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Articles of 2003

THE CASE AGAINST A NATIONAL COMMISSION

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The 88th Round

As I touched upon in the last chapter, I have undergone something of a metamorphosis over the course of the last fifteen months. At the beginning, I was a staunch supporter of the idea for a national commission, because like most people, I figured it would represent a major step forward in getting the sport of boxing under control from the regulatory perspective, and improve it to the point where increased public acceptance would be a natural result.

But taking my experience in and around boxing (close to twenty years' worth) into account, and adding in the time, effort and research that was required to put together a rather intensive study of the issues relative to boxing reform, I started to drift further and further away from that point of view. Since I'm assuming this is not the opinion of the majority, I feel it incumbent upon myself to offer a full explanation.

You're about to get that, and then some.

So what would be the case AGAINST a national boxing commission?

Let's talk about the little things first. Obviously, there is the question of state's rights. Let me quote a letter sent by Tim Lueckenhoff to Senator John McCain on October 11, 2002:

“Commissions opposed to the creation of the United States Boxing Administration fear their states' rights will be infringed upon with the passage of this legislation. In essence they will lose their autonomy. There is (sic) concerns by commissions that the legislation does not go far enough to strictly enforce the clauses contained therein. Some commissions also feel, that club shows will be adversely effected with the minimum criteria for medical testing not to mention the payment of licensee fees to the Administration. Which will ultimately put fewer dollars in boxer's pockets.”

Yes, there's some hot air in that message, especially with regard to the medical testing. But there's a little substance as well.

I wouldn't deny that you'd have a bunch of commissioners fearing they will lose their gratuitous state jobs, or that their state commissions may be eliminated entirely if as bill is passed calling for national regulation. To a degree, it's self-preservation. The problem is that it might manifest itself into something that can effectively create a quagmire.

Please keep in mind that we're talking about a dual national-state system, in which the states would have a significant amount of autonomy. But, if a state were not a supporter of a national commission on the basis of assertion of states' rights, would we have to constantly worry about them enforcing the federal laws in their area, or would they implement the regulations they thought were useful and discard those they felt unnecessary? Don't tell me this couldn't happen; I've examined enough pages of depositions from Greg Page's lawsuit against the Kentucky Athletic Commission to know that the Kentucky people don't even bother obeying their own STATE law, much less the federal laws that apply to them through the Professional Boxer Safety Act, which they STILL don't believe they have the obligation to follow,

So now you want to create MORE laws, with MORE bureaucracy, giving them MORE reason to ignore the rules?

In between battles of ego, more fighters are likely to get hurt.

I'd be much in favor an educational process in which commissioners, executive directors, and commission attorneys were schooled on what the laws were. You wouldn't necessary need a national board for that – just maybe a more efficiently-run ABC, or a private organization. At that point, it would be the state's obligation to make sure all those laws were being carried out. You probably wouldn't want to have a situation where, if an “accident” happened as a result of neglect, the federal government would be exposed to the liability.

I know this may sound irreconcilable with some of the points made above, but the fact is, when you look at club shows, and I mean SMALL club shows, there is a very compelling argument that regulation on the state level is going to be more effective than it would be if the state were independent, but still taking directives from a national board, if that's the way this ultimately evolves. After all, locally-based regulators generally know the fighters in that area better, and know the “operators” better. I couldn't see a national commission passing judgment on what kind of fights would be allowable on a show like that. In fact, I don't know ANY useful place they would have on a show like that. I think that a state commission, if they were acting responsibly (and I concede that's a big IF), would naturally perform better.

If a centralized structure was going to be given ultimate authority over local fights, it would have to be staffed by a lot of people – perhaps dozens. Remember, there were an average of 2.3 cards PER DAY in the United States last year – that's a lot of activity for one office to handle, even if it's getting some help around the country. It brings to mind the question as to whether, as inefficient as some state commissions have proven to be, whether a national structure would actually exacerbate the situation, by creating less of a hands-on situation, more distance, and less overall efficiency.

I also wonder whether those geniuses, Ken Nahigian (McCain's aide) and Greg Sirb (Pennsylvania's commission head), who are behind the new Boxing Amendments Act, have studied whether there are laws in certain states that would not necessarily be superseded by a federal law, and which might present a conflict with the regulatory power of a national commission in a particular jurisdiction? Has the proper due diligence been performed? With those two guys pulling the strings, don't bet on it.

And speaking of geniuses, let me reiterate something I have said all along in the “Operation Cleanup” series – your laws are only as good as the people you have enforcing them. It is mandatory that I take into account the quality of people who could be running the show, along with the evolution that a national commission could take over the course of time.

What we might see eventually is a national hierarchy, with regional or state “directors” – responsible to the federal level – who pay particular attention to boxing in their respective areas. Of course, the most seamless way to do something like that is to draw from the people who are currently involved with state commissions. More to the point, they would be those who were able to lobby most effectively, which means it's likely we would see the same bureaucracy of incompetent regulators.

