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Articles of 2003

Mike Tyson and Santa Claus

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As a child growing up our parents always stressed to us around Christmas time to be good or we won't get any presents from Santa Claus. Wasn't it great believing that some fat man with a beard wearing a red suit who didn't know us would bring us what ever we asked for on Christmas Eve! Then around 3rd or 4th grade some kid would ruin it telling you that Santa Claus is fake and it's your parents who actually buy you the presents! When you finally accept that Santa was a myth you can look back and smile remembering how fun it was believing. Some of us to this day believe in another form of Santa Claus, only this Santa goes by the name of Mike Tyson. The fairy tale of Mike Tyson had some of us believing that he was on his way to becoming possibly the greatest heavyweight champion in history? I'm that 4th grader here to tell you that it was all a myth and was never close to being what the fairy tale would try to lead us to believe.

I have watched the amateur and professional boxing career of Mike Tyson since 1982. I have never seen a fighter who has been afforded so many excuses by the public. Never have I heard more fans make excuses for a fighter after suffering a loss. As of this writing he has been beaten 4 times, knocked out in three of his defeats with each one more severe, and he quit in his other defeat before he was stopped. Against Buster Douglas his fans say he threw the fight or he was drugged, why was it that they couldn't accept him being beaten. I've even heard some say Holyfield waited until Tyson was shot before facing him, which has to be the most uninformed opinion in history! It was Holyfield who was shot when he and Tyson met in November of 96. Most fail to mention that Holyfield is 4 years older then Tyson, and he has faced the very best the heavyweight division has had to offer, which cannot be said about Tyson. Holyfield also has had a much tougher career then Tyson because of him not being blessed with one punch knockout power, many of his fights turned into wars and going the distance. In fact Holyfield resurrected his career off the wins he scored over Tyson. I've even have had fans tell me that Tyson should be rated above Holyfield in the overall ranking of histories greatest heavyweight champions. How can that even be said in jest ? Not only has Holyfield clearly beaten Tyson twice but he had the better career. He's fought fighters that Tyson avoided and has faced and defeated better fighters then Tyson throughout his career, no boxing fan or historian can question this. Holyfield proved he's clearly the better fighter period, why can't some Tyson fans accept it?

How about his defeat by Lennox Lewis? Again some try to convince themselves that Mike was drugged or wasn't himself. Do you realize Frank Bruno put up a better fight vs Lewis then Tyson did. The fact of the matter is, Mike Tyson was never as good as the media or fans thought or wanted to believe he was. He's been a front runner against overmatched opponents and he's been thoroughly beat by the best fighters he's shared the ring with. A review of Tyson's career leads to only one conclusion. However physically talented he may be, he is maybe the most overrated champion in heavyweight history. He has been the loser of the three most important fights of his career, and that is not an opinion it is a fact.

When reviewing the career of Mike Tyson it must start with the exceptional job done by his management team. Tyson managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton did the best marketing job in history with Tyson. Remember how they circulated a highlight tape of the fighters first 5 pro bouts to the mainstream sports media and writers. He was matched so perfectly with opponents that he would not only beat but he would look like something from out of this world in the process. Make no mistake Mr. Tyson can punch with both hands, and he is extremely fast for a fighter who hits as hard as he does. And he is a great front runner.

However, a close examination of Tyson's career reveals several telling facts indicating that he is not all that he was built up to be. His first 20 opponents are probably among the worst of any heavyweight at the start of their career. He actually fought guys who were inactive for three years and had lost their last 8-10 fights by knockout ! He won the WBC title from 32 year old Trevor Berbick in Nov 86 to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history at age 20. This is the same Berbick who was knocked out in one round by Bernardo Mercardo.

Tyson then wins the WBA title in March 87 from Bonecrusher Smith by decision, Bonecrusher was stopped in 12 rounds by Larry Holmes in Nov 84, and Tyson only decisions him 3 years later. He then goes on to win his title-unification bout with undefeated Tony Tucker by unanimous decision in August of 87, however the only fighter who was hurt or shook in the fight was Tyson by a Tucker uppercut. After a 7 round stoppage of 15-0 Tyrell Biggs he stops 38 year old Larry Holmes in 4 rounds in Jan 88. Holmes hadn't fought in two years, trained on a rowing machine and tread mill and only sparred a few times at his own gym, and had no training camp. Holmes said before the fight needed 3 million to pay off a building. The best testament to Tyson's punch is that Holmes was never stopped before or since. After Holmes Tyson goes to Tokyo to fight the human blimp Tony Tubbs. Tubbs is in such good shape he comes in at 237 pounds forfeiting a 50,000 $ bonus for not coming in 230 or below. Tyson does what he should and blows Tubbs out in two rounds.

