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Articles of 2003

Objectively Weighing In On Marciano vs Ali

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A few weeks back I wrote about my remembrance of the day a plane crashed carrying former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, killing him instantly. Growing up I heard a lot about Marciano from my grandfather, who thought he was unbeatable. Like I said, he was one of those old school Italians who viewed Marciano with blinders on.

Over the years from about 1968 until he died in 1997, we would go back and forth arguing, not debating over who would've won between Marciano and Ali. No doubt that objectivity was thrown out the window by both of us. He couldn't see past Marciano being an undefeated knockout artist, and that he was Italian. I couldn't see past Ali's flash and brilliance.

When we used to have those debates/arguments, I was sure Ali would've beat Marciano if they fought at their peak. At that time I believed all the crap that Marciano was slow, easy to hit, and was undefeated because he fought a bunch of old greats who were past their prime. Over the years I've changed my outlook on Marciano, I've begun to look at Marciano's career more thoroughly and objectively.

Over the last few weeks, I couldn't help but notice the bias by both fans of Marciano and Ali on some of the message boards on the Net regarding a Marciano vs. Ali hypothetical fight. Ali fans remarked that Ali would handle Marciano with the same ease in which he handled George Chuvalo and Henry Cooper. Marciano fans commented that Rocky would beat up Ali like he did Roland LaStarrza. I think both sides are way off.

First off, lets make it clear that we are comparing them when they were at their best. To suggest because Sonny Banks and Henry Cooper dropped a young and inexperienced Clay who hadn't fully matured and filled out is crazy. No doubt that the Marciano who beat Walcott would've stopped the Clay who fought Banks and Cooper. However, that wasn't nearly the best Ali.

On the other hand Marciano beat two great fighters in Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles. Some mention Walcott was old when Marciano stopped him. What's never mentioned is that Walcott fought the best fight of his life for 12 rounds in his first fight with Marciano, and was ahead in the scoring before being stopped in the 13th round. Regarding his age, Walcott became a better fighter in his mid to late thirties. Don't believe me, I'm just going by what Nat Fleischer and Joe Louis said. Louis should know, Walcott was his sparring partner at one time, and they fought twice. Why is it so easy to believe Lennox Lewis improved with age, but not Jersey Joe? I guess it depends on what fits your argument the best.

Walcott's confidence was at its peak before facing Marciano. Early in his career he was mismanaged and lost some bad decisions. Plus, Walcott came down with typhoid early in his career and spent a year recovering. Walcott's confidence was shot after being stopped by Joe Louis in their rematch and losing two title fights with Ezzard Charles. Finally, after getting past Charles twice en-route to winning and retaining the title, his confidence soared and he was close to being at his best going into his title defense versus Marciano. Don't be fooled by his Won-Loss record. When great fighters fight the best available, they don't win every time.

Ezzard Charles was only two years older than Marciano. In the first Marciano-Charles fight, Charles was said to have been in the best shape of his career, and fought possibly the best fight of his life. Nat Fleischer who sat ringside during the fight, said afterwards “that no fighter in the world could've lasted those 15 rounds against Charles, much less beat him.” For ten rounds Charles fought Marciano on more than even terms. However, because Marciano was the best conditioned heavyweight ever, he didn't tire and surged ahead in the last five rounds to win the decision. This was a fight that was so fiercely contested that there was only one clinch in 15 rounds.

How many of Ali's opponents could have fought Marciano as competitive as Walcott and Charles? How about three, Liston, Frazier, and Foreman. I don't include Holmes because Ali was a shot fighter when he fought Holmes. When evaluating Ali's career, most regard him as being great because he defeated three all-time greats in Liston, Frazier, and Foreman. And he beat Frazier and Foreman after he was 32. Outside of those three greats, who did Ali fight that Marciano would've been an underdog against?

Realistically, when you breakdown the careers of Marciano and Ali, it's Ali's defeats of Liston, Frazier, and Foreman which tilt the balance heavily in his favor. However, if you compare Walcott and Charles to Liston and Frazier, and exclude Foreman, there's not such a huge disparity in favor of Ali. If you match Walcott and Charles with Liston, it's not a reach to say either one of them may have been capable of getting by him. They both hung with Marciano for 13 and 15 rounds, and Marciano threw more punches, had better stamina, and applied more pressure than Liston.

How about matching Walcott and Charles with Frazier? Again, if they were capable of staying with Marciano for 13 and 15 rounds, I don't think it's out of the question that they possibly could have upset Frazier. Remember, Walcott was ahead of Marciano after 12 rounds. And Charles was even with him after 10 rounds, and didn't fall behind until the last five rounds, but he still went the 15 round limit with him.

The one fighter who Ali fought and defeated that I can't envision either Walcott or Charles beating is George Foreman of 1973-74. In my opinion, I don't think that there are more than a couple heavyweights in history who could have beat the Foreman who fought Frazier and Ali in the early seventies! Foreman is just two big and powerful for any version of Walcott or Charles.

