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Articles of 2003

RATING THE RATINGS

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The 78th Round

Since the beginning of “Operation Cleanup”, the only organization that ever asked me for my input on its ratings system has been the World Boxing Association.

Part of it stemmed from my criticism of the way the WBA handled the situation surrounding Kirk Johnson's protest of his disqualification loss to John Ruiz – touching off a chain of events that led to embarrassment suffered as a result of the organization's manipulation of the heavyweight ratings.

Ultimately, I was asked to serve on the WBA Ratings Committee. I politely turned them down, for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that as a commercial website publisher who is open to accepting advertising from certain promotional or managerial interests, I felt extremely uncomfortable being one vote out of just seven or eight on a panel.

That would be much less of a problem than being one vote out of 40 or more people, as was the design of the independent media poll (if I even would choose to vote in it), which, if you're familiar with “Operation Cleanup: A Blueprint for Boxing Reform”, was something actively discussed with the WBA as well. Talks aimed at integrating this independent poll with the WBA ratings process eventually fell through, though that's another story for another chapter.

One thing I did agree to do, at the request of WBA officials George Martinez and Guy Jutras (acting, in turn, at the request of Gilberto Mendoza, I suppose), was to “audit” the WBA ratings process and formula. That critique is contained below. I should mention that it was specified on my part that this review might wind up in an “Operation Cleanup” chapter one day, because it serves an educational purpose.

To understand what it is that I wrote to them, it's necessary to have a little background on the system itself. So here it is, extracted directly from the WBA's “Norms and Procedures for Ratings”:

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III. GUIDELINES FOR THE RATINGS

1. ENTRANCE IN THE RATINGS

The following requirements shall be taken into account for the entrance of a boxer in the WBA ratings:

a) Obtain a victory over a rated boxer. According to the result of the fight, and taking into consideration the rating, caliber, hierarchy and record of the defeated boxer, and according to the application of the “Point System for Ratings Evaluation”, the Rating Committee will determine the position that the winner shall occupy.

b) Obtain a Regional Championship (FEDELATIN, PABA, WBAI, NABA and WBANA). The Position of these champions in the WBA ratings will be determined according to their particular record, taking into consideration the rating, caliber, hierarchy and record of the defeated boxer, and according to the application of the “Point System for Ratings Evaluation”, the Ratings Committee shall determine the position of the winner.

This way the WBA is contributing to evaluate and give duly importance to a title at a regional level, and definitely help to make more attractive the aspiration to obtain the titles if this category, that today, unfortunately, have not been bestowed the proper importance.

c) Through a request of a Boxing Commission affiliated to the WBA, and duly justified, based on the record and credentials of the boxer and following the parameters of the Point System for Ratings Evaluation.

d) Whenever there are important and powerful reasons for the WBA, which in accordance to the judgment of the Ratings Committee justify the entrance of the boxer in the ratings.

2. PROMOTIONS IN THE RATINGS

Promotion of rated boxers will be governed according to what is established in the TABLE OF PROMOTIONS which will be taken into account as a fundamental basis to determine the betterment of the boxer in the rating, in the following aspects:

a. Position of the boxers.
b. Type of the decision that caused the victory.

3. DEMOTIONS IN THE RATINGS

The demotions of rated boxers will be produced according to what is established in the TABLE OF DEMOTIONS, which will be taken into account as a fundamental basis to determine the demotion of a boxer in the ratings in the following aspects:

a. Position of the boxer.
b. Type of decision that caused the defeat.
c. Disqualifications:

(And now for the new “Kirk Johnson Rule”):

In those cases when a boxer is object of a disqualification, the Ratings Committee, according to the current position of the boxer and the gravity of the foul or fouls committed, will determine the position of the boxer to whom this disciplinary measure was applied, that could even carry his retirement of the ratings. For such cases the Ratings Committee will have to observe that the boxer who has been object of a disqualification will be able to occupy none of the positions between the first five positions of the ratings.

There is a Table of Promotions and Table of Demotions outlined in the WBA Rules, which takes various outcomes into account: Split Decision, Unanimous Decision, Technical Knockout, and Knockout. The tables are too extensive to list here, but if you want to view them, you can simply go to (http://www.wbaonline.com/legal/LegalStatements/normprocrat2.pdf).

The Table of Demotions is based on defeats a fighter may suffer in (a) world title fights, (b) against higher rated fighters, (c) lower rated fighters, and (d) non-rated fighters.

According to the WBA, when a fighter gets beat by someone with a lower rating, that fighter “will be automatically demoted to the position occupied by the boxer who defeated him, provided the result of the fight has been Split Decision or Unanimous Decision. In those cases when the result of the fight is TKO or KO, the defeated boxer will automatically be demoted to the position immediately below to that occupied by the boxer who defeated him.”

Those fighters who are beaten by someone who is unrated “will automatically be withdrawn from the ratings”, although there would a consideration given to the circumstances of the defeat that could facilitate a demotion, rather than removal.