In his next fight he beats former Lt. heavyweight champ Michael Spinks in one round in June 88, this is what his whole career is built on. Remember this is the Spinks who got a gift decision over 36 year old Holmes two years earlier in their rematch. However impressive Tyson was vs Spinks, in my book beating an old overfed Lt. heavyweight is not a pass to the Hall of Fame. After a brief marriage to Robin Givens he fights china chinned Frank Bruno in Feb 89 and TKO's him in 5. Bonecrusher Smith knocked out Bruno for a 10 count in Feb 84, Tim Witherspoon also knocked out Bruno for the count in July 86. Why is it so monumental when Tyson TKO's him 5 years after Bonecrusher and 3 years after Witherspoon. This is the hysteria I could never understand after some Tyson fights.

In July of 89 he stops Carl “The Truth” Williams in one round, (Quick hook by Ref Randy Neuman), the Truth had been KO'd for the count by Mike Weaver in 86 on Tyson-Ferguson undercard. Once again Tyson is perceived as a boxing immortal off a stoppage of a fighter who's known to have a questionable chin. Then comes Buster Douglas. Going into the Tyson fight Douglas had been KO'd in 3 of his 4 loses. In his title shot before Tyson he was KO'd by Tony Tucker, or as some have said he quit. This is some guy to lose your title against when you are about to turn 24 and in your absolute prime. Yes this is close to Tyson's prime, punchers mature much sooner then boxers do. I guess if I told you going into the fight that Douglas was in the best shape of his life and Tyson was in the worst shape of his career you would've picked the 42-1 underdog Douglas? Tyson should be eliminated from all-time status for that defeat alone. How could he get knocked out by a stiff like Douglas, I don't care how bad a shape he was in, he was in good enough shape to drop Douglas in round 8 with one right uppercut after getting shellacked up to that point in the fight. Maybe if he hung on to lose a decision it wouldn't be so terrible but he was knocked out by a STIFF, not TKO'd but KO'd. Douglas affords Tyson another record, the youngest fighter to lose the heavyweight title.

After being dethroned by Douglas Tyson scores first round knockouts over Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart, obvious confidence builders for Tyson's shattered psyche. Next is Razor Ruddock, the one arm bandit. Before talking about Tyson-Ruddock, let's not forget that Ruddock was KO'd by journeyman Dave Jaco prior to this. Tyson-Ruddock I, Tyson once again is the benefactor of quick hooked referee Richard Steele as Ruddock lives up to one arm bandit billing. However it must be said that other then a brief Ruddock flurry that shook Tyson in the 6th round Tyson was in complete command. Tyson-Ruddock II, Tyson wins a 12 round unanimous decision after dropping Ruddock in rounds two and four. Ruddock actually stands up to Tyson and Tyson accounts him self very good proving that he is the better fighter. Then after serving 3 year jail conviction for rape Tyson is released from prison and fights boxings version of murders row, starting with Peter McNeely, (Remember Ali fought Second ranked Jerry Quarry in his first fight after his exile which was 43 months, Tyson's absence was 47 months) followed by Buster Mathis Jr, Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon as their names say just about all you need to know about them. Mathis couldn't punch, Bruno and Seldon had no chin. However we can't forget that Tyson paid Lennox Lewis 4 million $ so he didn't have to fight him, thus clearing the away for Seldon.

After the Seldon farce he fights Evander Holyfield in Nov of 96. This is Holyfield coming off the two worst fights of his life. He was KO'd by Bowe in the 3rd match up between them in Nov of 95 and couldn't even put down former middleweight Bobby Czyz in May of 96. After Holyfield is cleared by the Mayo clinic he fights Tyson. Holyfield goes on to knock Tyson down in round 6 and thoroughly kick Tyson's butt before stopping him in round 11. Oh' Holyfield hadn't scored a stoppage over a heavyweight since Bert Cooper in Nov of 91 but he stops Tyson. After one postponement he and Holyfield fight again. Tyson by quitting in this fight says more about him than if he got knocked out again. When Tyson realized that he was on his way to being stopped by Holyfield for a second consecutive time he wanted out. So he hid behind the ref crying about being head butt by Holyfield. Isn't that something, the fighter who made a career out of hitting on the break and after the bell looks to the referee to save him. Tyson is DQ'd in round 3 for biting both of Holyfield's ears. This is after a stern warning from ref Mills Lane to Tyson for biting Holyfield's ear the first time. After Tyson is threatened with disqualification he goes and bites Holyfield's other ear the very next time they clinch, he wanted out of the fight. By biting and acting crazy he saved his career because he convinced the public he was so mad at Holyfield that he wanted to injure him, he even went so far as to push Holyfield after the fight while his back was turned !

