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Articles of 2003

The Greatest Gifts Of All



What was it Muhammad Ali possessed that allowed him to defeat “Smokin” Joe Frazier in two out of three fights? What was that one weapon that he possessed enabling him to prevail? It is something that is overlooked when evaluating the three classic fights between these two former all-time great Heavyweight Champions. When thinking back to sports greatest rivalry, it's easy to overlook the one factor, which would determine who history would regard as the better fighter. The difference maker in these three fights came down to the overall abundance of body strength and durability of Muhammad Ali. Throw out his hand-speed and lightning fast combinations, the great footwork, the overall ability to adapt and improvise during the course of the fight, and the tremendous psychological warfare Ali employed on his opponents. The Bottom line is that Ali had a cast iron chin, complemented by a concrete body and very underrated physical body strength. Not one of the gaudy weapons Ali displayed physically mattered in victory. It was the weapons we couldn't see until the terms warranted them to be brought out and shown to us. Bottom line Ali could absorb Frazier's relentless assault and return his own.

Can you picture any other boxer other than Ali surviving “Smokin” Joe Frazier, I can't! Frazier is the perfect foil for a boxer. Here's the problem with a boxer trying to survive Frazier, he won't let boxers box him; he put unrelenting pressure on them, which forces them to fight him instead of boxing him. The Heavyweight division has yet to deliver another boxer on Ali's level who can take the pressure and not be too spent to fight back. Regardless of how skillful the boxer was, boxing fundamentals frequently go out the window under the non-stop pressure of Frazier's tireless assault. The other problem that boxers face is Frazier coming in bobbing and weaving better than any swarming heavyweight in history. Frazier will hit you to the body or the head. There isn't a safe place in the ring. His punches to the body sapped a fighters strength and will; his left hook to the chin separated one's senses from one's legs. Smokin Joe would cut off your space and punching distance while closing in to position himself to thoroughly work you over. And lastly, Joe Frazier had a great chin, so if you're not George Foreman, you couldn't keep him off you. Eventually boxer's were worn down by Frazier and were counted out, or the referee came to the boxers aid by stopping the fight before they are counted out.

Look what Frazier did to some very good boxers, excluding Ali. Buster Mathis was big and had the feet of a ballet dancer; he also had fast hands and the mental advantage of defeating Frazier twice in the box-offs for a berth on the 1964 Olympic team. They fought fours years later for the New York State Heavyweight title. History would go on to show that Mathis had three beautiful rounds in 1 thru 3, and 7 terrible rounds finally being counted out in round 11. This was typical of most of Joe's fights when he fought a good boxer. Mathis started off moving and jabbing, keeping Frazier at a distance. Against Frazier this could only prolong the inevitable. While Mathis is trying to box and keep Frazier from pinning him against the ropes, he was paying a price. Frazier was forcing Mathis to use up his strength and energy by the minute. One other subtle thing was happening; Mathis slowly but surely lost his will. Mathis began asking himself what can he do to keep Frazier off of him. As the will and energy start to erode, Frazier picks up the pace and gets closer working Mathis' body over. It's only a short time before his legs go and he will be slowed to a walk, incapable of escaping Frazier's relentless pressure. The deeper the fight went the more damage had been done. After about two minutes into round 11 the end comes in classic Frazier fashion as he dug a hook to the Mathis body taking his air and legs, then Joe shot the hook to the head which makes Mathis drop to the canvas as though he was dropped from a helicopter, Fight over. Ali not only endured this type assault, he returned it with an assault of his own! With a cast iron chin, concrete body, and physical strength, Ali could hold Joe off.

June 23, 1969 Heavyweight Champ Joe Frazier defended his title against the second ranked heavyweight in the world, the counter punching Jerry Quarry. Quarry found out that you couldn't counter punch the non-stop pressure and the continuous punching of Frazier. Being forced to fight the first two rounds Quarry got the better of Joe. Move ahead to round 5, and Quarry found himself pinned against the ropes with not a whole lot left in his gas tank to keep Frazier from working him over. During the fight broadcaster Howard Cosell called Angelo Dundee who is sitting ringside with WBA Champ Jimmy Ellis. Cosell calls Dundee over to the broadcast table and says to Dundee “Alright Angie lets hear it once and for all, is your man Ellis going to meet Frazier”, Dundee replies ” Jimmy will be happy to meet Frazier, I assure he won't have his back to the ropes like that “. Oh how wrong he was, Jerry wasn't on the ropes because he chose to be, Frazier had taken his legs and Quarry could not escape.

