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WHO SHOULD TRAINERS BE WORKING FOR?

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The 18th Round

Just recently, trainer Buddy McGirt signed a contract to work for Main Events, under a set of parameters which, in the words of the press release, “allows McGirt to train non-Main Events promoted boxers, but only if given clearance by Main Events”, indicating there is at least a hint of exclusivity.

I'm more than a little uncomfortable with these kinds of arrangements, and with good reason. Perhaps it wouldn't be overly surprising that Max Kellerman, who has brought his public access shtick over to ESPN, trumpeted this as a tremendous hire; he doesn't really grasp the issues at hand here. But I think it's unconscionable that Teddy Atlas, who's supposed to be an advocate of fighters, and therefore should know better, didn't speak up when it was being discussed.

The question before us – should promoters be hiring and paying the people who train the fighters they have under contract?

To answer this question honestly, you simply can't avoid finding the elements of a conflict of interest that result from that kind of relationship.

When you look on the surface, of course, it seems like a positive on all sides – the promoter wants a top-notch trainer for the fighters it is ultimately looking to cash in with. And I guess you can't blame a fighter who feels he's found a trainer who represents on opportunity for improvement.

For all I know, the Main Events-McGirt deal is completely well-intentioned.

My concern, though, is, what happens in those cases where it is NOT so well-intentioned, or when the parties involved in such a deal haven't foreseen situations where a conflict could manifest itself.

I don't want to single out McGirt, because there are similar scenarios elsewhere. Don King, for example, has trainers on his payroll. So do other promoters. Hell, Main Events already had two other trainers in its employ – Mark Breland and Ronnie Shields.

In fact, when I first got into boxing full-time, the promoter I worked for, Phil Alessi, had hired a trainer named Jimmy Williams to run his gym and work with all the fighters. A second trainer, Henry Grooms, was later added.

I was always a little uneasy with that concept, but at 24 years of age, what the hell was I going to say?

Naturally, over the course of time it became obvious to me that the ultimate responsibility the trainer felt was not to the fighter he was working with, but to the guy who was signing the paycheck. And that was the promoter. There wasn't even a question about his loyalty. And you know what? That's human nature.

There are two parties in a boxing relationship who are supposed to be employees of the fighter – the manager and the trainer. As it has been traditionally established, the fighter pays his manager a commission up to a legal limit (in most places) of 33-1/3% of his purses, while the trainer gets paid 10%.

That means that if the fighter makes $3000, the trainer is supposed to get $300. If the purse is $100,000, the trainer would get $10,000. We're speaking generally, of course – all kinds of alternate arrangements can be made, depending on what level of purses the fighter is getting. And sometimes the manager pays the trainer a salary, which means that the trainer is an employee of both the manager AND the fighter.

But the bottom line is that when the trainer has made his deal with the PROMOTER, it's a different ballgame entirely. When a trainer is under contract to, and receives a salary from, a promoter, he is not exclusively an employee of the fighter, but instead, of the promoter. And if our intention is to follow the law, I can't see where it would be acceptable that the trainer be contracted to both the fighter and the promoter simultaneously.

If we are to define the adjective “fiduciary” as “relating to, or involving a confidence or trust”, as it reads in the dictionary, there would seem to be little doubt that the relationship of a trainer to the fighter is fiduciary in nature. The fighter places his physical well-being, to a considerable extent, in the hands of the trainer, both in the gym and in the corner, and relies on that trust, just as he trusts his professional and financial well-being with a manager.

And I've got news for you – any trainer who claims he is not in a position of trust with his fighter – and this includes McGirt, Atlas, or whoever you want to name – shouldn't be licensed as a trainer to begin with.

The promoter is NOT a fiduciary – we went over this in depth in “Operation Cleanup”.

In case you missed it, let me grab a few lines from Chapter 51, as I was trying to describe the relationship between Don King, a promoter, and John Ruiz, a fighter:

“Don King does NOT have a fiduciary duty to the fighter. He simply has a CONTRACTUAL relationship with him.

King is not Ruiz' manager – in fact, in many ways, his function is actually AT ODDS with that of the managers of Ruiz.