As a result of biting Holyfield the Nevada boxing commission revokes Tyson's boxing license. After 6 months of inactivity Tyson returns to the ring and fights six nondescript opponents before facing Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis in Memphis. The twice beaten Lewis is recognized as the worlds best heavyweight and true champion. Lewis provides Tyson a chance to redeem himself for the poor showings against Holyfield and a chance to lay claim to again being boxings premier heavyweight. Lewis suffering one punch knockout loses to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman is thought to be just right for Tyson by some due to his chin which has come under it fair share of criticism. On June 8th 2002 Lewis inflicts Tyson with the worse beating of his career. On this night Lewis bust Tyson's face up knocking him down in round 4 and knocking him out in round 8. A sullen Tyson can only offer praise and respect to Lewis in ring center after the fight while wiping the sweat from Lewis' face with his hand. Since Lewis Tyson has fought one time, scoring a 49 second KO of Clifford Eitenne in what has been a staple of the type fight Tyson returns with following a defeat.

When evaluating Tyson the fighter it must be stated, physically he may be as gifted as any heavyweight champ in history other then Muhammad Ali. He has very quick hands that carry knockout power in both. He was somewhat elusive to hit with upper-body movement, not quite the bob and weaver as Frazier but still effective. Some have questioned his chin, I don't. He's been stopped by non-punchers in Douglas and Holyfield but this was due to absorbing many blows throughout the fight. Tyson has a sturdy chin, its what happens to him inside when he gets hit. Tyson's make up inside is his short coming, those traits identify him more then his physical skills.

I once asked Larry Merchant to compare Frazier and Tyson. He said the difference between Frazier and Tyson is, “Frazier was a mile wide and a mile deep, Tyson is a mile wide and an inch deep”. When Tyson has been confronted by an opponent who came to win instead of getting paid he's folded every time !

The true test of greatness is how a fighter reacts in the face of adversity, or how he handles defeat. When Tyson has been in with fighters who caved in front of him he was a wrecking machine. He killed guys like Berbick, Stewart, Tillman, Seldon, and Francis. Who has Tyson defeated among his 50 victories that merit anybodies top ten list ? Tyson has been beaten 4 times, three times by knockout and once he quit before he was stopped. Every time he's been beaten its been worse and has followed form. A game start, however if the opponent stood up to the assault he crumbled.

As mentioned earlier, Tyson was the best hyped fighter in history. The public fell in love with him and wanted to see him register a knockout, the opponent didn't matter, it could've been anybody which is who it was a majority of the time. He's fought set-ups his entire career, not that the outcome was pre-determined but their was always and angle. Fighters were coming off long periods of inactivity, or they where tailor made for him like Eitenne. In some fights the fighters were well past their best days or in the midst of a long losing streaks. One only needs to look at the circumstance surrounding the first Holyfield fight to see that Tyson has always avoided, a true challenge. ! Holyfield was in the middle of the worst rut of his career coming off being stopped by Bowe and an awful showing against Czyz in his two previous fights. Their was no public out-cry or demand for this fight, Holyfield was not considered any more then a faded ex-champ going into his fight with Tyson. The determining factor in putting this fight together was the fact that Tyson deemed Holyfield safe, and Tyson knew Holyfield would be the fighter he would be measured against in his era. Tyson wanted a win over Holyfield, even the watered down eroded version was good enough ! After having everything in place to beat Holyfield, Holyfield proves he's the better fighter and takes him apart.

I ask, is this the body of work of an all-time great? I thought great fighters were supposed to win the so-called signature fights of their career ? The Tyson fans have all kinds of reasons and excuses for his defeats. The bottom line is that you can search all day and you'll never find that signature fight on his resume.

He's been knocked out and has quit in the biggest fights of his career, and he has no excuse other then he was not good enough. The truth is that he's more remembered for his defeats then his victories, what other great heavyweight can you say that about?

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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