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Articles of 2003

ATLAS STILL CAN'T GET OUT OF DODGE CITY

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The 77th Round

You know, there's nothing like a few quotable quotes —

“Don't taint my business. It's an honorable business. It's not a joke. It's noble. I hate people making a mockery of my business.”
— Teddy Atlas, as told to Hal Bock of Associated Press, for March 6, 2003 article, entitled “Atlas might be boxing's conscience”

“I love boxing, it's how I make my living. That's why I can't just quietly watch it be corrupted, over and over.”
— Teddy Atlas, as told to Phil Mushnick of the New York Post – February 7, 2003

“We need to eliminate the 'Dodge Cities' of boxing and chase out the 'gun-slingers' and create a town that can grow and flourish”
— Teddy Atlas, in his written statement submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, concerning the improvement of boxing, entered May 22, 2002

The following excerpt appeared on the CompuboxOnline website (http://www.compuboxonline.com/column/8_23.shtml) on August 23 of last year:

“As the opening bell sounded for the Rhosii Wells-Bernard Gray middleweight bout, ESPN2 COLOR COMMENTATOR TEDDY ATLAS OFFERED A LENGTHY APOLOGY TO VIEWERS AND A VERBAL INDICTMENT AGAINST THE FLORIDA BOXING COMMISSION FOR APPROVING WHAT HE FELT WAS A MAJOR MISMATCH. It took just a matter of minutes to prove that Atlas was absolutely correct in his assessment.”

It was followed closely behind by this, written by Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, in an August 30, 2002 column with the headline “Classy Atlas Does Right Thing”:

“Good-faith TV, as opposed to the other kind, is hard to find. Recent examples of both:
Good – ESPN2's “Friday Night Fights” ringside analyst, Teddy Atlas, last week prefaced the middleweight bout between highly regarded Rhoshii Wells and 39-year-old, short-notice pay-dayer Bernard Gray (last fight, 1997) with an apology.

ESPN (on behalf of promoter Don King), said Atlas, owed its viewers – and the sport – better than the slam-dunk mismatch they were about to witness. Minutes later, Wells won a second-round KO…….”

And so it occurs to me that maybe we SHOULD talk a little about some things to apologize for.

Me first. A few years back, when I was involved with former WBA cruiserweight champ Robert Daniels, he went with his manager to Iowa to fight someone else, only to find himself, unbeknownst to me, in the ring with Stan Johnson, a veteran loser from Wisconsin who occasionally fought under different names, allegedly went in the tank every so often, and had dropped 17 of his previous 18 fights. Daniels KO'd him in the first round – a state of affairs that was certainly not unusual for Johnson, and the whole thing was embarrassing enough that I wished it could have been taken off Daniels' record, which didn't need to be padded like that.

That having been said, now it's Teddy Atlas' turn.

You know, sometimes it's the fights that ALMOST happen that get us the most outraged.

Let's go back to February 21 of this year, and the undercard of the WBC cruiserweight title fight between Wayne Braithwaite and Ravea Springs, a bout that was televised on ESPN2, live from Miccosukee Indian Gaming in Miami.

Atlas, in town for the broadcast, had managed to secure a spot on the card for his light heavyweight, Elvir Muriqi, who was 25-1 as a pro at the time.

His scheduled opponent, weighing in at 186-1/2 pounds the night before, was Delfino Marin, a veteran who had driven down from Winter Haven, Fla.

This fight card was taking place during a period of time when Atlas was making regular tirades against the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and in particular, Dr. Tony Alamo, who was in a position of conflict of interest as a member of the commission. Atlas made generous use of the material that sparked this controversy – which was contained in Rounds 21-23 of “Operation Cleanup 2” – and appropriated it as his own.

Because Atlas' presentation was less even-handed than my own, everyone in Nevada was properly peeved at him. And of course, if you have some dirty linen under those circumstances it's going to be exposed. To exacerbate things, people from the ESPN public relations department were shamelessly pushing Atlas as a “reformer”, going so far as to try and bully boxing writers into penning stories to that effect. They had already succeeded with several poor schmucks in the New York area, who went along for the ride.

