And another thought crossed my mind – perhaps a little misplaced, but look – Barrera is from Mexico. Tapia is from the United States. All three judges and the referee were from the U.S. HBO, and some of the press, made an issue out of the fact that the “evil” sanctioning bodies were left out of this process. But at least if there were one of the alphabet groups present, someone (if they were following their rules) would have forced the issue of neutrality in officiating, and maybe -although I'm not promising anything – those officials wouldn't have been swayed by the crowd to any great extent.

And you may have had the accurate scoring of the sixth round – a round which, if Tapia had been able to put together more of an effective effort for the other eleven rounds – could have made the difference in the fight.

As it stands, he didn't make it close, and the round DIDN'T make a difference. But next time……?

Would that be a good thing for boxing?

I'd like to, just once, try a little experiment – put all the judges in a room during a fight, each in his or her own little cubicle – and have them watch the fight on television, all from the same angle, with the sound turned completely off – that means NO hyperbole from announcers, and NO crowd noise.

I'd be curious what kind of verdict they'd have come up with for that sixth round, and for a lot of other rounds.

Can we do it, just once?

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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