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Articles of 2003

Heavyweight History's Missing Page

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On October 31, 1992, Lennox Lewis stopped Razor Ruddock in two rounds. Without a doubt, this was the signature win of Lewis' career at the time. From a physical vantage point, it maybe his most impressive win ever. Exactly one week later, November 13, 1992, Riddick Bowe decisioned undisputed heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield to capture the title. This was without a doubt the signature win of Bowe's career. What a great seven days of heavyweight boxing, having four of the top five or six heavyweights in the world fighting each other.

The best thing about the end of that week was, starting November 7, boxing fans were led to believe that we could start looking forward to the Bowe-Lewis clash for the undisputed title. If you remember that was the plan in making those two fights, so the winners could face each other. Going into those two bouts, Holyfield was undefeated and held the true title after making three successful defenses against Foreman, Cooper, and Holmes. Ruddock was coming off two good showings against Tyson, Bowe and Lewis were both undefeated and Tyson was sitting in the Marion County Correctional Institute.

The purported Bowe-Lewis title bout had it all, but unfortunately, a guy named Rock Newman decided that he had other ideas. Newman, Bowe's manager, convinced him to do the Cus D'Amato-Floyd Patterson shuffle. That would be making title defenses against weak opposition to make the most money. I guess that's looking out for the fighter by getting the max dollars for the least risk. However, it really screwed the fans and cheated boxing out of what could have been one of history's super fights between the two best heavyweight champions of all time who stood over 6'4″.

Take a second and think back to the year 1974. On January 1 of '74, George Foreman was the undefeated heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali was the top ranked contender, Joe Frazier was the second, and Ken Norton was the third. At the time, they were without a doubt the top four heavyweights in the world. All boxing needed was a way to shake out who was really the best fighter of the four. Back at that time the best fighters actually wanted to fight each other, imagine that. It meant something to be the champ to all four fighters and none of them took the easy way out.

With all four fighters wanting to prove they were the true champion, it wasn't hard getting them to agree to face each other. So a two-fight mini tournament was held. In the first fight, Ali and Frazier were to meet in a rematch to settle their score. The second fight would see Foreman defending his title against Norton with the winners to face each other to decide who was the undisputed heavyweight champ.

On January 28, 1974, Muhammad Ali evened the score with Joe Frazier and won a 12-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. On March 26, 1974, heavyweight champ George Foreman walked through Ken Norton in two rounds to retain the title in Caracas Venezuela. With Ali and Foreman both winning, the stage was set for them to meet for the undisputed title, and unlike Bowe and Lewis, they fought.

On Tuesday night October 30, 1974 in Kinshasa Zaire, Muhammad Ali stopped George Foreman in the eighth round to become the second fighter in history to regain the heavyweight title. The Foreman-Ali fight is no doubt a fight for the ages and one of boxing's most memorable. Think if there was a Rock Newman around then managing Foreman, look what we may have been cheated out of!

If you think about it, that's sort of what Newman did by not following through with the purposed plans that were on the table to make Bowe-Lewis happen. Bowe-Lewis had the makings of a truly great fight. As I said earlier, they are probably the two best heavyweight champions in history who stood over 6'4″, and they both could fight!

If you're like me, you hate not really knowing who was the better fighter. For every person who says Lewis was better and would have won, you can find another who says Bowe was better and he would have won had they fought at their best. Picking between Bowe and Lewis as to who was really better is quite a task. For every argument, there's a counter argument.

Boxing is the great sport that it is because of the signature fights and rivalries that it has showcased over its long, storied history. Fights like Greb-Tunney, Robinson-LaMotta, Zale-Graziano, Ali-Frazier, Pryor-Arguello and Leonard-Hearns, to name a few. I know, as you read this you're thinking how could he leave out this one or that one, believe me I didn't, but I know you know the inference I'm making.

Riddick Bowe vs. Lennox Lewis had the potential to be mentioned in the same vein as those mentioned above. Think about it, in Bowe and Lewis you had two heavyweights who were around 6'5″ who could fight, and were only separated by two years on their birth certificates. They both showed outstanding boxing ability and they both could hit. Heavyweight history has never seen a generation that boasts two heavyweights 6'5″ with outstanding skills. Plus, there was a rivalry between them dating back to when they fought for the Gold Medal in the 1988 Olympics.

Without speculating, what do we know about both fighters and their careers? We know that Lewis stopped Bowe in two rounds in the 1988 Olympics to capture the super-heavyweight Gold Medal. However, any objective observer would have to admit that the stoppage was premature, and the referee did a horrible job officiating during the entire bout. On the other hand, I have no doubt that Lewis was on his way to winning the fight regardless of the premature stoppage. Lewis was the more experienced fighter and was competing in the Olympics for the second time. So, lets clear the Olympic fight up once and for all. Lewis was the more experienced amateur, the fight was stopped too quickly, but it didn't change the outcome. Lewis was on his way to winning it anyway.

