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Articles of 2003

Ranking The Heavyweight's 'Louis Through Lewis'

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Why Louis through Lewis
Being a fight collector, I've seen all the films that are available of Jack Johnson, Jim Jeffries, Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney along with other past greats. Personally, I don't feel comfortable ranking fighters that far back. It's too easy for some to dismiss them saying they weren't that good, but I don't adhere to that mind set. It's just very hard to grasp their greatness due to the old films, which captured them. The films do them no justice and, with no audio, make it even more difficult to get a true appreciation of their greatness. I have a problem with those who just brush them off because they fought in another era and have adopted the attitude that if it wasn't shown on HBO or it wasn't a Sportscenter highlight, it doesn't mean anything.

Starting around the Joe Louis era the film and audio quality improved tremendously. There is plenty of good film available on the fighters from Louis forward, and I feel that it's more than adequate to get a good feel for the fighters. Plus, Louis was the new wave of fighter, way ahead of his time.

Louis & Ali
In this writer's opinion, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali are at the top of boxing's heavyweight Mount Rushmore. I am very confident that both of them would defeat all the fighters on this list. Ali and Louis have too many weapons and skills for the other fighters, and they are much more resourceful and complete. So, why do I have Ali over Louis? Most of the time when great fighters face each other, it very often comes down to styles. In a Louis-Ali match up, the style advantage goes to Ali. Other than Billy Conn, and Jersey Joe Walcott, most of Louis' opponents went to him, which played perfectly into his style. Fighters who moved away or circled caused him some difficulty.

Ali's overall speed and movement would make it very difficult for Louis to catch him to where he could unload his precision combinations in order to do the damage he would need to slow Ali. On the other hand, Louis fights a style that Ali is accustomed to facing. Louis would pressure him but not like Frazier or Foreman did, trying to force Ali to react when he didn't want to.

Louis applied more subtle pressure, which is something Ali could handle and exploit, and Louis didn't change for any fighter. Louis would just bide his time waiting for Ali to make a mistake, instead of trying to force him into making one like Frazier and Foreman did. This favors Ali. The bottom line is I take Ali over Louis mainly because Louis would have to change and adjust his fighting style and posture and Ali wouldn't. Another reason I favor Ali over Louis is that he beat better fighters. In Liston, Frazier and Foreman, Ali beat three fighters who make almost everyone's all-time heavyweight top ten ranking. In the case of Frazier and Foreman, Ali defeated them after his 43 month exile, while they were in their respective prime. Ali also is the only heavyweight champion in history whose opponents cannot be questioned, even by the harshest critics. One final thought on Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, it is my firm belief that both of them are plenty big enough to more than handle the “so-called” giant heavyweight's fighting today. Both Louis and Ali defeated fighters as big or bigger than those currently fighting today. When reviewing both of their career's, it's quite obvious that both of them were more troubled by smaller and quicker fighters opposed to the bigger hulking type ponderous fighters of today.

Below are my heavyweight rankings in order from Joe Louis through Lennox Lewis. From number three George Foreman on, I give my scenario on how I see a match up involving Louis & Ali versus the fighters ranked 3 through 10.

How I Rated the Fighters
I'm a believer in head-to-head, and feel it carries much weight when rating one fighter over another. For me to rate Fighter A over Fighter B, I must feel strongly that A would've defeated B had they confronted each other on their best night. I also think length of title reign can sometimes be misleading. For example, Liston made only one title defense and Foreman only made two. However, both of their title tenures were cut short because they fought during the Ali era. Had Ali not been around, Liston could have remained champ through 1970, and Foreman could have reigned champ from 1973 into the 1990's. Remember, Foreman did capture the title a second time in November of 1994, and that was after a ten-year ring absence.

I ranked George Foreman very high for the fact he was the best puncher in heavyweight history, and had he not lost to Ali, he may have never been beaten. A closer look at Sonny Liston's career reveals that other than losing a decision to Marty Marshall in his eighth pro bout, which he avenged twice, Liston totally went through the division. His defeats by Ali were later in his career and he was an old man by the time Leotis Martin beat him.

Next is Joe Frazier, whom I have no doubt some will say I have ranked too high. In my opinion, Frazier is admonished too harshly for his defeats by Foreman. Those that say Frazier couldn't fight big punchers basically mean Foreman! Foreman is the best puncher in heavyweight history. On top of that, from a style standpoint, Frazier is made for Foreman, and Foreman is the only fighter to walk through Frazier. Of the ten times Frazier's been down, eight are by the sledgehammer fist of Big George. Frazier never lost to any fighter he shouldn't have. Other than Marciano, no other fighter on this list can say that.

