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Articles of 2003

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR

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The 82nd Round

If you were following us toward the end of “Operation Cleanup: A Blueprint for Boxing Reform”, you're familiar with our media poll for world rankings, designed to be set up independently, but which was to take on a different dimension with its incorporation into a formula that would determination what the World Boxing Association ratings would be.

Since the first “Operation Cleanup” book was finished before the matter was fully resolved, I thought readers were entitled to be kept apprised as to what is happening with this project.

So let me start off by saying that the poll will forge on, only it will not, as was hoped, be a “joint ratings project” with the WBA.

The original proposal was for the poll to count for 75% of the ratings formula, with the output of the WBA's ratings committee counting for 25%. That dynamic became a subject of negotiation. In the initial stages a compromise was discussed that might have brought the figure on our end down to 60-65%, with an additional oversight committee of a few of our voting members who would actually monitor the WBA's implementation of its own points system – the one you saw described a couple of chapters ago.

But nothing was ever nailed down. Later it was communicated to me through my contact on this deal, executive committee member Guy Jutras, that the WBA was looking for no less than 50% of the equity in this formula. And it probably was not going to come off that position.

Not that it made me angry or anything. The WBA wanted to protect the importance of its own ratings committee, and the impact of its own process. Of course, the other side of the coin was that in order to achieve the perception of enhanced credibility in its ratings – something they were badly seeking in the wake of the heavyweight ratings debacle of late 2002 – there were compromises that certainly had to be made.

I actually may have been amenable to going 50-50 on a trial basis, but if the trial didn't work out, it might risk alienating the membership in the event of a future opportunity. And enough of the writers I talked to were lukewarm to the 50-50 split that it got me a little concerned.

I didn't want to begin this project with the voters being suspicious. And I certainly didn't want to scare people away.

The WBA, to their credit, has never really been opposed to me being rather open with my readers about this process, since I have made it clear that, among other things, I'm trying to serve an instructional purpose here.

And so I'm able to share this letter with you, detailing the problem on the 50-50 split, along with the other objections that made it impractical to go forward with the “joint ratings project” under the parameters that had been laid out for us. The letter was sent to Guy Jutras of the WBA on April 4:

Guy,

Let me thank you for your spirit of cooperation. I'd be happy to communicate to your colleagues that you have been an ideal “point man” for these proceedings. Thank George Martinez for his input as well.

I have not only given your letters a tremendous amount of thought, but have also solicited considerable input from sources both inside and outside the scope of the prospective poll membership.

The general consensus – and I should add, this is a STRONG consensus – is that the 50% participation in the ratings formula, though a move forward in democratizing the process, is not a big enough move. The preference is more toward the 75% that was proposed in my original letter sent to the WBA. That would provide enough assurance that so-called “influences”, and their effect on ratings, would be minimal.

I can illustrate something to you – and this is not an unreasonable scenario in light of developments we have seen across ALL sanctioning bodies, of how this can work in a way in which it can actually DEFEAT its purpose.

For example, let us say that the “Experts Poll” gives a fighter no votes. But then he is established as #1 through the process of the WBA Ratings Committee. Using the 50-50 formula, he could very easily be #4 or #5 in the final rating. Then the wheels start turning. If a #1 contender is somehow committed to another title fight, the #2 and #3 are fighting each other for some other title, or in an elimination, somebody is hurt, or one of the top two spots is vacant for some reason, that #4 or #5 contender – who got no votes from writers – can find himself in a position to be next in line for a title shot, as the “highest available contender”. Needless to say, he is also eligible for someone's optional title defense simply by virtue of his status in the Top 15.

Clearly, this would not be in the spirit of what the writers intend. And I'm wondering how the media participants – collectively – would feel about seeing someone in the Top 10, in a position to fight for a championship, who they have ascribed absolutely no credibility to. An example might be Hakkar, who just fought Hopkins, albeit for the WBC title, or even Callist, who is your #1 lightweight.

This is by no means the only thing that is problematic. The concept of the “Super Champion”, “Unified Champion”, or whatever term ultimately is used, is very hard to get around, particularly for members of the media. While I understand the rationale behind it as you have explained it to me, I don't think writers are too interested in explaining that rationale to their readers, because they don't necessarily agree or identify with the idea of having a “Super Champion” AND “World Champion” in the same division, with the same sanctioning body. Indeed, instead of alleviating confusion, it actually CREATES more confusion. And they're not too anxious to explain why they're associated with that kind of thing, even if it is strictly in a tangential manner.