On the afternoon of Muriqi's scheduled fight, Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada commission, was on the phone with Russell Peltz, the “consultant” for ESPN's boxing telecasts. Ratner happened to mention in passing that Marin, the opponent for Muriqi, hadn't fought in about a year and hadn't won a fight in a while.

That was putting things mildly. In point of fact, the 36-year-old Marin had lost ten fights in a row, with no victories over nearly a ten-year period. He had won just one of his last EIGHTEEN fights, dating back to May of 1992, when he was stopped by Buddy McGirt. And Marin had won exactly THREE fights since April of 1989 – that's three wins in FOURTEEN years.

Marin, possessing a career record of 14-28, had scored his professional wins against opponents with a combined pro record of 24-106-2. I distinctly remember giving Marin his first amateur fight, and making a couple of his early pro fights. And I can personally tell you he's been “shot” for the last dozen years, at least. Marin's weight of 186-1/2 was rather excessive, considering he never had a win above the welterweight level.

This was the kind of fighter “boxing's conscience” decided to put in with a supposed “hot prospect” – a rated fighter with a 25-1 record.

Whether it was the intention or not, this crime against boxing, and a very possible ring tragedy, was ultimately avoided by way of Ratner's casual revelation to Peltz. What happened after that is rather cloudy, but apparently Peltz, or someone from ESPN, must have looked into the details of Marin's pitiful ring record. Peltz, who was also in Miami as part of his position with ESPN, let Atlas know that someone was on to him. The truth is that several people were on to him. I got a phone call from someone completely unconnected to the events, who had all the details, and I embarked on writing a story at that time – ready to publish it that day if the fight indeed happened.

As it turns out, Muriqi's fight was more or less “buried”. It was off television – WAY off – and in fact may have been slated to be first on the card. Intended to be over and done with before anyone really noticed. Another quick “W” on the Kosovo Kid's record.

But as soon as he found out this wasn't going over so quietly, Atlas pulled Muriqi off the show, just a couple of hours before he was supposed to step into the ring. This had the effect of creating the embarrassing situation where, after the card had started, Marin was running all over the venue, looking to get paid. He was completely justified – after all, he had a signed contract for the fight.

Of course Atlas panicked. I like to think he remembered when I caught him red-handed before, when he was all set to put the heavyweight he was training, Michael Grant, in a fight with Thomas Williams, who had been indicted some eleven months earlier on a charge of fight-fixing – a case that's still pending. When word got around about Grant's opponent, the fight had to be made an exhibition (you can read all about it in Chapters 28-34 of “Operation Cleanup: A Blueprint for Boxing Reform”).

At that particular time, I was willing to give Atlas the benefit of the doubt. But not now.

That's because I've taken the grand tour through Muriqi's roster of opponents. Let me share some of these Showdowns in Dodge City:

On March 26, 1999, Muriqi, in his fifth pro fight, scored a one-round knockout over ERIC RHINEHART, a fighter who was three months shy of his 40th birthday. Rhinehart had been winless for the previous five years and four months, losing SIXTEEN fights in a row – twelve of those by knockout. After getting starched by Muriqi, he has since compiled a 2-18 record, bring his overall total to 14-52-1.

Two fights later, in May of '99, Muriqi posted another one-round knockout – this time over someone named MARVIN LADSON. Ladson, who was about to turn 42 years of age, had lost TWENTY-ONE fights in a row – and 16 by knockout – over a period of seven years before facing Muriqi, and had emerged victorious in just THREE of his last 48 fights, stretching back to April of 1987. At last glance, his record was 12-66-2.

Muriqi's ninth and 12th pro fights – both decision wins – were against ANGELO SIMPSON, who, after getting off to a 5-2 start as a pro, was just 6-16-1 going into his first fight with Atlas' guy. Simpson has now gone 0-26-2 over his last 28 fights, bringing his running total (he's still active) to 6-34-2.