You see, the obligation of Stone and Cardinale is to secure, for their fighter, the best price possible with the promoter, who happens to be King. That creates, by definition, an adversarial relationship – not in the sense that they are enemies, but hopefully – ideally – in the healthiest sense possible, in that they are both negotiating in good faith with each other, with each having objectives that are not necessarily mutually inclusive of each other.

For example, if King wants Ruiz to fight “Fighter X”, and offers $1 million to Ruiz, and Stone and Cardinale come back and they want $2 million, they will negotiate back and forth over the figure, until a deal is made in which both parties are satisfied. The less Ruiz takes, the more money King will make, at least theoretically. Likewise, the more money Ruiz is able to negotiate for himself, the LESS money King will make.”

Someone who is a FIDUCIARY for the fighter can not work for the promoter, because he functions as an EXTENSION of the promoter, and it's simply against the fighter's best interests for regulators to allow this as a common practice.

And let me put this into further perspective for you – the trainers who were working for Phil Alessi back in 1986 were getting 10% of the fighters' purses as well. In fact, in some cases it was actually specified in the promotional contract.

If the trainer is involved in that kind of scenario, he has a financial interest in a fighter, and as an employee of a promoter at the same time, it can argued – strongly – that it's a violation of the Ali Act.

Of course, back in 1986, there was no Ali Act. But there is NOW. And it's pretty clear what the intention is.

Look at Section 15, covering “Conflicts of Interest”, which actually amends Section 17 of the Professional Boxer Safety Act –

FIREWALL BETWEEN PROMOTERS AND MANAGERS-

`(1) IN GENERAL- It is unlawful for–

`(A) a promoter to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the management of a boxer; or `(B) a manager–

`(i) to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer; or `(ii) to be employed by or receive compensation or other benefits from a promoter, except for amounts received as consideration under the manager's contract with the boxer.”

And earlier in that section, it specifies that a promoter cannot require a fighter to be trained by a certain individual:

“(b) EMPLOYMENT AS CONDITION OF PROMOTING, ETC- No person who is a licensee, manager, matchmaker, or promoter may require a boxer to employ, retain, or provide compensation to any individual or business enterprise (whether operating in corporate form or not) recommended or designated by that person as a condition of– `(1) such person's working with the boxer as a licensee, manager, matchmaker, or promoter; `(2) such person's arranging for the boxer to participate in a professional boxing match; or `(3) such boxer's participation in a professional boxing match.”

Now, although that may be going on in some places, it may not be what's going on with the Main Events deal. At least not overtly. Indeed, if the press release is to be taken at face value, it is strictly an option for the fighter:

“Main Events is excited about giving our current fighters, and any fighters we sign in the future, an opportunity to work with McGirt should they choose,” said Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, according to the release.

By the same token though, I have never met a big-time promoter who would pass up an opportunity to have a greater degree of control over a situation. And make no mistake – having the trainer on your payroll offers the possibility for that kind of control, whichever way you try to “spin” it.

Let me go back to the passage in the press release I quoted at the beginning of this story:

“The agreement allows McGirt to train non-Main Events promoted boxers, but only if given clearance by Main Events.”

Here's the problem with that – let's suppose I manage a promising young fighter, and I consider Buddy McGirt to be the best trainer in the business. I want my fighter to be able to work with him – very much. And the fighter agrees with me. So while we may CHOOSE to work with McGirt, he can't choose to work with US, unless (a) we sign a promotional contract with Main Events, or (b) McGirt gets special clearance from Main Events to work with us. If we are signed, or if we are entertaining signing with, say, Don King or Cedric Kushner or Gary Shaw or Bob Arum, we're not going to get the opportunity to work with the trainer we want because that arrangement couldn't possibly help Main Events.

Maybe that's a restriction that should be addressed in the Ali Act as well. In other words, it's not that we can't get a particular fight; we can't get a particular TRAINER – a guy who should, by rights, be able to make up his mind independently if he wants to work with a fighter in a fiduciary capacity – unless we sign a contract with a particular promoter.

Promoters shouldn't be permitted to tie up people who perform in that kind of role.