What most fans tend to do when comparing Marciano and Ali is, they compare how Ali would've cleaned up on every opponent that Marciano fought. No doubt Ali would have had his way with all of Marciano's opponents except Walcott and Charles. Yes, Ali would've beat both of them, most likely by decision. What is not widely known is that Ali said many times during the mid to late 70's, that Walcott and Charles would have been very difficult fights for him because of their style.

How about looking at it the other way? Lets look at how Marciano would've fared had he fought the fighters Ali did, excluding Liston, Frazier, and Foreman, for the moment. Looking at Ali's career, who would've had a chance of beating Marciano outside of the big three. In reviewing Ali's opponents of the 60's, is there anybody other than Liston who would've been favored over Marciano?

Not Patterson or Chuvalo. Patterson doesn't have the size or strength, and Chuvalo doesn't have the skill or the punch. How about Cooper, London, and Mildenberger? Only if there was a sniper in the rafters who was gonna shoot Marciano during the fight. That leaves Williams, Terrell, and Folley. I guess maybe Williams at his peak, because of his punching power could get lucky and catch Rocky early, but I'd bet on Marciano.

Terrell? I don't see it. Ernie doesn't have the punch or strength to keep Rocky off him, Marciano would beat Terrell down and stop him. Zora Folley? Only if you think a poor mans Ezzard Charles could do what the original couldn't. Can there be any doubt that other than Sonny Liston, Marciano would've gone through every opponent Ali fought in the 60's? Not in my mind.

Lets look at the 70's, excluding Frazier and Foreman, starting with Bonavena and Quarry? Bonavena was to crude, and Quarry's willingness to trade with Marciano would cost him the fight. No way either Ellis or the Foster's, Bob and Mac could last with Marciano. Ellis and Bob Foster just don't have the strength to stand up to Marciano's assault, they would both be knocked out by him. I know Mac Foster could punch, but he was knocked dead by Quarry in six rounds. I see Marciano having no problem with Mac Foster.

That leaves Norton, Young, Lyle and Shavers. Norton doesn't have the toughness or the psyche to survive a puncher like Marciano. Young doesn't have the punch to keep Marciano off him, Rocky would beat Young down and stop him. Lyle doesn't have the skill or the stamina, although he could probably drop Marciano, but I doubt he could keep him down. Shavers? Like Lyle, Shavers could probably put Rocky down but couldn't keep him there. I don't think Shavers has the stamina or the chin to beat Marciano.

Excluding Liston, Frazier, and Foreman, there is not one opponent who Ali beat who Marciano also wouldn't have beat. If we include the big three of Liston, Frazier, and Foreman, how would Marciano fare? I would make Liston a slight favorite over Rocky. Sonny had the jab and power to fight Rocky. However, Marciano's crouching style would make it difficult for Liston to nail him cleanly. Mostly all fighters are bothered by fighters who fight out of a crouch. The best shot Marciano would have to beat Liston is if he could extend the fight to about the sixth or seventh round. If Marciano could get that far, his toughness and great stamina may be the difference. Liston like Tyson, wasn't the most stable fighter when the pressure was turned up. That being said, Liston is slightly favored over Marciano in my opinion, but a Marciano win is definitely no upset.

For my money, Marciano-Frazier is the fight I would most want to see if I could match any two fighters from different era's at their best. Although Marciano and Frazier are both swarming type pressure fighters, there is a difference in their aggression. Frazier applies more pressure and comes in faster bobbing and weaving. Marciano crouches lower, which enables him to keep his opponents from reaching him. Frazier cut off the ring better and had faster hands. Marciano was a better two-handed puncher and probably had a slightly better chin. Stamina is close, but if I had to give an edge to one, I'd lean towards Marciano.

As far as weight goes, Marciano fought his best between 185 and 187. Frazier's best fights were fought between 205 and 209. However, what most fans don't know is that Marciano's weight was low because he wanted it to be. He could have easily fought at the same weight as Frazier. Before Marciano started fighting, he weighed between 210 to 215 while playing baseball. I don't really think Frazier had a size advantage other than an inch in height, and a longer reach. Frazier had a 73 inch reach compared to Marciano's 67. In a Marciano-Frazier fight, I doubt reach would have been a factor. If there ever was a pick-em fight, it's Marciano vs. Frazier!

The fighter who Ali defeated who I have a hard time seeing Marciano beating is George Foreman circa 1973-74. Foreman is most likely too big and strong for Marciano. How would Rocky be able to get inside to put any kind of hurt on Foreman? No doubt Marciano's crouching style might slow Foreman down some, but probably not enough to change the outcome. Marciano couldn't beat Foreman by moving away, and it would play into Foreman's style if he tried to pressure him like Frazier. Again, the only shot Rocky would have in my opinion is if he could survive the first five or so rounds. If Rocky could get to the seventh round and beyond, maybe Foreman would tire and Marciano could get to him. However, it's hard envisioning him making it that far against a raging Foreman of the early seventies?

When thoroughly and objectively reviewing the entire careers of Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. It's obvious that Marciano faced only two opponents that would've troubled Ali, Walcott and Charles. Yes Ali would've beat both of them, but it's not the cakewalk some believe it would be. On the other hand, Ali only defeated three fighters who probably would have been favored over Marciano, Liston, Frazier, and Foreman. And it's not entirely out of the question that Marciano could've beaten Liston and Frazier.

