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Articles of 2003

What IF: Arguello vs. Sanchez

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The phrase “What if” probably applies to the late Salvador Sanchez more than any other fighter in boxing history. Forget, “What if he fought Alexis Arguello?” How about, “What if he hadn't died in a tragic car accident at age 23?” Salvador Sanchez died on August 12, 1982 when he was returning to his training camp somewhere between the hours of 4 & 5 am when his Porsche rammed the back of a poultry transit truck killing him instantly. It's been more than rumored that Sanchez was racing back to camp from one of his infamous flings.

At the time of his death, Sanchez was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. A good case could have been made that he was the best. He was the reigning WBC featherweight champion who had just stopped Azumah Nelson in his last fight on July 21, 1982 at Madison Square Garden, making his ninth successful title defense.

Salvador Sanchez turned pro at the age of 16 and won 17 of his first 18 fights by knockout. In his first major fight, Sanchez was dropped in the first round by Mexican featherweight champ Antonio Becerra. Becerra went on to win the fight scoring a 12 round unanimous decision. This would prove to be the only time Sanchez was ever knocked down or lost. Sanchez would go on to win 15 of his next 16 fights with the only blemish being a draw against Juan Escobar. Among Sanchez's victims were Carlos Mimila and Felix Trinidad Sr.

On February 2, 1980, Sanchez fought reigning featherweight champ Danny “Little Red” Lopez. Lopez was a popular champion who fought many exciting fights on network TV in the late 1970's. “Little Red” was coming off impressive wins over Dave Kotey (twice), Juan Malvares and Mike Ayala. Sanchez took the title from Lopez giving him a one-sided battering and stopping him in the 13th round. However, many ringside observers at the time felt that Sanchez's one-sided win was a fluke due to the relative ease in which he accomplished it.

After making one title defense, Sanchez and Lopez would fight a rematch on June 21, 1980. Sanchez proved the first fight was no fluke and took Lopez apart again stopping him in the 14th round this time. From September 13, 1980 through July 21, 1982 Sanchez made seven consecutive title defenses. Some of the fighters he defeated were the highly touted Patrick Ford, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson.

Sanchez is probably best remembered for his 1981 destruction of WBC junior featherweight champ Wilfredo Gomez. Gomez was undefeated in 33 fights winning 32 by knockout before fighting Sanchez. Going into the fight Gomez was just about a 2-1 favorite. In a fight that titled “Battle of the Little Giants” by Don King, Sanchez destroyed Gomez in eight rounds sending him back down to the junior featherweight division. In the fight, Sanchez put Gomez down in the first round and broke his cheekbone in the fight.

Tragically, Sanchez's life came to an end during the early morning hours in his speeding Porsche. The list of beaten opponents by Sanchez reads like a who's who list of the great featherweights of his era. Ruben Castillo, Wilfredo Gomez and future champs Juan LaPorte and Azumah Nelson.

Although Sanchez was not known to be a knockout puncher, he could hit. However, he was an excellent counter-puncher and dismantled his opponents with swift accurate counter punches. At the time of his death, there were talks of Sanchez facing Gomez in a rematch and then possibly moving up to lightweight and challenging champion Alexis Arguello. Sadly, we can only imagine how it would have turned out. Sanchez retired with a record of 44-1-1 (32) and was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

Like Sanchez, Alexis Arguello also turned pro at age 16. He lost his pro debut when Cachorro Amaya stopped him in the first round. Arguello would go on to win world titles in three separate weight divisions and never lost any of his titles in the ring. After losing his debut, Arguello ran off nearly 40 straight wins when he challenged WBA featherweight champ Ernest Marcel. Arguello would lose a unanimous decision to the more experienced Marcel in his home country Panama. Soon after beating Arguello, Marcel retired and the hard punching Mexican, Ruben Olivares, would win Marcel's vacated title.

On November 23, 1974 in his first fight in the United States, Arguello won the WBA featherweight title with a 13th round knockout of Ruben Olivares. After making four defenses of the featherweight title, Arguello relinquished it. In his fifth fight at junior lightweight, he fought WBC junior lightweight and long-time reigning champ Alfredo Escalera. Arguello stopped Escalera in 13 brutal rounds to capture the title.

After making three defenses of the title, Arguello fought Escalera again, and again stopped him in the 13th round. Arguello in total would defend the junior lightweight title eight times, more than any other title he held. Like Sanchez, only at junior lightweight, the list of fighters Arguello defeated is a who's who list of outstanding fighters the likes of Ruben Castillo, and future titleholders Bobby Chacon, Bazooka Limon and Rolando Navarette.

In October of 1980, Arguello vacated the WBC junior lightweight title. Eight months later, he decisioned WBC lightweight champ Jim Watt to win his third title. In his first defense, he stopped top contender Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in the 14th round. After Mancini, Arguello made three more successful defenses of the lightweight title before vacating it in hopes of adding a fourth title to his resume.

Arguello would attempt to win the junior welterweight title after fighting one time in his new division. On November 12, 1982, Arguello challenged the top 140-pound fighter in the world, WBA junior welterweight champ Aaron Pryor. On a beautiful night at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Pryor proved to be too much for Arguello. In a fight that ranks as one of histories best, Arguello couldn't overcome Pryor's speed and power in suffering the worst beating of his brilliant career, being stopped in the 14th round.

Ten months later Arguello fought Pryor again and the rematch proved to be a rerun with Pryor stopping Arguello in the 10th round. After failing a second time in capturing the junior welterweight title Arguello retired. Arguello would come out of retirement twice fighting four times and winning three comeback fights suffering a decision loss in his last fight. Arguello retired with a career record of 80-8 (64) and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.

