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Articles of 2003

IN DEFENSE OF BOXING

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The 14th Round

Along the way, I certainly figured that if I was going to cover the subject of boxing reform, it was necessary to address the concept of boxing safety, and the inherent dangers involved when two fighters get into the ring with each other. But more than anything, I want to do it with an educated perspective, relating boxing to other sports. If you do that objectively, as all sports fans should, you'll realize that boxing has a pretty good record in this area, when all functionaries are performing their tasks properly.

I managed to dig up this story I wrote more than three years ago for a now-defunct website, NFLTalk.com, in which I focused on this very angle. And rather than “freshen it up” a bit, I figured I would just reproduce it “as is”, since the fundamentals really haven't changed.

So here it is:

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NFL SHOULD KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT A TKO

By CHARLES JAY, Editor/Publisher, TotalAction.com

Special to NFLTalk.com

November 11, 1999

Back in 1982, within a couple of days of each other, Deu-Koo Kim had died at the hands of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, and Alexis Arguello had taken a horrific 14th-round beating from Aaron Pryor. In the ensuing days, there was a great deal of deliberation as to how far to go in letting a fighter take punishing blows to the head, and the boxing world scrambled for answers.

About ten days after this, I was attending a fight card at a place called the Knight Center in Miami. In one of the bouts, the referee waved off the action after one fighter had the other rocking and reeling on the ropes. Then the show broke for intermission, and as I waited in line in the men's room, a guy was heard to complain, “I can't believe the ref stopped it. That guy wasn't even CLOSE to death yet!”

Sometimes I think this is the way many fans feel about their NFL heroes. If you can walk, you should play. If you can breathe, you should play. As long as you are alive, you should be able to slip the pads on.

Looking at the NFL injury report for this week, there are six players listed as suffering from a concussion. Three of them are scheduled to play this weekend, including quarterback Dave Brown of the Arizona Cardinals. Another is on injured reserve.

The other two – Steve Young and Troy Aikman – are at a career crossroads. Young may or may not play again this season, or ever again. The Niners have not put him on the I.R. yet, but may very well do so at some point. Aikman, who suffered another concussion against Minnesota in the Monday night game, is not playing against the Packers on Sunday, but might be back in the lineup the next week against Arizona. Aikman has now suffered EIGHT concussions in his NFL career. At least.

Both men, at the end of this season, are going to be faced with a major decision – whether to continue their careers and risk serious head injuries, or pack it in.

Some fans, for their own selfish reasons, may want both to continue, and in fact, may wish for Young to get back in the lineup sooner rather than later, to lift the Niners out of their current doldrums.

Fans can have interesting tunnel vision that way.

In fact, I distinctly remember the response I got from one misguided soul, when I wrote, back in the pre-season, that the Dolphins had better be very careful with Zack Thomas, because he was suffering not only from some very strange and mysterious dizzy spells, but from what he described as “flashes” as well, which made it doubly hard for him to concentrate in meetings and which, in his words, “made the game seem slower”.

This guy, who obviously must have been one of Jerry Quarry's cornermen at one time, wrote: “Zack Thomas has about a month to recover from the lingering effects of his concussion. Had he suffered a torn ACL or something I think you might be on to something but right now, I think you're just looking for something to write about.”

Sure. And if your son or daughter were suffering from “lingering effects of a concussion”, there wouldn't be anything for you to be freaking out about – right, asshole?

The fact that Thomas has come through the season so far without incident is not the point at all. The point is, he was suffering from something that not only could HE not explain, but the DOCTORS didn't know anything about either. When you're still suffering “lingering effects of a concussion” after a month, that's cause for concern. It's scary. Though not as scary as some tough-as-nails couch potato who thinks head trauma is “not that big a deal”.

But I'm wondering how many people with NFL teams feel the same way about it. There is such a single-mindedness about winning in the league that it's apparently easy to overlook a lot of things that should be blatantly obvious. Or to ignore good common sense.

As it stands now, there is nothing to tell Steve Young or Troy Aikman what to do with their careers, aside from their own conscience. Sure, their doctor can suggest retirement, but one thing is for certain – if you go and visit enough doctors, one of them is going to clear you to play. And that's the guy you tend to listen to.

Though fans, teammates, coaches, and physicians may have their own opinions, when it comes to the “retire or not” issue, it's going to be Steve Young's decision. Troy Aikman's decision. And absent any rule or regulation to govern this decision, I have to trust their judgment. After all, it's their life, right?