STEVE USSERY had been knocked out in all four of his pro fights, lasting a total of just five rounds, when he stepped in with Muriqi in August of 1999, in Portsmouth, Virginia. You can guess the result of that fight – Ussery once again went down and out in one round. Since that fight, Ussery has won just one out of 13 fights. His record now is 1-17, with 16 KO losses – 13 of those losses in the first round, and three in the second.

In November of 1999, Muriqi won a six-round decision over FERMIN CHIRINO, who actually used to be a pretty decent fighter. Chirino began his career with a 9-2-1 record, and at one time held the Venezuelan middleweight title. But he had lost 17 of his last 18 bouts going into the bout with Muriqi, and at the time of the fight, he had just one pro victory in the previous 8-1/2 years. Chirino's pro mark: 13-25-2.

In his 15th pro fight, and apparently looking for another soft touch after Muriqi had suffered his first pro loss, Atlas had his fighter in with ADRIAN MILLER, a fighter who may or not have ever had gloves on, other than for his all-too-brief ring appearances. Muriqi knocked Miller out in one round, which was no surprise – Miller's six pro fights have all resulted in KO losses, with only one of them going as far as the second round.

ERIN FITCHETT was perhaps only marginally better than Stepin Fetchit. He came into a January 2002 bout with the 20-1 Muriqi with a record of 7-3-4. But he hadn't won a fight in over two years. And the composite record of the fighters he had beaten was 16-130-1. Muriqi won the fight on a fifth-round disqualification.

On April 23, 2002, Muriqi chalked up another one-round knockout, this time over a fighter named MIKE COKER in New York. With nine wins, four losses and two draws, Coker, in fact, did not have such a horrible record. But for some reason, Muriqi's connections, including Atlas, felt it would be appropriate for a rematch to take place. It did, nine months later, at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Naturally, Muriqi knocked Coker out in the first round again. It is obvious that Coker is not nearly as “good” as his record indicated – ironically, one of his losses was a one-round KO defeat at the hands of the aforementioned Eric Rhinehart, thus providing Rhinehart with one of his two wins in the past ten years.

On March 19 of this year, Muriqi registered a third-round stoppage of TIWON TAYLOR, a fighter who came into the fight with a generally salable record (24-8-1, 18 KO's). But that resume had been artificially built up against a collection of has-beens and stiffs – people like Andre Crowder (6-39-3 at the time), Jack Jackson (0-16), Mario Hereford (currently 0-20), Danny Wofford (15-54-2), and Dwayne Smith (7-39-3) were among his “victims”. How proficient is Taylor? Well, let's put it this way – in March of 2001, just four bouts removed from his fight with Muriqi – Taylor lost to North Carolina's Frankie Hines, whose record was 14-109-5.

Even the fighter who beat Muriqi was intended to be another walkover. DAN SHEEHAN was 7-4 when he scored a DQ win over Muriqi in March of 2000. He later dropped a decision in the rematch, which began a string where Sheehan has now lost 19 of his last 21 fights. Currently, he sits with a 9-23 record.

When I reached Joe DeGuardia, CEO of Star Boxing, who had Muriqi under a promotional contract early in his career, he indicated that to his knowledge, any and all of Muriqi's opponents for the shows that took place in the New York-New Jersey area were used contingent upon Atlas' knowledge and approval. DeGuardia told me he never heard an objection from Atlas about the quality of an opponent on the basis that it was “making a mockery of boxing.”

As far as the fighters like Rhinehart, Ladson, and Ussery, all of whom Muriqi fought in the South, DeGuardia says he had little or nothing to do with those fights; rather, “Muriqi's guys got the opponents themselves.”

It bears mentioning that Teddy Atlas makes a generous weekly salary to train Elvir Muriqi – reportedly it's in the neighborhood of $1000 a week – so the motivation to put Muriqi's in with competitive fighters who might curtail his career, and that weekly arrangement, is exceedingly low.

My friend, the respected Pulitzer Prize nominee Thomas Hauser, recently did a story on SecondsOut.com entitled “Professional Losers”. I would suggest perhaps the more appropriate story might be about the fighters who artificially build their records against this circuit of losers, and the people – like Atlas – who enable this farcical process to take place.

