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Articles of 2003

The Night Their Best Wasn't Enough

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The greatest fight Jersey Joe Walcott ever fought in his career, he lost. The greatest fight Muhammad Ali ever fought in his career, he lost. The greatest fight Evander Holyfield ever fought in his career, he lost. I'm not saying the smartest fight they ever fought. I'm saying the best fight from a physical vantage point.

How many times in boxing history has a great fighter lost on the night he was at his best physically? I'll bet it's not often. However, below are three fights in which the loser is not only an all-time great but, they fought the greatest fights of their career and still lost. It's hard for most to fathom that a fighter fighting his best in a fight in which they lost, but that is the case with Jersey Joe Walcott, Muhammad Ali, and Evander Holyfield.

Just because a fighter lost, doesn't mean he wasn't great on that night. In my opinion, the above mentioned fighters were never more on top of their game or more formidable physically than they were in defeat. In all three fights, the loser never hit harder or sharper, and never demonstrated a better chin or more character.

September 23, 1952 Walcott vs. Marciano I

Jersey Joe Walcott was making the second defense of the heavyweight title he won from Ezzard Charles. His opponent was an up and coming undefeated knockout artist named Rocky Marciano. In his defense versus Marciano, Walcott was never more confident and focused for a fight. He was absolutely certain that he could not only defeat, but also stop Marciano. Walcott was so confident that he could stop Marciano that he jumped right on him in the first round and dropped him for the first time in his career. The left hook that Walcott planted on Marciano hurt him more than any other punch he was hit with in his career. Marciano was still a little shook when he got up and it took him a few seconds to clear his head after he was up. Had Walcott landed that same hook on any other heavyweight in the world at the time, he most likely would've scored a first round knockout. Unfortunately for Walcott, his hook crashed against one of the greatest chins in history, supported by the best conditioned body of any heavyweight history.

For 12 rounds Walcott traded bombs with Marciano, beating him to the punch in most exchanges. Throughout those 12 rounds, Marciano pressured Walcott relentlessly, and Walcott was able to answer with his own bombs.
In this bout, Walcott scored with some of the hardest punches he had ever thrown in his career. On the other hand Walcott took some of the greatest punches he was ever hit with, and showed no visible signs of slowing down going into the 13th round. Going into the 13th round in his first fight with Marciano, Walcott was clearly ahead in the scoring. In fact, Marciano needed a knockout to win on two of the three official scorecards. Had Walcott chose to box Marciano in those last three rounds, instead of trying to knock him out, he probably wins a unanimous decision and retains the title.

Like Meldrick Taylor against Julio Caesar Chavez, his ego got the better of him and he would go for the knockout instead of settling for the decision win. And it cost Walcott the fight as it did Taylor 38 years later. In round 13 Marciano landed a right hand on Walcott's jaw that is considered one of the hardest punches thrown in boxing history. The punch not only knocked Walcott out, but it contorted the side of his face. Fight over!

The fight against Marciano may have been Jersey Joe's finest hour. Never in his career did he demonstrate more courage and better punching power. It's just unfortunate for Walcott that he was fighting another all-time great who caught him with one of the most devastating punches ever thrown. And yes, Marciano had dynamite in both hands, especially his right. And to those fans and writers who question Marciano's power, I guess you know more about how hard he hit than Louis, Walcott, and Moore. All three fighters said Marciano's punches were much harder than they looked, and they all said he was without a doubt the hardest puncher they ever fought. I say they know more about that than either you or me. I'll take them at their word.

March 8, 1971 Frazier vs. Ali I

Frazier vs. Ali I was the biggest and most anticipated sporting event in history. Never before have two undefeated heavyweights both in their prime had a legitimate claim to the title like Ali and Frazier did in 1971. Some insist that Ali was not at his best due to his 43 month layoff when he fought Frazier the first time, and there is much merit to that claim. Even though he stopped the top two contenders at the time in Quarry and Bonavena, before fighting Frazier. However, after seeing the fight, there is absolutely no question that Ali never threw and landed harder punches than he did on Joe Frazier in their first fight. In fact, during the first five rounds of Super-Fight one, Ali was never sharper or punched better. If you doubt that, I suggest you go back and look at the tape of rounds one through five.

Many fans and historians believe Ali's peak was his fight versus Cleveland Williams. Williams may have been Ali's peak regarding his speed and brilliance, but he had not filled out to where he was when he fought Frazier at age 29. The Ali of March 1971 was bigger, stronger, hit harder, and a more formidable fighter than the Ali of November 1966. During Ali's exile he matured and got stronger.