It also must be pointed out that Frazier gave Ali life and death all three times they fought, and on the night of March 8th, 1971 Frazier gave boxing one of the greatest performances by any heavyweight ever, winning the biggest fight in boxing history. I rated Frazier above Marciano mainly because I just can't envision a fighter smaller than Joe beating him, and Marciano would be more prone to getting cut had they fought. However, I go back and forth on Frazier and Marciano, on another day I could easily rate Rocky over Joe.

Some may think Rocky Marciano should be ranked higher because he was undefeated, but I think that it's very realistic that had some of the above fighters fought during the time he did, they also may have gone undefeated, and that's not taking anything away from Rocky. Marciano had dynamite in both fists and a jaw that was immune to being hit. He was the best-conditioned heavyweight ever, and no one was tougher.

Next is Larry Holmes, who possessed the best jab in heavyweight history along with Liston. Holmes had the heart of a champion and was most dangerous when he was hurt. He also could fight and adapt to all different style opponents.

Evander Holyfield is next, and without question, he's the biggest overachiever in heavyweight history, he also was outweighed in all of his fights at heavyweight except four. He also defeated every top fighter of his generation.

Current champ Lennox Lewis has never met a fighter he wasn't able to defeat, and like Holyfield, fought and defeated the best of his era (I rate Holyfield above Lewis because I say at their best Holyfield decisions Lewis. When they fought, Holyfield was capable of only fighting in spurts, which made it impossible for him to outscore Lewis in hopes of winning a decision. Evander also had a better chin than Lennox, which is a must in the heavyweight division).

Mike Tyson is next. I think Tyson is somewhat of an underachiever, despite having tremendous physical talent. He is also winless against the best fighters he's faced. However, his punching power and hand speed cannot be denied. I also throw out a fight when a great loses to another great when one fighter is coming out of retirement or is obviously a shell of what they were at their best. Regarding the fighters on this list I don't consider, Holmes over Ali, Marciano over Louis and Tyson over Holmes when making my rankings. The way I see it, number three beats number four more times in 10 fights than number four would beat number three. This is how I come to my conclusions ranking the fighters one through 10.

Rankings 1-10

1-Muhammad Ali: (times knocked down-four) (times stopped-one)
Muhammad Ali had more weapons and ways to beat great heavyweights than any other heavyweight champion in history. He was the fastest heavyweight ever of hand and foot, blessed with a cast iron chin and very underrated physical strength. Ali had the ability to endure a body shot as good or better than any heavyweight who has yet lived, coupled with never before seen recuperative powers. Ali was the master at psychological warfare and had an indomitable will to win. He could adjust and adapt to all different fighting styles. Ali used his strength to out muscle the boxers, and his speed to out box the swarmers and sluggers, and was as tough as could be. It must not go unmentioned that Ali fought and dominated during the best era in heavyweight history, despite being out of boxing the four best years of his physical prime. Unlike Louis, Ali was probably the most flawed heavyweight champion ever from a fundamental boxing standpoint. He just out sped his flaws and mistakes because of his great athletic ability. The one thing Ali lacked was one punch knockout power that some believe a dominant heavyweight champion should possess

2-Joe Louis: (times knocked down-ten) (times stopped-two)
Joe Louis is the most faultless fighter in boxing history. He is the textbook on boxing, did everything perfect and was light years ahead of his time. He had perfect form, wasted no punches and threw every punch perfectly with speed and accuracy. He had dynamite in both hands, applied subtle pressure to set his opponents up and was a great combination puncher who carried his punch throughout the fight. Louis also had an outstanding chin. Some say his chin was his weakness but they are wrong. History shows he was down seven times. But he was only stopped early in his career before reaching his peak by Max Schmeling, after Louis absorbed countless flush rights to his jaw; And don't be fooled, Schmeling had a stiff right hand. The other time Louis was stopped was when he was an empty package at the age of 37, fighting Rocky Marciano, one of history's greatest punchers. Other than these two fights, Louis was never close to being stopped. He was knocked down but jumped right back up, in what is known as a flash knockdown. The only kink in the armor of Joe Louis was that he was sometimes vulnerable to boxers with good foot movement.

3-George Foreman (times knocked down-three) (times stopped-one)
vs…. Louis: This fight comes down to styles. Louis and Foreman are the two most dangerous fighters in heavyweight history when the opponent goes to them, it's literally suicide. The fighter who advances toward the other in this fight loses. I see Louis drawing Foreman to him. This would set up Foreman to be hit and countered with Louis' cat-quick combinations. I see Louis being too precision and fundamentally sound for Big George. Foreman's power would be dangerous for Louis, and a Foreman knockout win would not be an upset or even a surprise to me, but I'd give the Brown Bomber the edge winning by a lopsided decision or a late stoppage if Foreman tired……….vs…. Ali: This fight we actually had the privilege of seeing. Ali's overall speed and experience provided him a huge advantage. However, what really tilted the fight in Ali's favor was his overall physical strength and cast iron chin, which enabled him to stand up to Foreman's fierce assault. Foreman is made for Ali!

