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Articles of 2003

CHANGING THE PROMOTIONAL WORLD

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The 84th Round

I heard a story once about a promoter who, in what could best be described as a highly unusual move, went about approaching all the opponent-types in his particular area and signed them to promotional contracts. The purpose of this was not necessarily to resurrect careers, or to provide talent for his own shows. Rather, it was so that none of his competitors in the area (and we're talking about a Top 20 market here) could use any of those fighters – as many as two dozen, from four-rounders on up – without either paying him a side fee or making some other kind of consideration.

Since opponents are needed in order to put on shows, the other promoters were left with a situation where they often had to go out of state to bring talent in. It became a costly proposition, in many cases making it impossible to make money, and discouraged promoters from staying in the business.

Certainly this was a creative way to make use of the promotional contract. But was it right, or a practice that should have been curtailed, if only the mechanism existed?

Well, promotional contracts prescribe a minimum number of fights over a specified time, for a minimum amount of money. And consider that when the dust cleared, a lot of these opponents were left in the lurch. The intention of their “promoter” was not to give them work, but simply tie up talent. Obviously it wasn't something that was GOOD for the sport. Of course, not many fighters took action for breach. They probably didn't have enough resources to bring a suit. And besides, why would a fighter with a .500 record expect a promotional contract to begin with?

Most boxing commissions don't get involved in penalizing promoters for not fulfilling these deals. But in some cases, maybe they should.

And let me go a step further. As I'm sure I've said before, it is not uncommon in this business for someone who isn't a promoter at all to have fighters under a promotional contract. When I say someone is not a promoter, I don't mean in the broader sense as I pointed out in the 81st Round. And I don't mean in the legal sense either, since the party who issues a promotional contract defines himself as “Promoter”.

I mean someone who doesn't promote fights; someone who doesn't put on any shows. He's not licensed in any jurisdiction. As such, he has not gone through the process of getting bonded, as anyone who seeks a promotional license must do in most states.

Under these parameters, we know that the motivation for signing a fighter to a promotional contract is something else altogether – the ability to exercise control over the fighter's activity, and to pick up a side fee, as a precursor to allowing a fight to happen, generally without any restrictions as a manager would have, since everyone is mindful that the Ali Act is not enforced.

And the fighter who signs a contract with this kind of individual often doesn't know that he has no intention of actually PROMOTING shows, but rather to serve as a quasi-manager.

Which brings us to another question – should parties holding promotional contracts be licensed as promoters, and subject to all the requirements that are associated with such licensure? That appears to be the case in some states, including Pennsylvania, where for years the requirement is that a promoter must be licensed and make note of that in his promotional contract in order for it to be valid. Should something like that become a nationwide standard? Perhaps it's something that needs to be explored.

Another concern I have surrounds some of the actual clauses that appear in promotional contracts, aside from the actual lengths of those deals.

There is a perception, I think, that simple agreements are best, since they don't get complicated to the point where they confuse the fighter. Actually, simple contracts – which are preferred by the likes of Russell Peltz – leave a lot of “wiggle room”
for the promoter, in that they leave enough uncovered that the promoter knows how to fill in the blanks to his advantage.

For instance, I think the absence of clauses specifying the split of a purse when the fighter is “loaned out” to another promoter needs to be addressed. We've talked about it before – a promoter places his fighter on another promoter's card, and can grab any amount of money he can from that transaction – sometimes even more than the fighter himself earns. It would seem reasonable that restrictions on that kind of money-grubbing could be mandated if contracts were standardized to some extent.

I'll give you another quick example – in the last chapter I referred to the “one-loss-and-out” clause which gave the promoter an option to cut a fighter loose after a loss or keep him under different terms. That would appear to be fair and
equitable, but it shouldn't be used to hit a fighter over the head with. If the contract calls for renegotiating minimum purses in such a case, that's exactly what it should mean; the true intention can't be that there will merely be a fight-by-fight negotiation from that point forward without minimums – something so nebulous as to create “indefinite terms” that serve to advantage only one side (and guess which side that is).

Antwun Echols got out of his promotional contract with Banner Promotions on the basis of this issue, in a case I was involved in, and will expand upon – to a great extent – in a subsequent “Total Action Special Report” and later a book.

The fact is that even though Echols got out, he had to spend a lot of money on lawyers (not to mention consultants like myself) in order to do it. Maybe it shouldn't have to be like that.

Couldn't a boxing commission, or association of commissions, have some input as to which clauses are permissible in a promotional contract and how these clauses are interpreted?