You see, I blame those people more, because at least they're empowered with more options.

And when we see the choices those folks eventually make, it tells us an awful lot about them, doesn't it?

(Note: information about records comes from http://www.boxrec.com)

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.

Articles of 2003

The War at 154

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They're calling it the “War at 154,” though no one will confuse it with plucking evil dictators out of dirty rat holes or patrolling the rubble and dark streets of a dying city.

Still, they're hoping this fight somehow lives up to its top billing, praying a slugfest breaks out instead of 12 rounds of elevator music.

IBF champ Winky Wright (46-3, 25 K0s), versus WBA and WBC champ Shane Mosley (39-2, 35 K0s) for the undisputed junior-middleweight (or, depending on your mood, super-welterweight) championship of the world.

Finally.

It has a nice, long-overdue ring to it, a kind of “it's about damn time,” feel to it.

If you want to give credit to the right people for getting this fight done, you can start with Cory Spinks, an unlikely hero now known as the undisputed welterweight champ of the world.

If Spinks hadn't beaten Ricardo Mayorga on Dec. 13, Wright could have spent January and February snagging some sun on a St. Petersburg beach. That's because Mayorga was expected to walk through Spinks on his way to a lucrative fight with Mosley in March.

But somehow, Spinks found a way to beat Mayorga and suddenly, Mosley no longer had a March opponent and everything appeared to be ruined. Plans were shattered, promises broken, money was lost. The wife cried, the dog howled and the kids were sent to bed early.

How can this happen?

Then an idea occurred to someone important.

Hey, what about Ronald “Winky” Wright? I don't think he's got any big plans for March.

Winky, who was free in March, owes Cory a friendly slap on the back.

So what does the March 13 fight between Mosley and Wright (on HBO) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas mean?

Just about everything if you weigh 154 and hold a world title belt.

It means Winky finally gets the big-money, big-name fight that could define his career, the fight he's been chasing since his controversial majority-decision loss to Fernando Vargas in 1999.

It means Gary Shaw, Mosley's promoter, also deserves a little pat on the back for somehow putting this fight together.

It means for the first time in 29 years, you'll only have to know one name when the bar talk turns to who the best junior-middleweight fighter in the world is.

It means Mosley better arrive at the gym early and leave late. He's not fighting the awkward banger he'd be facing in Mayorga. While Mayorga knows how to slug, Wright knows how to box.

It means Wright doesn't have to pack his passport the day he leaves for the fight. He won't have to hire an interpreter, change his currency, drive on the left side or learn how to eat and pronounce strange food. Of Wright's 49 fights, 20 have required extra paperwork and extra-long plane rides. He's fought in eight different countries and on four different continents.

No wonder no one over here knows who Winky Wright is.

Finally, this fight means that with the right money and for the right reasons, two guys in the same weight class holding different world titles, can come to an understanding that meeting inside the ring to decide who is the real champion makes all the sense in the world.

The sad thing is, it took an upset by another fighter in a different weight class – Spinks – to finally make it happen.

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Articles of 2003

KILL THE BILL Volume 7 — ANOTHER REFORMER WHO NEEDS TO BE REFORMED

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The 99th Round

Earlier this month, in response to what he, and others, considered an excessive amount of “pork” in the latest energy bill, John McCain told his Senate colleagues, “The outbreak of Washington trichinosis will be so severe, we will be forced to have a field office for the Centers for Disease Control right next to the Capitol.”

In a recent Associated Press wire story, McCain was described as “an avid critic of spending for lawmakers' pet projects.”

One of the great curiosities of McCain's campaign to slip through Congress his own pet project, the expensive ($36 million over five years), ineffectual, and perhaps unconstitutional Professional Boxing Amendments Act (to federalize control of boxing) has been his outright refusal to include television entities – by far the most powerful and influential forces in the sport – among those which would fall under regulatory jurisdiction.