I don't think it's a stretch at all when I tell you that if there good reasons why the MANAGER shouldn't be an employee of a promoter, that same rationale should apply to a TRAINER.

And in those cases where the trainer is NOT getting his 10% – in other words, where the promoter is the only party who is paying him – it means that he is exclusively the employee of the promoter, and most definitely NOT the fighter, which makes it improper for him to be acting in a capacity that is normally fiduciary in nature. He's simply getting his money from the wrong end.

You think all this is strictly theoretical?

Think again.

Let's just say……

The promoter has quite a bit invested in a certain promotion which involves a fighter who is trained by that promoter's employee. The fighter may not be in top physical condition, or may have a slight injury that would affect him in a fight. In other words, he is not 100% ready to fight, and would be against his best interests to do so. However, he does, as a rule, rely on the direction the trainer gives him as far as these matters are concerned.

Will the trainer, who spends the most time with the fighter in the gym and who would seem to be the most intimately acquainted with his condition, force that issue with the guy who is signing his paycheck, if that employer (the promoter) pressures him to make the fighter available, insists on it, or otherwise emphasizes strongly how important it is that the fighter takes part, regardless of his condition? If it's a matter of the fighter having to lose a lot of weight on short notice, will the promoter's trainer advise him to do that, even if it may not be a healthy thing to do?

Or……..

The promoter is doing a televised main event in which he has both of the contestants under promotional agreement (something which is not illegal). Fighter “A” in that main event bout is trained by the promoter's employee, while Fighter “B” is not. It would be to the promoter's great advantage in terms of future income if Fighter “B” won the fight. Could it affect the training regimen, or the advice that Fighter “A” gets from his trainer? Could we ever really know? What if it turns out to be a scenario like we described in the previous paragraph? Could a fighter truly rely on the advice he gets from his trainer under these circumstances?

Or……….

What if a promoter orders a trainer NOT to work with a fighter anymore, but to turn his attention toward someone else – maybe a “more promising” guy the promoter wants to put in the ring with that fighter? Doesn't that leave a fighter high and dry?

Hey – sometimes a fighter serves as his own manager, meaning the trainer is the only “buffer” between himself and the promoter. What do we do then? After all, the trainer knows which side his bread is buttered on. And this is often a “push-comes-to-shove” business.

What's interesting is that I've never heard this argument brought up by anyone before. And shame on ME for not thinking to bring it up before this. Indeed, it was a pure revelation to those commissioners I've had the opportunity to mention it to.

But it's not a huge surprise – we have become so de-sensitized to conflicts of interest in this industry that some things never even get a thought.

Yes, I've heard the arguments that represent the other side:

“The trainer has enough integrity that he would not let a conflict get in the way of his duty to the fighter”

. Well, not always. And though I haven't taken a scientific sampling, maybe not even half the time. And besides, how a trainer manages that potential conflict shouldn't be left to the trainer's discretion – it should be governed by rule and law.

“The reality in boxing is that the promoter is really the manager of the fighter anyway, so what's the big deal?”

. Well, that may be reality in some cases, but it's not a reality we should be embracing. In fact, the law tells us that. We should be moving away from such “vertical integration” and toward the policy of separating the roles of promoter and manager.

“Who says the trainer is supposed to be working on behalf of the fighter anyway?”

. Well, I do.  Most state attorneys general would, if they read my rationale. And I'm confident almost any court in the United States, if necessary, would say the same thing.

“If there's disclosure, why shouldn't the fighter make his own decision about who trains him? And a manager can always say no to that kind of thing if there's a problem”

. Yes, but I doubt that fighters – and even their managers – know the ramifications of this kind of deal the way it has been spelled out in this story. And regulators shouldn't be in the business of PUNISHING people for not foreseeing problems
that may arise out of something they haven't foreseen either.

My contention is that, in cases where trainers are working for promoters, and especially where they are taking their money from both ends, a commission may want to strongly consider whether those trainers should even be licensed to work with a fighter. At the very least, it violates the SPIRIT of the Ali Act. And isn't that federal law supposed to mean something?

Just more food for thought.

And as usual, I'm happy to be your chef.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2003 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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