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Articles of 2002




Along the way, one thing I cannot afford to lose sight of is that I'm not necessarily here to scandalize people, but instead to push ideas forward – ideas which can be brought to life to make boxing a better sport – and a better business – in some way. Remember the sub-title of this series – “A Blueprint for Boxing Reform”. When one has the chance to implement some kind of reform measure – something to bring the game forward – one has to look very seriously at that opportunity.

Sometimes that opportunity comes from a very unlikely place; so unlikely, in fact, that if it ever were to materialize, it would initiate a genuine change in the landscape of what we now know as world championship boxing.

It all started with a conversation that took place between myself and Guy Jutras about a week before the WBA was to hold its October 16 “public hearing” to discuss irregularities in the heavyweight ratings it had compiled as it came out of its September convention.

In those ratings, as you know, Larry Donald had been moved up to #3 in the world, without fighting. Fres Oquendo had been moved ahead of David Tua, despite being knocked out by Tua a matter of months ago. And Kirk Johnson, who had just filed an unsuccessful protest with the WBA over his disqualification loss to heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz, was moved from #5 to #10, despite not having fought in the interim.

I was explaining to Jutras that the behavior of his organization was highly suspect, and cautioned him that his people left themselves open to some stories that could be very damaging.

Jutras, an honorable guy, was concerned with the series of events that had made the hearing in New York necessary; concerned enough that he made a suggestion to me.

“Why don't you come onto the WBA Ratings Committee?”, he said. Well, I really didn't want to do that, because even though it would have afforded the opportunity to see the system from the “inside”, I wasn't convinced my presence would make that much of a difference. And how could I be assured it wouldn't turn out to be some form of subterfuge?

But then a thought occurred to me. I said to him, “There's something else we can do. And if you're amenable to it, I think we can talk.”

What I proceeded to outline to him was a plan which had been in the works for a few months.

Nearly two years ago, I had taken over the administrative function of something called the Independent Boxing Writers' Rankings, a media poll that had been more or less abandoned by its originators. That poll doesn't exist anymore, but not long ago I embarked upon creating a new, improved poll that would include a number of worthy media people who weren't invited to take part in the IBWR poll.

I am calling this, at least for the time being, the “World Experts Poll”. The plan is to bring together people from across the globe, involved with covering boxing in a variety of media, and let them exercise their judgment, within certain guidelines that can easily be followed.

The proposal is that this “World Experts Poll” become the major component in the formulation of the WBA ratings.

It would be implemented according to a pre-determined formula in which the aggregate vote of the “Experts Poll” and the results of the WBA Ratings Committee would each count for a certain percentage. My original proposal was that the poll count for 75%, although I would concede that we'll probably have a negotiation on that issue.

The intention is for our poll to begin in January, with the “affiliation” with the WBA being simultaneous with that, if at all possible.

What it amounts to is an effort to provide the most open and democratic process ever created to rank professional fighters. And undoubtedly it will be. It would be unprecedented and revolutionary for a sanctioning body to devise ratings in this manner. Whether or not it will change the way sanctioning bodies operate, or how they are perceived, might be largely dependent upon the success of this venture.

Through this process there will be no more “closed-door” procedures for ranking fighters. All ballots in the poll would be available for review upon request, as would the results from the WBA ratings committee. The procedure should easily fall within any acceptable guidelines set forth in the future by the ABC, simply because we would probably ask our voters to follow the criteria the ABC has established. The changes would be easily explainable – they'd be the result of the open voting process.

Another component which is on the table would mandate that yours truly, as a “representative of the press”, so to speak, monitor the results from the WBA Ratings Committee, in order to ensure that the WBA has followed its own “Norms and Procedures for Ratings” which is available for viewing on its website, in accordance with the Ali Act. Whether anyone agrees with the formula by which the ratings are compiled by the WBA, it is important that the organization be consistent in the way it adheres to its criteria, and that is one thing that would be scrutinized.

There's no escaping the fact that there would be some public relations advantages for the WBA in going along with my plan, namely:

* It would offer an aura of credibility to the process that may not currently exist in the public's perception.

* It would demonstrate that the WBA was interested in remedying the problems that exist in its organization.

* It would silence certain critics like the ESPN hypocrites, because their arguments would no longer be valid.

* It would offer an alternative that is, on balance, more credible than the “Ring Magazine bandwagon” that some ill-informed people seem to have jumped on.

Naturally, in order to get involved with a sanctioning body on this level, some soul-searching was necessary first.

You know, there were ways in which I suppose I could have exploited the WBA situation to where it could have advantaged “Operation Cleanup”. After all, I'm quite sure I was the first member of the press who knew about the movements in the WBA's heavyweight ratings, and in fact, I was the one who informed Kirk Johnson's management that he had been dropped from #5 to #10 by the WBA.

Yes, in the wake of recent developments, it was clear that the WBA was in a position where it had to do SOMETHING. The timing was right, and I took advantage of that.

At the same time though, here was a unique opportunity – a way to accomplish a greater goal – to REFORM a certain component of the system. A chance to become part of a solution, rather than to further exacerbate a problem.

Under those circumstances, it doesn't seem out of place to give people the benefit of the doubt when they seem willing to cooperate.

Of course, speaking about this poll is not just a hypothetical matter. One thing that must be understood, and has been explained to the WBA, is that the World Experts Poll is going to exist – and I mean as an independent organization – whether the WBA is involved or not. It will not be an extension of the WBA. That is critical to the credibility quotient, both on our end and that of the sanctioning body.

We're not particularly interested in interfering with the championship rules and policies of a sanctioning organization. However, because we are going to be in a position where we must do whatever we can to preserve our membership, I have made it crystal clear to the WBA that the tolerance threshold for any kind of malfeasance will be very low. If somewhere along the way, the members decide there is a strong reason to not want to be involved, we will have no choice but to accede to their wishes. The major concern of our participants will be executing genuine reform of the ratings process. We are about creating integrity, not creating QUESTIONS of integrity.

Those are the parameters by which we will operate. Reaching an accord within these parameters is an issue that has not been completely resolved as of this date.

Will it come to fruition? Are we being duped? Right now, I don't know those answers. The major determinant will be the level of sincerity with which the WBA chooses to deal with what is in front of it. I am perfectly agreeable to keeping an open mind as we move through each step.

We'll have many more details on this plan as we move into the next phase of “Operation Cleanup”.

Or haven't I told you about that yet?

Stay tuned.

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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