Critics have cried foul – and they've had a point. If networks are going to control the balance of power, define the major 'players', put fighters under contract, and in some cases actually assume the 'de facto' role of a promoter, they are receiving unequal and unfair protection vis-a-vis the promoters in boxing who are actually required to be licensed and regulated.

However, McCain has been resolute about maintaining this protection, avoiding all opportunities to adjust or amend the bill to accommodate the reality of the industry, not to mention Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who had previously introduced legislation that would provide some oversight of networks when they play a promotional role. McCain has been nothing short of combative on occasion, “calling out” Reid in press conferences, and in correspondence he has leaked to the public.

Why is McCain so stubborn? Part of the reason lies in a mode of political operation that has become imbedded in the man itself, despite countless “spins” to the contrary.

What is common knowledge inside the Beltway, but not necessarily among average boxing fans, is that while McCain has carefully crafted an image as a reformer railing against special interests, he has developed a talent that is much more acute, as one of the very best in the business at feeding from the corporate trough.

He has been slick enough to parlay his coziness with corporate interests into political capital, resulting in lots of money coming his way for campaigns. And his public relations apparatus, which has included many highly-cooperative writers, both in and out of sports, has enabled him to avoid having to discuss the considerable influence special interest groups have had on the drafting and development of McCain's boxing bill – the same types of groups he would purport to be thwarting in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (otherwise known as McCain-Feingold), which, at the end of the day, amounts to little more than a rather brazen attempt to protect his own incumbency and that of other elected officials.

Campaign finance records available through the website OpenSecrets.org indicate that, for example, during 1999, the third-highest contributor to what, at the time, was McCain's insurgent run at the Republican presidential nomination was Viacom ($47,750), which controls a number of TV outlets, including Showtime, which has a major investment in boxing.

The top eight corporate contributors to McCain's “Straight Talk America” political action committee from 1997-2002 included three companies that would be affected, one way or another, by the way McCain's bill was shaped – Viacom, AT&T (which controlled cable outlets and sold pay-per-view boxing events), and AOL Time Warner (which owns HBO, boxing's most powerful single entity).

And as for McCain's last U.S. Senate campaign, waged in 1998, the list of his top fifty corporate donors is replete with entities who have a substantial stake in boxing, and which have a “special interest” in avoiding the regulatory blanket – Viacom (3rd – $55,250), AT&T (4th – $51,563), NBC/General Electric (20th – $19,500), Fox/News Corp. (22nd – $19,050), Time Warner (T43rd – $12,000), and Univision (T43rd – $12,000), not to mention Anheuser-Busch (5th -$51,563), a company in which McCain has considerable financial interests, both individually (he has reported at least a half-million dollars in debentures) and through his family (which controls the largest distributorship in Arizona), and which over the past two decades has been boxing most prominent sponsor, with nearly all of that advertising delivered through television.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which McCain chairs and under whose domain the boxing bill falls, is heavily courted by companies with interests in the sport. For the six-year cycle between 1995-2000, the top committee-related contributors to committee members include: AT&T ($369,960), Time-Warner ($249,585), Viacom ($167,654), the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN ($147,758), and the National Cable Television Association ($129,101).

Noted boxing promoters like Don King, Bob Arum, Cedric Kushner, Main Events, Duva Boxing, Gary Shaw or DiBella Entertainment do not appear on that list; apparently there was not enough in the way of donations to rise in McCain's pecking order.

Despite his well-cultivated “reformer” image, McCain has time and again demonstrated that he is a creature of corporate America and a bedfellow of corporate lobbyists. His leveraging efforts have been particularly remarkable, and he's utilized his position on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – first as the ranking Republican and now as chair – to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations he has regulatory power over.

McCain, who through his campaign finance measure is regarded by many First Amendment advocates as no friend of free speech, is notorious for freezing out consumer groups who would like to present their cases to his committee but who have not lavished him with campaign donations. According to a February 2000 story in the New York Press, representatives of corporations – the lion's share of which are directly tied to McCain's campaign war chests – out-number such consumer-interest groups by a 10-to-1 margin when it comes to appearances at committee hearings.