The WBA also utilizes a “100-Point System for Ratings Position Evaluation”, based on five evaluation factors:

– Record
– Activity
– Caliber of contenders
– Regional recognition (WBA-recognized minor titles)
– WBA Achievement

Values are attributed to fighters according to what level they attain according to the WBA's own pre-determined standards; here are the tables documenting those standards:

RECORD

# of Victories Points
15 3
16-21 6
22-27 9
28-33 12
34-39 15
40+ 18

 

# of Defeats

1-2 -1
3-4 -2
5-6 -3
7+ -6

ACTIVITY

# Fights/Year Points
1 3
2 6
3 9
4 12
5 15
6+ 18

CALIBER OF CONTENDERS
Wins over rated contenders

# of wins Points
1 3
2 6
3 9
4 12
5 15
6 18
7 21
8 24
9+ 27

** Losses against rated boxers: Allowance of one point for each loss to a rated fighter up to a maximum of three points.

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION
Championship milestones
(WORLD, NABA, PABA, WBAI, FEDELATIN, WBANA)

Milestone Points
WINNING REGIONAL TITLE 2
1st Regional defense 2
2nd Regional defense 2
3rd Regional defense 2
WORLD TITLES (WBA-WBC-WBO-IBF) 4
1st World Title defense 1
2nd World Title defense 1
3rd World Title defense 1
WORLD TITLE UNIFICATION 5

WBA ACHIEVEMENT
(Specifically within WBA and subsidiaries)

Achievement Points
1st Regional title defense 1
2nd Regional title defense 1
3rd Regional title defense 1
WBA Title or WBA Regional Unification 2
TWO WBA titles 4
THREE WBA titles 5

 

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Now that you are armed with this information, here is my straightforward evaluation, submitted to WBA officials, on November 2, 2002:

PART I

TABLES OF PROMOTION AND DEMOTION

The first issue that immediately pops out at me about the WBA ratings system, as it is described in its ratings “manual”, is that the organization has become attached to the system to the point where it is considered sacred, which would be fine if:

a) the system were consistently followed throughout the years, which it HAS not;
b) it could be implemented without a multitude of logistical conflicts, which it CAN not.

There is nothing wrong with promoting fighters on the basis of performance – in fact, that is the purest ideal of compiling world rankings. However, at some point in time these promotions, and conversely, the demotions, have to be reflective of the more important factors, which, in the opinion of myself and most people, includes head-to-head competition. But look at the conflict we can find ourselves in when adhering strictly to this system:

Example — the #5 contender defeats the #1 contender by a split decision. By the WBA formula, that fighter would automatically be elevated to the #1 position in the ratings. But if he had lost his previous fight, or a fight in the last year or 18 months – decisively – to the #2 or #3 contender, would it be justifiable for that fighter, previously #5, to leapfrog fighters he has lost to? Or would it make more sense to elevate the other fighter on the basis of his win over the previous #5?

Also, if #15 KO's the #1 contender, is he automatically #1? Should this rule be so hard and fast? Shouldn't we take into consideration any of the fighters previously rated above #15 who have defeated him? These are questions well worth pondering.

DEMOTIONS – to gauge it according to how many points a fighter has been defeated by, is getting a bit too esoteric.

Example — the #1 contender loses by one point – he goes to #3. If he loses by three points, he goes to #5. Well, first of all, whose scorecard are we going by? Are we taking an aggregate of the three scorecards? It is unclear what criteria is being used.

Also, if a #15 loses a split decision to the champion in a title fight, does he really deserve to be dropped from the ratings, as would be prescribed by the “Table of Demotions”, or should he in fact merit a rise in the ratings, based on his surprising and unexpected performance? You see – there's no flexibility there.

* None of this contemplates that even a loss by TKO may represent a much more competitive effort than losing a decision, whether it be of the split, majority, or unanimous variety. In case like that, what would be the justification for the fighter dropping more for the TKO loss?

It's no secret that a fighter can be less competitive losing on a 9th-round TKO than on a 4th-round TKO. Many times, it's just a matter of whether a fighter chose to engage with his opponent sooner. if a “runner” got on his bicycle for six or seven rounds before settling down to fight, should he be rewarded for that? In the WBA system, he will, because he'll drop less places due to the fact that he hung around longer. If a fighter and/or his corner knows your system cold, that could lead to some very interesting – and I might add, unwanted – strategy decisions.

BOTTOM LINE: there are a lot of tables, but close scrutiny would most likely reveal that they have not been adhered to correctly, and that the strict implementation of them might bring less “genuine” evaluation of fighters, relative to each other, than might otherwise follow logically.

PART II

HOW DOES THE “POINTS SYSTEM” RECONCILE OR CONFLICT WITH THE TABLES?
And why is there a points system?