February 16, 1970, Frazier and Ellis meet for Undisputed Heavyweight title. Ellis, a cute boxer with a sneaky stiff right hand won the first two rounds. Frazier got closer in each minute of the fight. Midway through round 3 Frazier caught Ellis with a brutal left hook to the chin, Ellis is wobbled for a brief second and you see the wind taken from his sail. By the end of the round Ellis was pinned against the ropes and Frazier is landing body shots and short hooks to the head. When the bell rings to end the round Ellis was a different fighter going back to his corner. The bell rang for round 4, and the fight has now turned Frazier's way. Frazier had Ellis right where he wanted him, it's now predator vs. prey. Frazier pinned Ellis to the ropes and once again is landing hooks to the head and short rights to the body. Ellis crumbles to the canvas. Ellis shows tremendous heart and rises at about the count of five. Frazier and Ellis meet at center ring after the first knockdown and Frazier starts crashing Ellis with hooks to the body and head. Frazier dipped and came up with a left hook, which was the second best left hook I have seen a heavyweight land. (Frazier's hook, which dropped Ali, was the best.) Ellis was down and badly hurt, and the bell rings to end round 4. Referee Tony Perez reached five in the count and the bell couldn't save Ellis. Ellis showed tremendous heart once again he beat the count and stumbled to his corner. Dundee new the fight was over and merely saved his fighter for another. Ellis, a very good boxer with a stiff right hand had found out Frazier doesn't let you box, and if you don't have guns big enough to keep from being steam rolled the end is a foregone conclusion. Frazier and Ellis met again in 1975, Frazier was sharpening up for his upcoming third bout with Ali. Ellis is hoping that if he could upset Frazier, it could lead to a rematch with Ali and a title shot. This time Ellis makes it to round 9, with the pattern almost the same as the first fight; Ellis had a pretty good first 3 or 4 rounds and at the least has split them by a close margin. Once again it's just a matter of time before the steamroller was at running temperature and Ellis is stopped in round 9. Ali endured this type of assault and returned his own assault, which slowed Joe's pace of pressuring him. Cast iron chin, concrete body, and the physical strength to tie Frazier up and bring the steamroller to a halt. This enabled him to catch a breath and regroup for the remainder of the round. In case it hasn't sunk in, Cast Iron chin, concrete body, underrated physical strength and determination equal to Frazier's.

(Frazier-Ali 1)
 Ali came out extremely fast throwing the hardest punches he's ever thrown at any opponent from round 1 thru 5. His plan was to get Frazier out and if he didn't Frazier would've taken so much punishment that he wouldn't be effective in the last third of the fight. As we know Frazier was stunned pretty good in those rounds but they took a toll on Ali going for the execution, now it was Joe's turn. Ali had found out that there is no half-court game with Joe Frazier; it's fast break all the way. In rounds 6, 7, and 8 Ali is now flatfooted and had to endure the relentless Frazier assault. About a minute into round 9 Ali summons great reserve and has a big round and stunned Joe in the last twenty seconds to have his last big round. Round 10 was a pretty close round with Frazier having a slight edge. In round 11 Ali came the closest he had ever been to being stopped in his career. Midway through the round Ali is spent and is forced to rest in the corner, Frazier connects with a double left hook to the body and head that has Ali in the dream room and close to being stopped, Ali's underrated physical strength and cast iron chin allowed him to make it through the round. Rounds 12 and 13 Frazier worked Ali's body and head and over, cast iron chin, and concrete body allow Ali once again to make it through the round. Ali has a good round 14 moving and boxing winning the round. Twenty-four seconds into the 15th and final round Frazier hits Ali with the fiercest left hook I ever saw a heavyweight throw, Ali goes down as if his legs were taken out from under him, he got up at the count of two, concrete chin. Frazier worked his body and head for the remainder of the round, however Ali made it through the fight and loses a unanimous decision Why; cast iron chin, concrete body and unmatched physical strength and recuperative powers never seen before in a heavyweight.

(Ali-Frazier rematch)
 Once again Ali came out moving and circling forcing Frazier to chase more than stalk, but Ali can't do this the entire fight. Ali takes 4 of the first 6 rounds. Rounds 7 and 8 Ali needed a rest, Frazier is Smokin now. Ali is too tired to move and had no choice but to lean against the ropes and endure Joe's bombs. Again, concrete body, cast iron chin allow Ali to remain on his feet. When the body starts hurting, Ali called on his physical strength to grab Frazier. By clinching with Frazier, Ali prevented further damage. After taking a good going over by Frazier in rounds 7 an 8 Ali came out fast and hard in round 9 moving and stopping to plant and fight Joe scoring with stinging three and four punch combinations. The physical strength allowed Ali to recuperate and do damage. Round 10, Ali needed a rest again and Joe takes the round landing good shots to Ali's body and head. In round 11 once again Ali comes out fighting and wins a very competitive round. In round 12 Frazier senses he may need a big round. Frazier came out to kill Ali. Frazier lands some big hooks to Ali's chin early in the round, once again Ali's recuperative powers came to life and Ali finished the last minute with a big rally taking the round on two of three cards. Ali wins a Unanimous decision. Once again, cast iron chin, concrete body, and physical strength helped to fuel Ali's unmatched recuperative power.