The causative links between campaign donations and special favors have become a McCain trademark. In 1999, after McCain-authored legislation to allow satellite TV companies to carry local programming in each market, which had previously been prohibited, was approved by his committee, one of the players who stood to experience a resulting windfall – EchoStar Communications – held a huge fund-raiser for McCain's presidential campaign.

During the 2000 primary season, as word came down that McCain was pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to act on a license transfer in favor of Paxson Communications, a company that had, to that date, “coordinated” $20,000 in contributions for his run at the nomination and treated him to many free flights on its corporate jet, his then-opponent, George W. Bush, was moved to remark, “I think somebody who makes campaign financing an issue has got to be consistent and walk the walk.”

Of course, one understands McCain's pattern of behavior more vividly upon an examination into his central role in the infamous “Keating Five” scandal, one of history's most naked examples of politicians exerting special levels of influence for the sake of large campaign contributors.

Charles Keating Jr., who owned the Lincoln Savings & Loan Association and was a major presence in Arizona, was under investigation by authorities – specifically the Federal Home Loan Bank Board – for making investments of such a speculative nature that they put at risk the government-insured money of depositors. Keating took issue with the premise of the investigation, and wanted the regulators off his back. He had, between 1982 and 1987, stuffed the campaign coffers of five United States Senators – John Glenn of Ohio, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, Don Riegle of Michigan, and McCain – to the tune of $1.4 million.

At the same time, McCain family members, including his wife and father-in-law, were the chief investors in the Fountain Square Shopping Center, controlled and managed by Keating, with a stake estimated at $359,000. McCain and his family were also frequent vacation guests of Keating – traveling at Keating's expense on Keating's private jet to the resort Keating owned at Cat Cay in the Bahamas – at least nine times in all. Surely there were interests to protect on more than one front.

Although he later claimed to be very reluctant in doing so, McCain nonetheless couldn't resist in joining with his four Senate colleagues in April of 1987 to pressure regulators to end their investigation of Keating, which had been ongoing for two years. The regulators later testified that they felt intimidated by McCain's group, which was tagged the “Keating Five”.

To illustrate the justification of the investigation, the S&L controlled by McCain's friend Keating busted out, ruining thousands of investors and costing taxpayers $3.4 billion in bailouts, the worst hit in the entire saving and loan scandal.

There was also more than one call within his home state of Arizona for McCain to resign.

During this particular period in his career, McCain was hardly interested in raising the issue of campaign finance reform. In fact, quite the contrary – he resisted it at every turn and resisted others who made an effort in that direction. According to a December 8, 1987 story in the Phoenix Gazette

, “So why has Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., gone to unprecedented lengths to block reform of the Senate campaign finance system? Why does he oppose letting this important matter even come to a vote? Perhaps it's because he is a prime beneficiary of the special interest funding of congressional elections. McCain raised over $2.5 million for his 1986 election . . . more than $760,000 of his campaign funds came from political action committee (PACs) . . . especially disturbing are the contributions to McCain's campaign coffers from PACs outside of Arizona.”

And McCain simply embarrassed himself when his family's investment deals with Keating were uncovered. In September of 1989, as he was questioned about them by the Arizona Republic, he called the reporter “a liar” and denounced his efforts as “irresponsible journalism”. When pressed later, he told the same reporter, “That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot.”

In ultimately protecting one of their own, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics asserted McCain broke no laws, but did say this about the man who is now the self-professed “champion of campaign finance reform”:

“Mr. Keating, his associates, and his friends contributed $56,000 for Senator McCain's two House races in 1982 and 1984, and $54,000 for his 1986 Senate race. Mr. Keating also provided his corporate plane and/or arranged for payment for the use of commercial or private aircraft on several occasions for travel by Senator McCain and his family, for which Senator McCain ultimately provided reimbursement when called upon to do so. Mr. Keating also allowed Senator McCain and his family to vacation with Mr. Keating and his family, at a home provided by Mr. Keating in the Bahamas, in each of the calendar years 1983 through 1986……..”