4-Sonny Liston (times knocked down-two) (times stopped-3)
vs…. Louis: This is a real intriguing fight. In the late '50s and early '60s, some historians felt Liston was even greater than Louis. Liston's jab would've been troublesome for Joe, however the difference in this fight would be the overall hand speed of Louis. Louis would be able to get his punches off first and faster, and Louis was a much better combination puncher than Liston. I see Louis winning a comfortable decision. As with Foreman, Liston's power would make him dangerous throughout the fight and a Liston knockout victory can't be considered an upset……….vs…. Ali: Again like with Foreman we saw Ali-Liston, though it wasn't a prime Liston. Ali just has too many weapons along with size, speed, strength, and chin to be defeated by Liston. Like Foreman, Liston is made for Ali.

5-Joe Frazier (times knocked down-10) (times stopped-three)
vs…. Louis: Frazier is tailor made for Louis. Frazier's aggressive attacking style would play into exactly what Louis would've wanted Frazier to do. Louis would catch Frazier clean as he was coming into him. By Frazier coming in, the punch would land with even more impact. Also, Frazier was sometimes vulnerable to being hit with the straight right hand. Louis' right hand was snake like quick with the explosiveness of a stick of dynamite. I see Louis stopping Frazier. If Frazier could make it to the last third of the fight, he may have a shot with his pressure possibly getting to Louis, but I can't see Frazier making it that far……….vs…. Ali: This match-up we saw three times, and we can't thank the Boxing-Gods enough for allowing us the gift of witnessing all three fights!

6-Rocky Marciano (times knocked down-two) (times stopped-0)
vs…. Louis: Yes we saw this but, Louis was shot and 37-years-old. In their prime, I see this fight close to how I see Louis vs…. Frazier. Marciano, like Frazier, applies constant pressure, which is instant death against Louis. Louis would land smashing right hands and devastating right uppercuts to Rocky's head. Marciano is more prone to cuts than Frazier is, but since he doesn't apply quite as much pressure as Frazier, he may last a little longer. I think Louis would decision Marciano or possibly cut him leading to a possible stoppage. Again, like with Frazier, if Rocky is around in the last third of the fight he could stop Louis. However I do see Marciano having a better chance to upset Louis than Frazier………vs…. Ali: Forget the computer garbage; The computer had Marciano winning in the United States, and Ali winning in Europe. I see Ali-Marciano similar to Ali-Frazier. However, I don't believe Marciano would've been quite as tough on Ali as Frazier was. Marciano didn't cut the ring off as well as Joe, and Frazier had faster hands than Rocky on the inside where Marciano would have to try and force the fight. I think Frazier had a little better head movement then Rocky and was harder to hit as well, which benefits Ali. I see Ali winning a more one sided decision over Rocky than he did Joe, unless he cuts him.

7-Larry Holmes (times knocked down-six) (times stopped-one)
vs…. Louis: I see Holmes doing well vs…. Louis in the early going due to his great left jab. Holmes would make Louis work to get close, however the longer the fight goes I see Louis getting to Holmes and scoring with his short straight right hands inside of Holmes' jab. Once Holmes starts to slow, Louis would be deadly with his body punching against a Holmes whose legs are starting to get heavy. Louis would start landing his explosive right hand and left hooks more regularly, eventually wearing Holmes down and winning a clear-cut decision…………vs…. Ali: Unfortunately we saw this fight, only it was a thoroughly shot Ali two months shy of his 39th birthday, facing Holmes at his peak. As anticipated, if both were in their prime, I believe this fight would be painful on the eyes to watch. The problem is, both guys depend on their jab to set up everything they do, and both guys hated to be jabbed at, (see Ali vs…. Jones, Bugner and Young — see Holmes vs…. Witherspoon, Williams and M. Spinks). Another factor in this match-up would be, which fighter could get the other fighter to assume the aggressors role. Since both guys like to have their opponent come to them, the fighter who is the aggressor is at a disadvantage in this match up. This fight will definitely go the distance because both Ali and Holmes have great chins, and neither have a big enough punch to knock the other out. I see Ali getting Holmes to be the aggressor and having the advantage, along with Ali being a little faster and stronger and having greater stamina. I see him winning a very boring and ugly decision.

8-Evander Holyfield (times knocked down-four) (times stopped-one)
vs…. Louis: The problem for Holyfield in this match-up with Louis is his heart is too big. Holyfield would be only too willing to engage Louis and trade with him. Louis would apply enough pressure on Holyfield so that he would be forced to try and fight back. Holyfield doesn't have the boxing skill or punch to discourage Louis from coming at him. Once this fight becomes a toe-to-toe slugfest, the “Real Deal” would be stopped. I don't see any scenario in which Holyfield beats Louis……… …….. vs…. Ali: This is another match-up that Holyfield has nothing to win with. He can't out box or out speed Ali , and he's not a big enough puncher to bother him or wear him down. I see Ali circling and boxing Holyfield, being able to pick his spots to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Ali wins every time, most likely by a decision.

