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Articles of 2003

THE INSTANT SANCTIONING BODY

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The 20th Round

Hey – would you like to be a mover and shaker in the world of boxing? Controlling world ratings? Pulling the strings on world championship fights? “Continental” championship fights? “Americas” championship fights? Or, if you really want to
get fancy, “Continental Americas” championship fights? AND be a world traveler to boot?

Wouldn't you like to be able to flip a switch and exert influence on the natural order of things in boxing? Would it be an adrenaline rush to have the Kings, Arums, Kushners, Warrens, and Kohls licking your boots?

Well, I don't know what you're waiting for.

All you have to do is start a sanctioning body and take it from there.

Tom Mishou, the Georgia commission administrator who has something called the International Boxing Union headquartered in his state, says, “All you need, I guess, is to incorporate and you can call yourself a sanctioning body.”

You don't even have to go THAT far.

Let me show you how easy it is. After class, I'll even sell you the complete startup kit (it's a mere $34.95).

Our story begins in May of 1994. At the time I was working with a partner, Steve Benson, and we had a company called Whirlwind Entertainment that was getting ready to promote a June 6 boxing show at Casino Magic in Mississippi as part of a multi-fight deal we had just signed.

These shows were low-budget, which appealed to the casino. Nonetheless, we felt it incumbent upon ourselves to make at least a small splash, inasmuch as names like Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Oscar De la Hoya, and Roy Jones had fought at the property the year before, when I served as the boxing consultant.

If we could get someone with a name to fight for chump change, and promote it as some kind of title fight, it would help our cause in this first show out of the box.

We knew it would be nice to have a former heavyweight champion, and there were several around at the time who would have fit our needs – people like Tim Witherspoon, Trevor Berbick, Tony Tubbs.

The guy we finally settled on was former WBA champ Mike Weaver, for a couple of important reasons – one, we were promoting this as “D-Day at the Bay”, and he was an ex-Marine, and two, because he held the heavyweight title of the National Boxing Association (NBA) – not to be confused with the National Boxing Association that the WBA grew out of, but a rather new organization that was run by a gentleman I knew in Florida named Irv Abramson.

We got in touch with Don Manuel, who was managing Weaver, and struck a deal rather quickly. Somebody we knew had the bright idea that this fight, which we were producing for an independent television broadcast, could be sold to hospitality outlets across the country along a Hispanic bar network via closed circuit hookup. But we would have to have Latins in our main events, preferably Mexicans.

Weaver's name value satisfied the Casino Magic people. Now, to accommodate the TV “gurus” we had met, we set out to insert a Mexican heavyweight as an opponent.

Well, you didn't exactly have to do a Google search to find one, because there were only a few of them out there. Most readily available was Ladislao Mijangos, whose claim to fame was a one-round KO of Jimmy Ellis (not the former heavyweight champ but the ordinary Idaho native), who himself had knocked out Tony Tubbs in one round a year before.

Mijangos brought a 23-16 record with him, and he really couldn't fight. But he was Mexican. So we had a match, for Weaver's NBA title.

At least that's what we thought.

As my partner was addressing the sanctioning details, up stepped Abramson. On May 20, he sent a fax with the sanctioning application, in which he had filled in the fees. The sanctioning fee he was demanding was $3500.

THIRTY-FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!

Well, there were no set standard sanctioning fees that we knew of, and in those days there certainly were no websites that were going to feed us this kind of information. But to give you an idea of how ridiculous this was, right now the International Boxing Federation, for example, charges promoters a base fee of $3500 for its title fights (plus 3% of the fighters' purses). And there is no argument about the fact that the IBF carries real weight, while the NBA didn't.

Furthermore, to the best of my recollection (don't make me go into storage to find the contracts), we were paying Weaver $10,000 and Mijangos $3500. That's $13,500 total, meaning that it was equal to a whopping 26% of the main event purses, not to mention 12% of the site fee we were getting.

