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Articles of 2003

KILL THE BILL Vol. 6 – UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS

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The 98th Round

Back on May 10, 2002, junior middleweight contender Kassim Ouma stepped into a ring at Delaware's Dover Downs for his fight with Jason Papillon, wearing a back ad displaying the name of an online casino – something that was expressly forbidden by the televising outlet, ESPN. Contracts issued by the network had included a clause that if a fighter did indeed wear one of these back ads, the promoter of the bout could get fined up to $10,000. In this case, the promoter was Russell Peltz, also a contract employee of ESPN, and he was hopping mad.

Peltz unleashed several threatening statements about Ouma, not the least of which was, “He'll (Ouma) never fight on ESPN again,” which was rather unusual, considering Ouma was a fighter Peltz had under an exclusive promotional arrangement. (Details in Chapter 18 of “Operation Cleanup: A Blueprint for Boxing Reform”).

Less than two weeks later, there was a very interesting – though seemingly unrelated – development. On May 22, John McCain's Professional Boxing Amendments Act was introduced to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill contained certain changes and amendments to federal bills before it – one of those changes concerned Section 15 of the Professional Boxer Safety Act, which dealt with the concept of “confidentiality”, primarily in dealings between fighters and promoters:

“`SEC. 15. CONFIDENTIALITY.

`(a) IN GENERAL- Neither a boxing commission or an Attorney General may disclose to the public any matter furnished by a promoter under section 13 except to the extent required in a legal, administrative, or judicial proceeding.

`(b) EFFECT OF CONTRARY STATE LAW- If a State law governing a boxing commission requires that information that would be furnished by a promoter under section 13 shall be made public, then a promoter is not required to file such information with such State if the promoter files such information with the ABC.”

The reference to Section 13 in the Professional Boxer Safety Act pertains to the requirement of financial disclosure on the part of promoters, which includes this:

“`(b) DISCLOSURES TO THE BOXER- A promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes–

`(1) the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match”

What this meant, in effect, was that even though the law seemed to state, subject to interpretation of course, that promoters had to “open their books” to fighters, at least to the extent that it concerned that fighter directly, it could be nullified by a provision that allowed for confidential dealings, and that the only way a fighter could avail himself of these figures was to file a lawsuit or be granted an administrative proceeding by a commission, and furthermore, that the promoter doesn't even have to make those figures available to a state commission if he has already filed them with a duly authorized representative of the Association of Boxing Commissions – something that would certainly happen in states without commissions.

Either way, it would be too late for the fighter to utilize the result of any such disclosures in the process of negotiating or re-negotiating a deal for a fight.

However, when McCain's bill came before committee on May 22, the confidentiality clause was completely eliminated, as if it were just a bad memory:

“As introduced in Senate:
S.2550(IS)

SEC. 114. CONFIDENTIALITY.
Section 15 (15 U.S.C. 6307g) is repealed.”

That move was applauded by those officials from state commissions who were paying attention. One of them told me at the time, “Looks like someone didn't consult with Greg Sirb (Executive director of the Pennsylvania commission, a proponent of confidentiality, and a key player in the legislation) on that one.”

Maybe McCain was influenced by a letter sent to him a year earlier by the astute Tom Mishou, executive director of the Georgia Boxing Commission. In it, Mishou wrote,

“Raising a barrier of confidentiality in the business of boxing, as was done in Section 15, is in direct conflict with almost every other principle of government you are so respected for promoting. There is simply no sound reason why bout agreements and contracts should be confidential. These are agreements and contracts sanctioned by the authority of the state. Public interest demands that they be available for public scrutiny. Georgia law supports one of the most aggressive open records laws in the country. Government operates best when there are no secrets………….I would urge that Section 15 be deleted in its entirety. A promoter should write contracts that survive public scrutiny – not defy public scrutiny.”

Following the May 10 fiasco, Ouma was understandably distrustful of Peltz, who may or may not have actually been fined by his employer, but who was nonetheless able to leverage the Ouma-Papillon bout into a multi-fight deal at Dover Downs, a pari-mutuel establishment that has experienced a great deal of success with slot machines.