According to a Time magazine story in December of 1999, ” He (McCain) denounces big-spending special interests and yet accepts flights on corporate jets; he puts the speaker of the Arizona house of representatives on his campaign payroll despite a flurry of ethics charges around him; he neglects to recuse himself from debates about measures that would affect his family beer business.”

Yet the writers, Nancy Gibbs and John F. Dickerson, insist, “But a funny thing happened on the way to his deathbed conversion (to campaign reformer): he really reformed.”

McCain's posture toward television interests in the process of crafting the boxing bill would strongly suggest otherwise.

On a personal note, as I reviewed some of the material for this story, my mind regressed to a couple of years ago, as I was compiling the investigative report “A Commission Run Amok”, which dealt with the Florida State Athletic Commission.

At the time, Mike Scionti, the commission's former executive director, was awaiting a hearing on ethics charges. He had been embroiled in a firestorm of controversy that eventually led to his firing by Governor Jeb Bush, over what was considered to be highly improper conduct while in office. A non-profit organization – a charity for youth – that the commission had established and Scionti had spearheaded, accepted a large donation from promoter Don King, after which Scionti had sought to change a commission regulation about promotional contracts that would have benefited King.

There was no evidence that any money went into Scionti's pocket directly, or that it went to furthering any personal agenda of Scionti's – public relations-related or otherwise.
Meanwhile, McCain had gone to bat, more aggressively and, by all accounts, with a much heavier hand, on behalf of entities that plowed money into his election campaigns and to political action committees that were designed to promote McCain's political objectives – in many respects creating a higher public profile for the senator, which has in turn spawned media coverage, book sales, and even more political donations.

And I'm saying to myself, isn't what McCain has done more devoid of an ethical foundation than what Scionti did? And are there not 500 others engaged in the same ballgame as McCain – albeit not as skillfully – on Capitol Hill?

The stories you hear about boxing people pale by comparison. If state boxing regulators conducted business in the same manner as McCain has conducted his business in Congress, would I not have been able to write about twenty “Operation Cleanup” books by now?

And given those parameters, at what price would we be placing the sport into the hands of politicians like him?

As one writer put it, “The John McCain of old should be thankful that his political fate wasn't determined by John McCain the reformer.”

I would suggest McCain's nothing more than an old dog who could care less about learning new tricks.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.

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Articles of 2003

The Highs and Lows.

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In a few days we'll be turning the page on 2003 and looking ahead to another year that is bound to be eventful- they almost always are.

But before we go full speed ahead to 2004, let's look back on what we've witnessed the past 12 months in the game of boxing.

And what we've found out is that sometimes the sports highlights, were also it's lowlights. Oftentimes, they were one in the same.

HIGHLIGHT: Vitali Klitschko's valiant performance against Lennox Lewis.

Coming in as a late replacement for Kirk Johnson, Klitschko would give the heavyweight champion all he could handle for six rounds before the fight was halted because of a grotesque cut over his left eye. In fighting so well and bravely against Lewis, he not only changed the perception of himself, but off his whole fighting family. The Klitschko name had been redeemed.

LOWLIGHT: Lennox Lewis's behavior with HBO's Larry Merchant after that fight.

Lewis has been a very respectable and representative champion during his reign. But he acted like a downright brat in his post-fight interview with Larry Merchant on live television. When confronted with the truth, he tried to hijack the interview by yanking the microphone away from Merchant, who had to hold on for dear life. During the bout he looked like a fading fighter on a bad night. Afterwords, he looked like an infant in need of a timeout.

HIGHLIGHT: Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward complete their thrilling trilogy. 

Gatti and Ward had a lot to live up to when they met for the third time this past June. And live up to it they did, in a fight with momentum shifts and a constantly changing ebb-and-flow. Gatti would overcome a damaged right hand to win a hard-fought ten round decision. It was a fitting conclusion to one of the games great rivalries and the career of Ward, who called it a day on a proud career.

LOWLIGHT: There will be no more Gatti-Ward in the future.