(Ali-Frazier Thrilla in Manila)
 As the pattern in the previous two fights, Ali started quickly once again and shook Frazier in rounds 1 and 2. The pace had slowed a little in rounds 3 and 4, with Ali picking his spots he scored cleanly. Round 5 saw Frazier starting to get inside and work Ali's body while slipping in exploding left hooks to Ali's jaw. Round 6 sees Frazier land one of his calling card left hooks against Ali's chin and stops him in his track. Ali stopped and pinned against the ropes is now in Frazier's kitchen and the heats starting to rise as Joe takes the round. In round 7 Ali came out moving and circling while scoring with the jab. Again, recuperative powers allowed Ali to box cleanly and win the round. Round 8 saw Ali come out landing some of his best punches of the fight and had Frazier covering up. Here Joe showed his ability to recuperate and by round's end Frazier cleaned up on Ali. In rounds 9 and 10 Frazier whacked Ali from corner to corner, by rounds end Ali looked like a beaten fighter. Half way through round 11 Ali got his second or third wind and started fighting Frazier on even ground winning a close round. Round 12 saw Ali display for the viewing audience the unbelievable strength to grab Frazier and push Frazier off him, and at the same time started to land stinging combinations on Frazier. By the end of the 12th round, Frazier looked the way most of his opponents look after a long grueling fight with him. Rounds 13 and 14 saw Ali get his fourth or fifth wind and cleaned up on Frazier with accurate stinging combinations which seemed almost impossible after enduring one of the most brutal body attacks ever seen in a heavyweight championship fight. After knocking out Frazier's mouthpiece in the process the bell ended round 14 with Frazier walking slowly to his corner, Frazier now experienced once again what a majority of his opponents have, hitting an opponent with everything and still can't keep him from coming at you. With Frazier's eyes almost swollen shut, his trainer Eddie Futch stopped the fight and saved Frazier from taking any further punishment in round 15.

How did Ali do this? The reason Ali survived Frazier being a boxer who doesn't have the punch to keep Frazier from coming after him was because, his overall body strength was grossly underrated and he had one of the best chin's of any heavyweight ever, which enabled him to endure Frazier's never ending pressure. Just look at the way he could tie up Frazier, Foreman, and Liston and keep them from being able to do anything. If Ali's body strength and chin were less, he would have been 0-3 vs. Frazier. And no way could he have withstood the onslaught of Liston and Foreman as well. That's why he is the greatest heavyweight champion who has yet lived. Cast iron chin, concrete body to take unbelievable body shots and extremely underrated physical body strength which allowed him to give out more than he took. What a fighting machine. Not only was Ali gifted with never before seen skills in a heavyweight before him, this package of fighter was wrapped with every bit the toughness and determination of a Greb or Marciano an even Frazier. Toughness and will coupled with unbelievable strength is why he could survive with and ultimately defeat a steamroller like Joe Frazier. Muhammad Ali had more ways and weapons to defeat great fighters than any other Heavyweight champ in history. Muhammad Ali, yes he could've defeated any other heavyweight champion in boxing history if they were both to meet at their best. And that's not up for conjecture!

Writers Note: And to you “Smokin” Joe Frazier, Ali is the only Heavyweight “boxer” who could've defeated you. And he didn't shut you out. We'll never forget the night of March 8, 1971 for on this night you were not to be denied, not even by Ali. On this night you stamped the pattern as to how swarming fighters should fight movers and boxers. And no body did it better than you for 15 rounds. As far as other past boxers or counter punchers who have held the heavyweight title. None of them could have lived with you, or dream of surviving you. To those of you who are unsure of the fighters I' am talking about, they are the following: Jack Johnson, Gene Tunney, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Floyd Patterson, Larry Holmes, and Evander Holyfield. On their best day they don't get a win over Frazier, on Frazier's best day.

Articles of 2003

The War at 154



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.


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




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 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.

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.

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Articles of 2003

The Highs and Lows.



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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