As we mentioned a few moments ago, the way the bill is laid out now, states would still retain an autonomous position, but there would be national oversight, either in the form of one person, or, if a compromise between McCain and Harry Reid is reached, a committee. Absent any radical and innovative thinking, what you're going to be faced with, in effect, is that the same folks who were failures on a state level will be elevated to positions where they can be failures on the national level. Do you see any progress in that? I surely don't.

I can say with some degree of conviction that we can do without people like former Kentucky's Jack Kerns, primarily responsible for Greg Page's physical state, who was First Vice-President of the Association of Boxing Commissions for nearly two years, working for a prospective national agency. He's a horrible exemplar, but that's exactly the kind of thing you're looking at – the only difference is, instead of Kerns, you'd have Kerns “wannabes”. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Let's face it – the guys who are being looked at for these national posts are the “usual suspects” from the Association of Boxing Commissions. And if you take a step back and think about it, if they had ever been able to get their act together, or persuade others to do the same, no conversation about a national commission would even be required.

Truth be known, the people in the ABC have not shown the vision or competence to assume any kind of leadership role in a national commission structure. They're just not strong enough. And I'm thoroughly convinced it wouldn't guarantee any improvement whatsoever in the quality of boxing regulation.

You'd be hard-pressed to get the best available people from the various commissions to leave positions with their respective states and take a job that may or may not work out for them. You've got to understand – many of them not only run their commission, they also are involved simultaneously with other state agencies, or have been in the past. They've got attractive benefits packages and many years toward their state pension. The best people are not useless political appointees, but skilled administrators who have built a certain record of efficiency. Some of those guys – and I'm talking about people like Marc Ratner (Nevada), Tom Mishou (Georgia), or Larry Hazzard (New Jersey) – are not particularly attracted to the job of national boxing “czar”.

That leaves you with people like Sirb, a blindly ambitious political creature whose major qualification for the job is that he has ingratiated himself to the right people in McCain's office. But he's part of the same ineffective bureaucracy, and in fact, has been a ringleader of it.

If you're going to embark on making changes to the structure, you're not accomplishing anything unless you change the PEOPLE who constitute that structure.

And I don't see anyone being creative or resourceful enough to make a clean sweep, bringing fresh, new people in. And even if that was their intention, would they know how to go out and find those people? Don't leave that kind of thing up to politicians like McCain, who think in cliches when it comes to the boxing business.

What is of ultimate importance here is that I have to fashion an argument for or against a national commission based largely on a contemplation of the actual bill that would create the centralized national structure.

And so that brings with it the matter of accountability to taxpayers.

To ask, “why should taxpayers shoulder the burden for subsidizing the regulation of boxing?”, is a legitimate question, especially as taxpayers in each state are already doing it. I don't think the general public cares about boxing. I don't think many politicians in Washington, outside of McCain himself, find this an interesting or particularly useful issue.

Coming up with a rationale for the kind of expenditure necessary to run a national board is a subject of great concern to Wally Jernigan, Nebraska's commission director.

“At a time when the budgets of every state and the federal government are upside down, I can't justify new taxpayer spending with no return for the dollars allocated”, says Jernigan. “You might want to get the Commerce Budget Office Estimate Report for a complete review of cost. There is an estimate that there will be 3 executives, and 27 additional employees with an anticipated budget for salaries and benefits of $3 million per year. So looking at the big picture, where is the justification for such financial un-soundness?”

I agree with that observation. I think anyone in favor of advancing an entire structure based on this bill should have had the foresight to at least be creative in coming up with a formula to make it pay for itself. There are probably ways to do this. In fact, there are some states who have to reconcile their budgets through revenues. Absent that, since as it is we are looking at an Ali Act that no representative of the Justice Department seems anxious to enforce, an alternative that deserves to be explored is to introduce model legislation, or for all states come to an agreement on at least SOME standards that everyone, individually can adopt, operating on the premise that a STATE law is a lot easier to prosecute and/or implement on the state level than a federal law that in the end amounts to an “unfunded mandate”, and may never have teeth.

As I mentioned in the previous chapter, there are standards that can be adopted and implemented on a nationwide basis without having to establish a national commission – things like uniform rules, consistent norms for medical testing, standard forms for boxer-manager and boxer-promoter contracts, requirements for sanctioning bodies, minimum safety provisions, and more – all of which can be done through legislation, as it would have the effect of overriding state law.

But there are many things that could be part of an effective centralized regulatory structure that are NOT dealt with in the new Boxing Amendments Act . Like the oversight of networks in the role they play. Or federal disciplinary actions against state commissions that break the law. Or disclosure requirements for managers who may be hiding money from their fighters. Or the nationwide ban of dangerous Toughman contests and variations thereof. Or provisions for reciprocal suspensions for non-medical reasons, including those against promoters, managers, agents, etc. Or a database for fighter records that doesn't cost customers nine dollars a pop.

Those things don't seem to be on the agenda. And if they're not going to be, I really don't see any reason to back the new McCain-sponsored bill, and in turn, a national commission, within the present frames of reference.

What do we need it for? To provide an incompetents' full-employment program?

I don't think so. Don't despair, though. Viable alternatives will come, a few chapters down the line.

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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