When they turned pro, both were showered with high praise and were predicted to be can't miss prospects. Bowe received more notoriety, but that's probably because he fought in the States from the start of his career. Lewis fought many of his early bouts in London. They both were moved along at about the same pace and scored some impressive wins along with a few stinkers.

Early into their pro careers, it seemed that Bowe was advancing a little better and faster than Lewis. I remember from about mid 1990 on, Bowe started garnering more attention and most of the boxing magazines and commentators were projecting Bowe to be the better fighter. They felt this way because Bowe appeared to be the more complete fighter and had less perceived holes in his game.

By October of 1992, Bowe and Lewis were approaching the biggest fights of their careers and seemed to be on a collision course. When Lewis devastated Ruddock in two rounds on Halloween night 1992, he appeared to have arrived and at the very least showed he was Bowe's equal or maybe better. The following week, Bowe fought the best fight of his career in taking a 12-round decision over the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. With Bowe's performance against a prime Holyfield, he showed that maybe he was all that he was built up to be. However, off Lewis' knockout of Ruddock, Lewis showed that Bowe could not be truly declared the world's best heavyweight without defeating him.

Coming off their signature wins, the boxing public was split as to who would win when they finally met. Some automatically assumed Lewis would win, based on the Olympic win, and some thought Bowe, due to his better progression in the pros. Regardless of what side you came down on, a compelling case could be made to support your opinion.

In my book, it's almost criminal that we never got to see it! Bowe-Lewis is a fight that would have cleared up a lot of confusion and answered many questions. Maybe we would've have gotten to see it two or three times just so the slightest doubts could've been quelled and eliminated. Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest travesties in heavyweight history.

Since we were cheated out of this potential super-fight, what do we have to go on to base an opinion as to who was the better fighter? The way history unfolded, there can be no doubt that when ranking them, Lewis has to be ranked above Bowe in heavyweight history. He had the longer career, beat more quality fighters and participated in 18 world heavyweight title fights, opposed to only four for Bowe. The statistics clearly favor Lewis, but does that mean he was the better fighter and would've defeated Bowe if they fought on their best night?

They were close in height, reach, and weight. These two are so similar and evenly matched, it's almost impossible to give one a decided advantage over the other when breaking down their fighting styles. I guess Lewis has to get the nod when it comes to jab and right hand, and Bowe gets the nod with the left-hook and right-uppercut. Regardless of which fighter you feel gets the nod over the other in certain categories, I think the fighter who has the edge is only by a minuscule margin. The one thing that stands out to me is that Lewis was effective moving to or away from his opponent. Bowe was most effective when he was pushing the fight.

I know that the Holyfield that Bowe beat in their first fight was better than any fighter that Lewis ever fought or defeated was. I also know that Lewis devastated Golota and Golota retired Bowe. Lewis just lasted much longer and has accomplished so much more than Bowe. On the other hand, I can't see Bowe at the top of his game ever losing to McCall or Rahman, let alone getting knocked out by them with one punch.

It's also a fact that Bowe beat a prime Holyfield much more cleanly and decisively than a supposed prime Lewis beat a shot Holyfield, but that doesn't mean Bowe was better. It's also a fact that other than Holyfield, Bowe didn't beat any other top fighter that comes close to some of the top contenders that Lewis beat.

When it comes to assessing Bowe and Lewis, I can draw three solid conclusions. One, I don't know who would've won had they fought in 1993. Two, Lewis without a doubt has to be ranked above Bowe in heavyweight history. Three, boxing is missing a significant page of heavyweight history due to Bowe and Lewis never facing each other.

Writers Note

The short career of Riddick Bowe totally mystifies me. Other than Holyfield and Golota he wasn't in any wars. Actually, he was shot after the third Holyfield fight, a fight in which he was only a couple seconds away from being counted out. Bowe had all the talent and ability in the world, especially for a fighter 6'5″. The one thing he didn't have was self-discipline. I believe this had much to do with his early demise. Never have we seen a heavyweight balloon up so much in weight between fights as Bowe. Often it was reported that Bowe was up over 300 lbs after fights.

I believe this was a major factor as to why he eroded so quickly. After ballooning up so high, he would go on starvation diets and cut off his fluid intake to get his weight down. Not only does this weaken a fighter, but also the reduction in fluid around the brain increases the damage from the impact of getting hit. With no fluid around the brain, there's no protection for the brain when it slams into the skull. Multiply this by how many times he was hit during sparring and during the fight. I believe this was the major contributor to his rapid erosion.

When fighters dehydrate themselves, they are playing with fire. Lack of fluid around the brain leads to many problems. Most fighters cut their fluid intake to get down to weight and this is why most of the ring deaths involve fighters below heavyweight. Since heavyweights don't have to make weight, they usually don't deprive themselves from fluids like the lighter weight fighters do who are under tremendous pressure to make weight. This is a serious health issue in boxing and isn't addressed enough. I believe this was a major factor in why Riddick Bowe had such a brief prime.

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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