I think you'll agree that in this day and age, depth in most divisions is a non-existent thing. It logically follows that there could be quite a disparity between the #1, #2, and #3 contenders in most divisions. So the position of mandatory challenger becomes even more critical – it's very important that this be the right man. To me, this is one of the more crucial functions of the poll, because the only guy the WBA is going to ORDER a champ to fight is the #1 contender, or the #1 available. To leave room for any manipulation between the first, second, and third-rated contenders could also counteract the purpose of the poll, in a sense.

In the way we were attempting to deal with the “minor champions”, i.e., WBA-Int, NABA, FedeLatino, etc., I figured my own concept was the most prudent, in that they could be eligible to fight for titles, whether they were in the Top 10 or not. I don't know whether there was a final determination on that from your end. But I can visualize that because of the way the WBA's points system works, these champions are gathering points for activity within these “sister” or subordinate organizations, which would give them disproportionate weight within the overall formula.

Your points system is your business, but within the context of this formula, there is the possibility – indeed, the likelihood – that fighters, and several of them, in the ratings are going to be those who were known, but not even considered viable, by the writers. While that may indeed be the natural product of this formula, I can see it bringing an unsatisfactory reaction in the end.

Unfortunately Guy, the general feeling about what has become customary behavior on the part of the sanctioning bodies is working against you here. With some rather highly-publicized episodes involving the WBC, IBF, and lately, the WBO, it does not endear ANYONE to the concept of independent sanctioning bodies.

I think it's readily apparent that sanctioning bodies are private organizations that are in the business of BEING in business, and in many instances, private, commercial concerns take priority over everything else. Frankly, this is an issue I'm going to touch upon in a future column in “Operation Cleanup 2”.

When the WBC puts someone like Eddie Croft into a title fight; when the IBF develops a conflict over jumping Arturo Gatti into the #1 spot; when the WBO disqualifies a #1 contender (David Tua) from fighting for its title, in favor of a decidedly inferior alternative (Lamon Brewster), ridicule is both invited and deserved. And these things have an effect which makes it embarrassing for members of the media to be involved in it – especially those who are answerable to superiors.

The WBA is not immune either. One disparity I didn't watch closely at the time, but which has been brought to my attention by several people, is that which centered around Gabriel Ruelas, who showed up in the WBA ratings apparently for the express purpose of fighting Acelino Freitas for the 130-pound title, then, when he was rejected by Showtime, disappeared from the ratings. The clear perception is that this was “rating by convenience”. It's the kind of thing many people are wary of being associated with. And I would lose credibility if I drew them into a situation where they would, or could, be associated with something like that.

Also, there's just no escaping the incident last year with the manipulation of the heavyweight ratings. That left a bad taste in enough mouths to the extent that it has become a very difficult obstacle to overcome.

And we haven't even talked about the danger involved if the independent voters in this poll are perceived to be “co-opting” any behavior that might be determined to be illegal somewhere down the line. Nor does anyone want to expose himself to liability in legal actions that might take place as a result of the implementation of regulations that may or may not have anything to do with the poll itself.

You have put forth the idea of a 50-50 apportionment in terms of the weight each component – the poll and the WBA Ratings Committee – would have in the ratings. My original proposal was 75%. The overwhelming opinion is that the 50-50 deal is just enough to serve a public relations purpose, but not enough to make a true impact. In fact, from the public relations standpoint, it can, in the end, have a deleterious effect on the writers. Truth be known, there is no reason, in the minds of many, why an independent poll couldn't account for 100% of the ratings of a sanctioning body that desired that its process be “transparent”. A process such as that would have passed all reasonable scrutiny, provided the championship rules were subsequently adhered to. This has indeed been discussed with me by various fledgling organizations from time to time.

To rationalize giving up 25% of the share of a process is one thing. To explain relinquishing 50% is quite another. Respectfully, I feel that doing that would leave us, in effect, with less than “half a loaf”, and as a direct result, attrition rates in the poll would turn this into an embarrassment. I'm sure you'd agree, neither side necessarily wants that.

I do thank you for your efforts, and certainly welcome your comments and questions.

Sincerely,

Charles Jay
TotalAction.com

There's a post-script: a couple of months after this letter was sent, the WBA, which talked about bringing at least one member of the media onto its ratings committee at its “emergency meeting” in New York in October, did indeed name Sebastian Contursi, a writer from South America who also works for ESPN Deportes, to the committee. As mentioned in a previous chapter, I had politely turned the invitation down.

However, it's quite possible there might be some interesting developments regarding this poll that I can relay to you before we close out “Operation Cleanup 2”.

As always, I promise to keep you posted.

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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