When comparing Arguello and Sanchez, it's difficult to make absolute accessions because of Sanchez's career being cut short while he was only 23. Two absolutes I'll make are that in this comparison I'm matching them as featherweights, although Arguello was most successful as a junior lightweight and made the most defenses of that title, and was champion as a junior lightweight longer than in any other division.

The other is that their fighting styles were completely different. Arguello was a boxer-puncher who liked to push the fight, and carried knockout power in both hands. Sanchez was a counter-puncher who was a tremendous boxer who had very fast hands. Both fighters also possessed a great chin.

Salvador Sanchez was a fighter who ate up punchers who brought the fight to him. He gave both Lopez and Gomez the two worse shellackings they ever took while they were at or close to their peak. Fighters who didn't jump on him and go right at him usually fared much better. Sanchez was also marvelously conditioned. I don't ever recall seeing him winded or tired.

Even in his fight with Gomez, a fight that was fought at close to a Hagler-Hearns pace, only for eight rounds, Sanchez maintained a blistering pace versus Gomez and never seemed the least bit tired. He also had a concrete chin. Both Lopez and Gomez could really punch and caught Sanchez flush on the chin and Sanchez never even changed his facial _expression. However, he is probably best known for his wonderfully accurate counter-punching. Talk about a fighter making his opponents pay for making them miss, Sanchez was the master. Loading up and missing Sanchez led to getting ripped with three and four punch combinations that were accurate and seemed almost laser guided.

Alexis Arguello was the prototype boxer-puncher, and at 5'10″, he was exceptionally tall for a fighter who weighed under 150 pounds. He was a fighter that exhibited tremendous basics. Like a little Joe Louis, he threw straight punches while always keeping his chin down and his hands up. Arguello was also economical with his punch output, you rarely saw him throwing wildly, or wasting punches. When he let his hands go, they usually found their target. One difference between Louis and Arguello was that Arguello's hook and uppercut had a more looping ark to them. Like Louis, Alexis also had dynamite in both hands.

Arguello mostly fought a somewhat pressure style. He didn't pressure his opponents like a Frazier or Duran; it was more a subtle type pressure like Louis. Another thing Arguello shared with Louis was that they were vulnerable versus fighters who had fast feet. That's not saying they couldn't fight fighters that had good movement. It is verifying that fighters who moved against them usually fared the best. The fighters who brought the fight to Arguello are the ones who he defeated in the most devastating fashion.

Like Sanchez, Arguello also had a great chin. Arguello was never really hurt until he fought Aaron Pryor at junior welterweight. He also had outstanding stamina and could fight at any pace. Just watch both fights with Pryor and you'll see the tremendous pace they both kept for 14 and 10 rounds.

Who Would Have Won

Many times over the years when discussing a hypothetical Arguello-Sanchez fight, when asked to pick the winner, I couldn't. I usually responded saying the only way I can pick this fight, is if someone put a gun to my head. From a style standpoint, it's tough to give one fighter a decided edge over the other.

Arguello would've pressured Sanchez but not over aggressively. Sanchez would've been comfortable with Arguello coming to him. However, it's not the type of pressure that he usually dismantled. Sanchez had tremendous feet, and moved side-to-side and back very effectively. However, Sanchez wasn't a mover like a Hector Camacho who basically just ran. So, it's not as if Arguello wouldn't have been able to find him.

Sanchez's superior hand speed would've been effective versus Arguello, but not as it was against most fighters because Alexis didn't miss many punches once he let his hands go, thus he wouldn't be left as open to be countered. Although Sanchez would've nailed Arguello on the way in, Arguello had such a great chin I can't see Sanchez dropping him. On the other hand, Sanchez also had a great chin and was rarely caught by two big punches in a row.

This is a fight in which I can't envision either fighter stopping the other and can very easily see it going either way. I think at featherweight they are that evenly matched. I guess the outcome may hinge on the pace of the fight. If Arguello can turn the fight into a war or a street fight that would favor him. We know that if pushed, Sanchez would fight him back and try and stand his ground. Both Lopez and Gomez were able to get Sanchez to war with them in spots. However, Sanchez wasn't really bothered by their power. I'm not sure that would've been the case with Arguello.

On the other hand, if Arguello fights at his normal measured pace, it would benefit Sanchez. Without Arguello applying unrelenting pressure on him, Sanchez could pick his spots. With Sanchez picking his spots, his movement and hand speed may have carried him to a decision.

One thing that really makes this match up so difficult to handicap is that we may not have seen the best of Sanchez. He was only 23 when he was killed. I don't think it's a stretch to believe that it's possible we didn't see all that he had. When it comes to Arguello, we saw his best and know that he really couldn't be dealt with until he fought at 140 when he fought Pryor. So it's hard to imagine him being taken apart by another featherweight, all be it a great one in Sanchez.

I will say this; I don't think Sanchez could've gone up in weight as successfully as Arguello. He wasn't as big a man as Arguello. I think Sanchez may have hit the wall at lightweight like Arguello did at junior welterweight. And at that, I'm not sure Alexis hit the wall at 140, it may have been Pryor was the wall. I have no doubt that Arguello probably wins the title if he's fighting any other top junior welterweight in the world other than Pryor.

When it comes to evaluating Arguello and Sanchez at featherweight, there can be no doubt that Sanchez beat better fighters than Arguello did. The best fighters Arguello defeated at 126 are Ruben Olivares, and Royal Kobayashi, compared to Sanchez who beat Danny Lopez, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson, all of whom Sanchez stopped except LaPorte. Based on that fact, I'll go with Sanchez by a razor thin decision. Realistically, this is a match up I really can't pick with any conviction.

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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