Going into the Frazier fight, many questioned Ali's chin, and toughness. Throughout his first fight with Frazier, Ali was hit continuously with Frazier's devastating left hook to the body and head. Never before or after had any fighter landed on Ali with the frequency and power of Frazier. Also during this fight, Ali launched and landed some of the swiftest and hardest combinations he ever hit any fighter with. Had Ali been fighting any other heavyweight except that Joe Frazier on that night, he would've most likely been a knockout winner.

The problem Ali had, was a prime 27 year old Joe Frazier in front of him. Going into his first fight with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier was better prepared mentally and physically than any other fighter in history was for any opponent. Frazier knew he had the perfect style to fight Ali, and at that time in his career, he had it down pat. On the night of March 8th, 1971, Frazier was not to be denied. He was ready for anything Ali had to offer mentally or physically.

Going into Frazier-Ali I, Ali's plan was to beat Frazier up so badly early in the fight that he would either stop him, or have him so beaten up that he wouldn't have anything left for the last five rounds of the bout. By Frazier being so determined to beat Ali, he forced him to fight at a pace Ali wasn't accustomed to. Frazier also forced Ali to punch with authority just to try and keep him off. This resulted in Ali throwing bombs at Joe. Although Ali really rocked Joe in those first three or four rounds, he wasn't able to get him out. From rounds 6 through 15, Ali did all he could to try and impede Frazier's aggression, but Frazier was not to be denied. On this night, Ali never hit harder or demonstrated a better chin. I don't care what fight of Ali's career you think of, he was never better than he was against Joe Frazier in their first fight. He never hit harder or took it better, it's just that on March 8th 1971 Joe Frazier fought possibly the greatest fight of any heavyweight in boxing history.

November 13, 1992 Holyfield vs. Bowe I

When undefeated heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield defended the unified heavyweight title against undefeated top contender Riddick Bowe, the burden of proof was on him. Although Holyfield was the champ, his best wins as a heavyweight were over an out of shape Buster Douglas and two 42 year old ex-champs named Foreman and Holmes. Bowe, at that time was thought to be the future of the heavyweights.

For his title fight versus Holyfield, Bowe weighed in at a very firm 235 pounds. Most point to this as Bowe's signature fight. On the other hand, the 30 year old Holyfield was never better. In his first fight with Bowe, Holyfield was at his brilliant best. Never was he sharper or did he punch faster and harder. He also absorbed some monster hooks and uppercuts from Bowe. In losing to Bowe, Holyfield gained acceptance as being for real and a true heavyweight, despite the fact that he had been the undisputed champ for slightly over two years.

During his first fight with Bowe, Holyfield was never more formidable physically. He hit Bowe with some of the best punches he ever threw and landed on any other fighter he's faced. At the same time Bowe hit him harder and more solidly than any other fighter he ever fought. Had Holyfield been fighting any other top heavyweight of his era the night he fought Bowe the first time, he would have won in a convincing fashion. The Holyfield of November 1992, would certainly have beat any version of Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson. The Holyfield who fought Tyson in 1996 and 1997, and Lewis in 1999 wasn't anywhere near close to the same fighter that fought Bowe in their first fight.

During the first Bowe fight, Holyfield was capable of fighting the entire round for the entire fight. This was Holyfield at his finest hour, never was he better or did he fight with more purpose. Unfortunately for Holyfield on this night, Bowe was too big and skilled and up to the task as well.

Walcott, Ali, and Holyfield fought possibly the best fight of their lives in a losing effort. Had Walcott not been the recipient of one of the hardest right hands in history, he may have remained champ a couple more years? For Ali, had he been fighting any other heavyweight in history other than Joe Frazier on March 8th, 1971, he would've been victorious. It's just that Frazier was not to be denied, and took out 4 years of pent up hate and anger on the source that ridiculed and demeaned his career and title tenure. As for Holyfield, he just had the misfortune of fighting the most skilled heavyweight over 6'4″ on his best night.

In this writers opinion, Walcott, Ali, and Holyfield share something else besides being great fighters. What they share is the fact that they were soundly defeated on one of the best nights of their career! On the three nights in question, all three fighters fought at a level where they were most likely the hardest to get a win over on any night of their career. It just so happens that on their best night, Walcott, Ali, and Holyfield were in with another fighter who was fighting at such a high level, they had no choice but to give their best effort. For at least one night, their best wasn't quite good enough.

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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