Well, yes, but perhaps it shouldn't be that cut-and-dried.

Should it, in the end, always be THEIR decision? Should it be the decision of their team? If you feel strongly about such independence of thought, then perhaps you can learn something from the example set by professional boxing.

PROFESSIONAL BOXING? Don't laugh. In the world of bought-off ratings, controversial judges' decisions, and the exploitation of athletes, there are indeed practices that are very positive, and indeed progressive, that the NFL should consider integrating into its own safety policy.

The specifics vary according to the jurisdiction, but generally speaking, when a fighter is “stopped” (TKO'd), the result is an automatic suspension of no less than 30 days, and sometimes as much as 45 or 60. When a fighter is knocked OUT (KO'd), the suspension is 60-90 days. That means that he/she can not compete at all during that time. In some states, the fighter can not even engage in sparring activity during the mandatory suspension period.

And before we go any further, make no mistake about it – when a player suffers a concussion in a football game, he is KNOCKED OUT. Yet you're seeing a situation where Dave Brown is very possibly going to play this week, and Aikman, despite suffering two concussions in a couple of weeks' time, could very well be back under center next weekend. Deion Sanders suffered a concussion in a game and was taken out, then was later re-inserted and actually returned a punt for a touchdown. Now, some people are going to point to that and say, “You see, it was no big deal.” But Sanders says he DOESN'T REMEMBER his punt return, and that scares the living hell out of me. And he's not the only player to have a concussion, then come back into a game. It happens all the time. And it shouldn't.

When a player gets put back into a game, or plays the next week, there can be even more of a danger than in boxing, because there are a lot of different Or to get injured. Like a direct helmet-to-helmet hit. Or a blind side hit, which is always a possibility. Like a player hitting his head on the ground, causing additional trauma. Or any other kind of physical contact in which the player's helmet is involved.

Ron Borges wrote a very instructive piece in the Boston Globe about this a couple of weeks ago. In it, veteran boxing trainer Teddy Atlas, who is also a commentator for ESPN2, said, “Boxing doesn't get nearly the serious injuries football does. It's incredible the numbers every Sunday when you're watching, but you just don't hear about it because football is much more corporate. It's a well-run machine. Football dresses up its violence better. Nobody says anything about what goes on in pro football until someone like Steve Young gets a concussion. He ain't going back and playing this weekend, but how many other guys are? If Steve Young is a lineman who got those concussions, would they be treating him the same way? No they wouldn't.”

All I can tell you is that you'll rarely, if ever, hear of any fighter allowed in the ring, or NEAR a ring, while he's experiencing “lingering effects from a concussion” or suffering from “post-concussion syndrome”. It wouldn't even be a consideration.

So why is it a consideration in the NFL, where the contact is more constant, more sustained, and in many cases, of a higher impact? I don't understand why the league can't see the light, and mandate that 1) any player who suffers a concussion must sit out a minimum of four games and possibly more, depending on the severity of the situation; 2) any player who does indeed have a concussion must, after the mandatory suspension is served, be cleared by TWO doctors, with an EEG, in order to play; 3) more extensive mandatory suspensions must be imposed on players who sustain more than one concussion during a season; and 4) any team which is found to have inserted a player in a game while suffering from the effects of a concussion will be fined heavily, with suspensions imposed on the coaches, trainers, or medical staff that allow it to happen.

No player or team is going to zealously take these precautions on their own. A player wants to play. That's in his nature. And he'll have a tendency to go to as many sources as he has to until someone tells him he's okay. A team wants to win. That's IT'S nature. Every week players are sent out onto the field with injuries, of varying degrees of severity, and it is expected that players perform with pain. Okay, that's understood. But let's draw the line somewhere. Head injuries are as good a place as any.

And let's have someone who IS NOT an interested party make judicious decisions on this policy, based on common sense, as well as what is in the best interests of the athletes and the image of professional football.

For the life of me, I don't understand why the NFL Players Association hasn't spearheaded a move in this direction. Aren't these people concerned about the long-term health of their constituency?

I'm sure they are. And I'm sure someday they will.

But for those of you who would just as soon leave well enough alone, you are entitled to your opinion. Just don't chortle about the “punchdrunk stiffs”, “bums”, and “palookas” in a boxing ring. Those guys are well-protected, by comparison. The REAL palookas are out there on CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoons. They're just better-paid palookas, for the most part.

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fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

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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