9-Lennox Lewis (times knocked down-two) (times stopped-two)
vs…. Louis: I see Lennox's jab keeping Joe at bay for a short time like Holmes, but again, Joe is too fast and sharp a puncher not to get inside and hit Lennox on his chin. Once Joe is inside, he'd start working on Lennox's body with short crisp left hooks. Once Louis is on the inside, the fight ends. Lennox is such a huge target I can't see him eluding the Louis assault, and no way he stands up to Joe's power. Maybe early on Lewis might catch Joe, but I doubt he'd fight aggressively enough facing a fighter with the two handed power of the Brown Bomber, Louis stops Lewis………..vs…. Ali: I don't see Lennox presenting many problems for Ali. Lewis is too big, too cautious and slow to bother Ali, and Lennox is too big a target for Ali to miss. Ali could pick his spots to go in and out whenever he chose to. I see Ali taking Lewis to school, giving him a thorough boxing lesson. The only thing Ali would even have to think about is not running into a Lewis right hand. Even at that, I can't see Lewis' right hand being as dangerous as the left-hook of Frazier or any power punch that Foreman, Liston, or Shavers landed on Ali. Ali wins by lopsided decision.

10-Mike Tyson (times knocked down-four) (times stopped-four)
vs…. Louis: I see Louis getting inside of Tyson's looping right hand and left hook. Tyson has fast hands, but Louis' were also fast, and since Joe throws straight punches, he would beat Tyson to the mark. Once Louis has landed a couple short explosive right hands on Tyson, Tyson would lose his will and confidence, and attempt to try to land one big punch to get Joe out. Once this fails, Tyson will go through the motions as he did with Lennox Lewis until Joe knocks him out. Tyson, like Foreman, Liston, Marciano and Frazier could always get lucky but I don't see it. Louis is too hard a puncher and refined fighter to lose to Tyson…………vs…. Ali: Again, I see this playing out like Ali vs… Frazier and Marciano only not as tough for Ali. Tyson doesn't put as much pressure on as Frazier and he's easier to hit. He doesn't take a punch as good as Frazier or Marciano and he's nowhere near as tough as either of them. He has faster hands than either Frazier or Marciano, but against Ali, he still will be out sped. As far as punch goes, Tyson's hook isn't as good as Frazier's, but his right is better. Tyson has a better hook than Marciano, but his right isn't as good. Another big difference here is that Marciano and Frazier got stronger as the fight progressed, where Tyson is at his best in the first couple of rounds. After the third round, he slows down and he doesn't quite carry his punch throughout the fight like Rocky or Joe. To beat Ali, he'd have to get lucky early in the first or second round. Ali defeated better punchers than Tyson and definitely tougher fighters than Tyson. Ali stops Tyson!

Writers Note
The above ranking is my personal opinion of who I think the ten best heavyweight champions are from Joe Louis of 1937 up to Lennox Lewis of May 2003. Remember, to me, head-to-head confrontation means a lot. What determines who is the better fighter? Why is Liston better than Patterson? Patterson is the better technician, more fundamentally sound and was a two-time champion. Patterson also made six defenses of the title compared to one for Liston. However, in a head-to-head meeting, Liston's overall physical strength overwhelms Patterson's skill. So, Liston has to be ranked above Patterson since he defeated him twice. Same with Frazier and Foreman. Frazier made ten title defenses and Foreman made two (Foreman's comeback doesn't come into focus to me, because he wasn't at his best during his comeback. I compare prime vs…. prime). Frazier was a better overall fighter than Foreman and was even a better champion. However, like Patterson with Liston, Frazier was beaten by Foreman's strength and punch. Foreman must be rated above Frazier.

I'm sure my rankings of Frazier, Marciano, and Tyson will cause the most outrage, especially with the fight fans 35 or younger. However, I saw prime Frazier and Tyson, and have all of Marciano's major fights on tape. I have also spoken with some of the trainers and fighters from Rocky's era including Jersey Joe Walcott. So, I'm confident that I have a realistic grasp of his greatness. Some fans dismiss Marciano because they think he was too small at 185-190. What's not widely known is that he walked the street way above 200 in his prime and almost 250 when he retired–and he wasn't a slob, he was solid. His weight came down so low because of how hard and long he trained for his fights. Frazier and Marciano: I constantly go back and forth with regarding who should be ranked over who. I have no problem with anyone who thinks Rocky could have defeated Joe, or ranks him above him.

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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