After having “benched” him for a while, Peltz scheduled Ouma for another ESPN-televised fight for October 4 at Dover Downs, where he was to take on Darrell Woods. The offer for the 12-round USBA title fight was $17,500.

Ouma was worried that in light of his newfound “racino” deal at Dover Downs, Peltz may have been penalizing him somehow by shorting him on the purse. So he contacted a couple of friends – Paul Johnson, the head of the Boxers Organizing Committee (BOC), and Johnson's associate, Tom Moran, the former manager of ex-heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. The two had been moral supporters of Ouma's decision to wear the back ad in the May 10 fight, and in fact Johnson's BOC had challenged ESPN's edict by issuing a resolution in writing and staging a demonstration in the ring with several fighters, including Witherspoon, Bones Adams, and Vito Antuofermo.

Johnson and Moran sought to find out what they could about the revenues and expenses associated with the October 4 date. What they discovered was that Peltz was receiving the equivalent of $50,000 from Dover Downs – an estimated $30,000 in cash and $20,000 in tickets, which were re-sold. And the standard rights fee from ESPN was $52,000, so Peltz' revenue from the fight card would be at least $100,000, not including what he may have been pulling in for his ESPN “consulting fee”.

To the best of their knowledge, Michael Stewart, a Peltz fighter who was in the semi-main event, was to receive $6500; Woods, for example, got $12,500. Plugging all of their numbers into the formula, the two men concluded that Peltz could be making as much as $50,000 in profits on the show – nearly three times that of his main event fighter. And they came to the conclusion that, based on what they had unearthed, Ouma's purse should have been bigger. Perhaps much bigger.

So Johnson, in the name of the BOC, as well as the interests of Ouma, fired off a letter to Peltz on September 27 – one week before the fight – in which he requested that Peltz forward certain financial information – namely, what his sources of revenue were for the fight card and how much he was getting from them, pursuant to his interpretation of Section 13 in the Professional Boxer Safety Act.

Peltz did not answer the letter. Johnson then made contact with Sirb, the executive director of the Pennsylvania commission, who was the supervisor for all pro fights in Delaware – a non-commission state – by way of authority in the Professional Boxer Safety Act which requires that someone representing the Association of Boxing Commissions oversee all fights in states without commissions. In January of 2001, when Sirb was still president of the ABC, he entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Delaware in which the ABC would be in charge of pro boxing in the state. Then, conveniently, he assigned that responsibility to his own commission. Because of all this, Sirb had what amounted to an exclusive license to regulate boxing there.

Sirb affirmed that all the contracts connected to the fight would be in his possession, but that Ouma, by way of Johnson, could only get them “if Russell says it's okay.” Johnson continued his efforts, but according to Peltz, financial disclosure was most decidedly NOT okay.

Ouma did go ahead with the fight, stopping Woods in the 11th round.

A week or so after the bout, Johnson decided to try contacting Sirb again. Once again, he was told, “Russell Peltz has to agree to it”, but this time, Sirb was a little more defiant and much more abrupt. He more or less recited the “confidentiality clause” in the federal law and explained to Johnson that Ouma basically had no right to see the financial information. Evidently, while he was sitting in his state office in Harrisburg, and on a state telephone, Sirb was speaking to Johnson with his “ABC hat” on – indeed, as an ABC representative (he had the title of “Past President”) rather than a state official, he felt he could justifiably protect Peltz under the governing federal law.

Undaunted, Johnson made contact with Tim Lueckenhoff, the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. When asked about the financial records, Lueckenhoff was “very political” about it, according to Johnson, and did not make himself clear as to whether he had the documents from Peltz' show or not. Of course, Lueckenhoff may have been coming from a position where he felt he was standing on solid ground, since the confidentiality provisions in the law seemed to allow the ABC to hold the records from public review, even if it had them.

To add insult to injury, Sirb, as supervisor of the Ouma-Woods fight, proceeded to change Ouma's victory to a “no decision” on the basis of an alleged “positive marijuana test”.

Then a rather astonishing thing happened.