The big difference in the resumes of Marciano and Ali, is in the quality of the second tier fighters that Ali fought and defeated. However, Marciano would've definitely defeated every second tier level fighter on Ali's resume. I don't even think that it can be debated?

How do Marciano and Ali compare as fighters? Their styles couldn't be more different. Like Frazier, Marciano wanted to cut the distance between himself and his opponents. Where Ali preferred to keep his opponents outside at a distance. Also like Frazier, Marciano's weakness were Ali's strengths, and vice versa. And both Marciano and Ali had an undeniable will to win, and both could take a tremendous punch.

Some of the differences were Ali often looked past some of his opponents, opposed to Marciano who never did. Marciano trained for every fight as if his life depended on it, and in his mind it did. Ali didn't always enter the ring in top shape during the 70's, unless he was facing a fighter who was a threat to beat him. Marciano soaked up everything that his trainer Charlie Goldman passed along to him between rounds during the fight. Ali sometimes didn't always follow the instruction of Angelo Dundee. Marciano's assets were power and determination, Ali's were speed and movement, along with being able to adapt and improvise during the fight. It must also be noted that Marciano is the one heavyweight who Ali doesn't hold an advantage over when it comes to endurance, and the ability to take a punch.

Over the years there have been two misconceptions about Marciano and Ali. Marciano was not the walk in punching bag that some have tried to pass him off as. Any close review of his fights clearly bares this out. He made many fighters miss him, and when they did connect it was usually with just one solid shot, not blistering combinations. On the other hand Ali could punch better than he's given credit for. When he chose to sit down on his punches and not get out of them quickly, he hit very hard. This was also because he lured his opponent to come into him.

Had Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali fought on their best night, I have no doubt that it would have been a very fiercely contested fight. Marciano was definitely on par with the greatest opponents Ali ever faced. So to think that Ali wins easily is totally asinine. Ask yourself what Marciano would have done to the best fighters Ali fought excluding the big three. If you conclude that he would've lost to anyone of them, you're wrong. The only fighters Ali defeated who may have beaten Marciano are, Liston, Frazier, and Foreman.

In a Marciano vs. Ali fight, if both were at their best, I would pick Ali to come out the winner. He probably had too many ways to adapt and adjust to somewhat neutralize Rocky. In some ways I think Marciano would not have been as tough for Ali as Frazier was. Frazier's more relentless pressure I think would be a little tougher on Ali than Marciano's crouching aggression. On the other hand, Ali would not have hit Marciano as cleanly and with as many combinations as he did Frazier.

All I know is that both Marciano and Ali are all-time greats. Marciano may be the most least understood and under-rated heavyweight champion in history. He would not have been a sure win for any all-time great heavyweight champ. His toughness, power, and determination cannot be overlooked. And he was a smarter fighter and better boxer than he's given credit for by both fans and writers.

Over the years when Ali spoke of Marciano, he always showered him with high praise. He said he developed one of the closest relationships with Marciano, more so than he had with any other fighter. Ali was often quoted as saying that he couldn't believe how strong, and how hard Rocky could hit. He said he could feel how great Marciano must have been just from being in the ring with him when he was 45 while filming the computer fight. Ali said that he couldn't even imagine what Rocky must have been like in his prime. Marciano also spoke highly of Ali as well. It's just a shame that Marciano didn't live to see some of Ali's greatest triumphs. No doubt had he lived a little longer he would've gained even more respect for Ali.

Yes, in my opinion the best Ali beats the best Marciano. However it's not the easy walk over that some try to push it off as being. Ali definitely would've had his hands more than full with Marciano, but in my opinion he would have most likely had his arms raised if they fought on their best night. Ali's size, speed, adaptability, and toughness, make him the favorite over any past or present heavyweight champ in my book.

Writers Note

Forget the computer fight. It was just a novelty. Marciano and Ali were both paid $10,000. Ali needed the money because he hadn't fought in two years and had no income along with piling legal debt. Marciano was in good shape financially, but he did have some investments that lost money. Marciano took it seriously and trained for it like it was a fight. He wanted to be ready in case Ali tried to make him look bad. Ali was in horrible shape and didn't take it seriously.

As far as Marciano dropping Ali with a body shot? Who knows for sure. There is a part of me that finds it hard to believe because Ali took it to the body better than any heavyweight ever. However, I don't believe that it's a total fabrication either. Lets just say that it's very likely that Marciano got Ali's attention somewhere during the filming with a body shot. Body shots were allowed during the 70 one minute rounds they were in the ring, so I could see Marciano sneaking in a big one to get Ali's respect. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter, it wasn't a fight.

Here's all you need to know about computer fights. In September of 1970, they used the same computer that produced the Marciano-Ali fight to pick the winner of the Joe Frazier vs. Bob Foster heavyweight title fight in November of 1970. The computer picked Foster to stop Frazier in the sixth round. Since Frazier knocked Foster out in the second round, the computer could not have been more wrong. In fact, Frazier hit Foster so hard that he injured his ankle while he was going down.

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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