And what about promotional contracts in general? Not everybody likes them. While they may represent a source of opportunity for some fighters, they may, by the same token, become a tremendous burden to carry for others. You know, I've talked to a fair number of people in this business – a surprising number, in fact – who feel that promotional contracts are a poison and should be outlawed; that the system should exist where if a promoter wants to put on a show, he simply negotiates best price with each fighter individually, without any consideration of “exclusive rights” or financial interests in the talent.

Under this system, all fighters would be “free agents”. Ideally, it makes some sense. You could imagine that the overall quality to fights would go up. Would it also drive purse up? Maybe not.

Remember, if there were enough “free” fighters to the point where the market of good ones can occasionally flood the market in a way where supply outstrips demand, it would serve to keep the market very much in check. I'll never forget the message put across by Charlie Finley, former owner of the Oakland A's, when it was readily apparent the era of free agency was going to drive baseball salaries up considerably. “Make 'em all free agents every year,” was Finley's reaction. Opening the floodgates for ALL players, every season, to enter the free agent market would have diluted the effect of their free agency and decreased demand, thus keeping the salary scale down. And the players couldn't have argued against it on the basis of moral principle.

There is very little question that the elimination of promotional contracts would make it much more difficult for promoters to build a power base that would perpetuate itself through tying up fighters. This would probably result in a more level playing field, since procuring a fighter's services could only happen on a case-by-case basis.

But would there be a playing field at all? It is no secret that in and of itself, a boxing show is not normally a profitable proposition. And it's almost certain to fail without the backing of a casino, a network, or both. So the motivation for a promoter is to have a certain amount of “equity” in the careers of the fighters he has under contract. If a promoter couldn't engage in the development of an entity that may someday yield a return on investment, he might choose not to be involved in the business.

And even though I'm sure there are some people who would like to take all the promoters and drive them off a cliff, the stark reality is that promoters, and even packagers, play an integral role in the business, both in developing talent for the marketplace and fueling the boxing economy with product (with the help of the omnipresent network interests, of course).

It's more appropriate to come up with a way to appease both sides, at least to a degree.

Perhaps a scenario to consider is one where promotional deals would be limited to THREE fights. Over the long haul, this would constitute better fights, since the motivation to protect the fighter might not be there. It would still allow the industrious promoter to profit with the fighter, but would force the promoter into putting the fighter “in tough” more often, since there would not be as vested an interest in the fighter.

Under this scenario – to the extent you feel such activity is the norm – the promoter would not have as much motivation to use money to manipulate the rankings, since the relationship is not as long-standing and the investment, by and large, is not as considerable.

And if you want to know about prospects who would be signed out of the amateur ranks, a component of this plan is that fighters would be prohibited from signing a promotional deal until they have competed in a certain number of bouts, or have reached the eight-round level.

Yeah, I know the objection: how would fighters get developed? Well, the answer is – and listen closely – they'd be developed better. By and large, promoters DO NOT develop fighters these days; they STEER fighters. They build COMMODITIES. “Development” is not a proper word, but that's a subject we can talk all day about.

I'm a believer that the cream will eventually rise to the top; so if they're good enough, the true prospects are going to succeed. The only difference is, you can be virtually assured that the fighter who comes through this system would be a REAL prospect, not a phony, built-up contender who needs to get through twenty stiffs before he demonstrates to the whole world that he can't fight.

A number of fighters could benefit from a structure that features limited free agency, with the ability to shop while at the same time not flooding the market. In this way, competitors of all levels will find themselves in a position where they can control their own destiny.

Should a promoter want to renew an existing deal with a fighter, he is free to do so, but each renewal would have to be accompanied by a mandatory 20% increase in the minimum purse structure.

Another potential effect – promoters, unable to tie up fighters for a long period of time, may not be in a position to make certain long-term deals with networks or casinos, thus opening up the marketplace a little more.

Would the richest promoters still be able to get the best talent? Well, that's quite possible. After all, you have to have the financial wherewithal to guarantee purses. And television connections built through the years wouldn't necessarily evaporate. But the fact is that with more competition to procure talent, power in the industry is naturally going to be more widely distributed.

The end result could be less corruption, more competitive fights, less domination by a few promotional entities, and an atmosphere where promoters have to become promoters again and not just packagers.

Which could very well lead to more public confidence in the sport of boxing.

Or perhaps there shouldn't be any changes at all? I'm very anxious to get your input on the subject. Don't hesitate to get in touch.

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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