On October 17 – just thirteen days after Ouma's fight with Woods and literally days after Johnson had been rebuffed again by Sirb – the Professional Boxing Amendments Act was voted out of McCain's committee. But mysteriously, there was no longer a repeal of the Section 15 “Confidentiality” section. It remained very much intact. “This looked clearly like it was done at the eleventh hour,” said one northeastern commissioner, who requested anonymity. “We had absolutely no idea that was going to happen, and no one from the committee ever addressed anybody I know about it. The strange thing is, somebody must have felt it was important enough to eliminate the confidentiality thing. But even stranger is why someone, for some reason, felt it was important enough to put back in. Obviously someone had gotten to McCain's people during that time, and it must have been late in the game.”

This action certainly had its effect. Had the bill, containing the repeal of Section 15, gone to the Senate floor, then to the House, and passed in expeditious fashion, Peltz may have been in the position where he'd have to make the requested financial records available. But now, he was home free.

Did someone take special steps to make sure of that? Maybe someone who had his own interests to protect as well?

It is undisputed that Sirb, who was named by the ABC as the liaison to McCain and attorney Ken Nahigian (who wrote the new bill) at the 2001 convention in New Orleans, was intimately acquainted with most steps in the process, and was in fact designated to “advise” Nahigian on issues related to the bill.

By virtue of Sirb's arrangement with Delaware, he stood to realize licensing and supervisory fees, and monies based on the television revenue, if he so chose. This would happen on a regular basis, with Peltz having firmed up his deal with Dover Downs. As mentioned, such authority was granted the ABC by federal law, since Delaware has no commission. In fact, for all intents and purposes, Sirb WAS the ABC. And he was not necessarily under any obligation to turn those fees over to the general fund in Pennsylvania, since he was not performing those tasks on behalf of the state, within state boundaries, or on state time.

In this business, that's what's referred to as a “sweet deal”.

For Peltz too. Imagine being faced with a law that in one paragraph, may very well (dependent upon interpretation) require you make disclosures that might disadvantage you somewhat, and yet another paragraph have that nullified, AND on top of all that, have a commissioner at your disposal who's apparently not answerable to anybody, and who's perfectly willing to run interference for you? Who couldn't strike it rich under those circumstances?

“There is nothing more appalling and egregious in the federal laws than this,” says Mishou. “Nothing should be proprietary.

“It is inconsistent with the principles of government to preserve secrecies. If the boxing community wants the privilege of being sanctioned by state government 'boxing commissions', they need to operate in the open like everyone else. State governments have rigorous laws requiring open meetings and requiring that documents be open for public inspection. The federal government has its own Freedom of Information Act. Why do they now think documents concerning boxing should be shielded and confidential? What makes them think they can solve the problems of boxing by perpetuating the secrecy of boxing?”

In the irony to end all ironies, on October 4, 2002, the same day Ouma went into a Delaware ring “in the dark”, so to speak, for the Woods fight, Senator John McCain authored a letter to Paul Johnson, responding to earlier correspondence Johnson had sent him about financial disclosure on the part of promoters. McCain, who copied the letter to Ken Nahigian, wrote:

“Thank you for your recent efforts to encourage promoter compliance with the disclosure requirements of the Professional Boxing Safety Act (PBSA). Promoters must be held accountable to the law, and I commend you for taking action. As you know, the PBSA was enacted in an attempt to improve the safety and welfare of professional boxers, and to ensure the truthfulness of promoters in their financial dealings with professional boxers. Unfortunately, due to limited federal and state law enforcement resources, the implementation of the PBSA has been lacking. Your efforts to pressure promoter compliance with the PBSA is a much needed step toward improving the internal regulation of the sport of boxing.”

Clearly, this would show a degree of intent at the time on the part of McCain. But sadly, over the next thirteen days, the senator and his staffers endeavored – successfully – to take all that promoter “accountability”, not to mention the interests of the fighters who would be enlightened by it, and flush it down the toilet.

Did undue influence from somebody with an agenda – triggered by the persistence of Ouma and Johnson – contribute to that?

You be the judge.

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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