Which may actually be a good thing, because I'm not sure they could handle anymore of each other. But boxing will miss this rivalry.

HIGHLIGHT: Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley rematch.

It's always good for the business of boxing when 'the Golden Boy' engages in a mega-fight. The interest is high- even among the usually apathetic general media- boxing becomes the showcase event in the world of sports and everyone involved: from the fighters, to the promoters, the pay-per-view outlets and casino's make money.

LOWLIGHT: De La Hoya's and Arum's reaction to the decision in that fight.

It's one thing to think that you won a close fight, it's even acceptable to complain about the decision. But the manner in which both Oscar and his promoter cast aspersions on the judges and Nevada State Athletic Commission, were low blows of the Andrew Golota variety. Luckily for them, they were only given light slaps on the wrists for their irresponsible and incendiary comments.

But the bottom line is they both hurt the sport with their allegations and the fact that more than one media outlet ran with their quotes, further hurt boxing's reputation.

HIGHLIGHT: Roy Jones makes history

In defeating John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight belt, Jones became the first middleweight in over a hundred years to win a heavyweight crown. This fight also did very well, registering over 500,000 pay-per-view buys, which is always a good sign for the industry.

LOWLIGHT: Jones' indecisiveness after that win.

Jones had all the momentum in the world after his win over Ruiz, but instead of capitalizing on it, he tried to pinch pennies with Evander Holyfield, threw out astronomical numbers for a fight with Mike Tyson( which is a loooong ways from ever happening) and then had to settle for a rather non-descript fight back at light heavyweight against Antonio Tarver.

HIGHLIGHT- Toney turns the 'Lights Out' on Holyfield

James Toney had seemingly been in exile since his embarrassing loss to Roy Jones in 1994. But he came back strong in 2003 with wins over Vassiliy Jirov and then a stoppage of Evander Holyfield, which stamped his entrance into the heavyweight division. The game can always use a few good big men and who cares if that comes in the form of former middleweights like Toney and Jones.

LOWLIGHTS: Holyfield isn't retiring.

'The Real Deal' maintained that he wouldn't retire till he won the undisputed title or got his hat handed to him. Well, after this bout it was evident that the former wasn't happening and the latter did. But like most other great fighters, they are the last to know when it's time to call it a day.

HIGHLIGHT: 'Pac Man' gobbles up Barrera.

It's always shocking and uplifting when a fighter bursts onto the scene and elevates himself the way Manny Pacquiao did against Marco Antonio Barrera this past November. Barrera, had universal acclaim as one of the sports premiere pound-for-pound performers. Pacquiao, while a respected fighter, was thought to be just a notable opponent for Barrera.

Instead, Barrera would get blitzed by the all-out, frenetic attack of the Filipino. Barrera would be simply overwhelmed by the punches of Pacquiao and his corner would have to rescue him from the onslaught of the southpaw in the eleventh round.

LOWLIGHT: Murad Muhammad allegedly gobbles up Pacquiao.

This was mentioned prominently on the HBO broadcast that out of the $700,000 license fee given to Pacquiao's promoter, Murad Muhammad, only about $300,000 had gone to the fighter. And that was before the money was cut up in various ways.

Once source close to the situation tells me that after all was said and done, Pacquiao, wound up with about $80,000. It looks like he may have taken a worse beating than the one he gave out.

HIGHLIGHT: Johnny Tapia comes out of a coma in January.

You gotta hand it to Tapia, most guys take standing eight counts, this little guy takes mandatory flat lines, this is about the third or fourth time he's been close to dead only to come off the canvas. Once again after another relapse in drugs, he would be in an intensive care unit battling for his life. As friends, family and loved ones surrounded him, he would beat the odds once again to walk out of the hospital and fight again.

LOWLIGHTS: Tapia reportedly overdoses in December.

Tapia swears that he did not overdose, but rather took some cold medication that he had an allergic reaction to. Uh, ok, sure, whatever you guys say. But do they have to insult everyone's intelligence, here? Isn't it time that Tapia got some real help for his problems?

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