— THE 100-POINT SYSTEM

I) RECORD — This component can reward what I would call “gratuitous wins”, i.e., wins that do nothing to advance the fighter's career, or offer us a basis on which to judge the fighter's ability or worthiness. Example – beating 28 stiffs can get a fighter farther than compiling a 20-fight record which actually has some competitive opponents on it. Why? Likewise, do the fighter's losses take quality foes into account? What you have here is a system which may just discourage managers/promoters from taking chances with their fighters. And this industry is already filled with managers/promoters who are afraid to take chances with their fighters. If you reversed that somehow, you could be adding something to the overall quality of competition.

II) ACTIVITY — Overrated. And potentially deceptive. When the better fighters get to a certain level, will naturally fight less, primarily because they're getting paid more. Yet, they have the potential to be penalized through this system. Example – someone like Joe Mesi fights five times in a year, and gathers 15 points – does he deserve to gain NINE points on a guy like David Tua, who may have fought only twice? Of course not. But once again, in this category, gratuitous wins get rewarded, and in fact get counted AGAIN. Within those parameters, it's very easy for unworthy fighters to get into the ratings above those who deserve it more.

III) CALIBER OF CONTENDERS — This is the category that should be “weighted” more than anything else, merely because it is BY FAR the most important. It may be bigger than all the other components combined, in fact. What you're saying by valuing this criteria is that if you want to BE somebody, BEAT somebody. You may want to consider awarding more points for fighting guys rated higher. But what might be an improvement would be to reward wins over contenders on a graduating scale over the course of a three-year period – in other words, the more recent the win, the more credit a fighter would receive.

IV) INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION — There's nothing wrong with rewarding the “B” titles, in principle. But there's something a little uneven with rewarding a defense of an NABA or PABA title with more points than a defense of a world title. This incongruity multiplies itself when you consider that because of economics, television factors, etc., the WBA heavyweight champion won't be able to defend his title as much as the PABA champion will. Two regional defenses are as valuable in the points system as winning a world title? Does that make sense? Another consideration – you have to take into account a fighter's point total when he no longer holds the title as well. is that reflected properly?

V) WBA ACHIEVEMENT — Unless I'm misinterpreting this, aren't the same things counted here that are already counted in the “International Recognition” category?

WHAT'S MISSING — The concept of HEAD-TO-HEAD COMPETITION is VERY important. In fact, that should be the ultimate determinant. I understand that in the system of tables, this factor comes into play. But as illustrated before, it can bring up conflicts. It is a fact that the head-to-head concept is what brought forward much of the outcry. For example, people asked how Larry Donald could be rated ahead of Kirk Johnson when he had lost to him, how could Oquendo be above Tua, etc.

And when you have competitors from outside your ratings, there is not an accurate way to gauge who should be in the ratings. That subject is brought up below.

PART III

ENTERING THE RATINGS
Is this where the points system is supposed to come into play?

Criteria:

* BEATING A RATED FIGHTER — Except in cases of a regional title and/or VERY extraneous circumstances, this should be the overriding criteria. Remember – BE someone, BEAT someone.

* REGIONAL TITLE — No problem at all with rewarding people who want to compete for, win, and defend the NABA, PABA, WBAI, EBA titles, as long as those fights and the competitors are legitimate.

* REQUEST FROM A BOXING COMMISSION — This should hold carry no weight whatsoever. If your ratings people are on top of things, what difference would a request from ANYONE make? You are rating the BEST fighters, ideally, or at least the ones that could be fighting for your titles. This kind of lobbying takes credibility away from the process.

* DISCRETION OF THE RATINGS COMMITTEE — this leaves a lot of room for maneuvering. And it's what has led to the problems the organization recently experienced. Don't know what this means. But people are going to interpret this in different ways, depending on what level of skepticism they have.

With all of this criteria, there is nothing that explains how Faruq Saleem or Joe Mesi are – or rather, SHOULD be – in the world ratings. They are a product, I'm guessing, of counting all those “gratuitous” wins that I spoke of, and perhaps the “discretion of the ratings committee”, and that is what brings most of the criticism.

Mesi, for example, hasn't beaten anyone who could conservatively be placed in the WBA's Top 30; he does not hold a regional title, and what could any request from the NY State Athletic Commission, even if it had come, done for him? I can't think of any logic that would place him in the world's Top 15.

Look at the case of Lamon Brewster – he lost to Clifford Etienne, who is not in the ratings. He lost to Charles Shufford, who is NOT in the ratings. Where is Francois Botha, who has drawn with Etienne? How can an organization explain itself to the public as long as these discrepancies are present?

This is also a reason why I have asked for a certain percentage of “weight” (75%, as in original proposal) to be placed on the “Experts Poll” – because if my participants vote earnestly for their rankings, they are afraid it will be undone by having a Brewster, Mesi, or Saleem placed in there by the Ratings Committee, where it is not merited. And they will become discouraged if they see that – enough to where they won't want to be involved. Does anyone want to see that?

BOTTOM LINE OVERALL: If the system can't be implemented completely and consistently, the best thing to do is remove it. And there might be some components of this thing that make it impossible to work consistently.

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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