Over the next few days, I sat down to review these numbers with Benson. And I came to the conclusion that it might not make any sense to go with the NBA sanction. To be honest, I was expecting to pay something in the neighborhood of $1500, including the supervisor's fee. Anything more than that would be out of the question.

We started thinking about alternative scenarios, including creating a title from scratch. In the meantime, Benson kept going back and forth with Abramson over the sanctioning fee. And Abramson was not budging.

On May 25, Abramson sent another fax, asking us to send back the application, along with the fees. Benson called him to reiterate that the sanctioning fee was somewhat high, at the same time still hoping to reach some kind of accord.

Well, a couple of days later David Hilbert, the entertainment director for the casino and our boxing liaison there, called us. It seems Abramson had sent the following letter to him:

Dear Mr. Hilbert,

Due to a breakdown in communications with promoter Steve Benson and Whirlwind Entertainment Group Inc., we hereby remove any and all sanctions by the National Boxing Association of the scheduled June 6th, 12-round bout between Mike Weaver and Ladislao Mijangos, as a world championship bout.

Please cease and desist any and all references, promotions and publicity relating to the National Boxing Association as the sanctioning body. This is not an NBA sanctioned championship bout.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter by Fax or return mail.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Irv Abramson

President and Chief Executive Officer

It was copied to Billy Lyons, head of the Mississippi State Athletic Commission.

Of course, there was no reference in the letter, nor had there been any in conversations with Benson, about Mijangos not being in the NBA ratings, or being unsuitable as a “championship opponent”. Abramson was willing to bypass those ratings issues, so long as he got his money. And as he didn't think he was going to get it, he was going to try and scare somebody.

At that point it was a good thing that (a) we had a healthy relationship with the casino (at least we did then), and (b) that no one there had ever heard of the National Boxing Association to begin with. Otherwise, Abramson's attempt to sabotage the fight card may have hurt us very badly.

Naturally, there was an easy decision to make – I figured that since the NBA wasn't well-recognized or well-respected, it wouldn't make much difference if there were another minor sanctioning body willing to work with us. And really, from there my rationale became, why pay any sanctioning fees at all? Why not start our own organization out of thin air? Who would really care?

So that's what we decided to do. But we had only about 10 days to go until the fight, so we really had to swing into action.

Benson quickly designed a logo for the new “organization” on his computer. He had another company called “Florida Boxing Authority”, so we decided to call this the “International Boxing Authority”. He put the logo on a disk, sent it to the belt maker in New Jersey, and we had an IBA championship belt within days.

Any of our promotional materials that mentioned the NBA were simply changed to read “IBA”.

We informed Weaver that he was now the IBA's heavyweight champion of the world, and let Mijangos' agent know that his man was now fighting for a different belt. It didn't seem to matter to either of them.

In the 48 hours before the fight was to take place, I went to work drafting a constitution and a set of championship rules and regulations for the International Boxing Authority. All of it was loosely based on what I had compiled for the Universal Boxing Association (where I was ratings chairman) six or seven years before.

Then I put together the “official” IBA world ratings. I had included a provision in the rules that allowed anyone in the Top 20 to fight for a world title. Mijangos was conveniently installed as the #19 heavyweight contender. My ratings committee consisted of whoever happened to drift into my hotel suite during this time.

When we were finished, we made sure we put all of this in the hands of the Mississippi State Athletic Commission. To be honest, I don't think we even created a corporation for the IBA.

We also recruited a lawyer we knew in Boca Raton to be our IBA “president”. We flew him to the fight on about a day's notice, ostensibly to “supervise” the proceedings. We sat him in the front row, right near the owner of the casino and right
behind Billy Lyons.

It was just like the real thing.

And I'll tell you what – when our ring announcer, Mark Beiro, blurted out that this fight was for the “IBA heavyweight championship of the world”, no one questioned what we were doing, no one laughed, no one asked “what happened to the NBA?”, no one asked for their money back, and no one avoided the blackjack tables after the fight because of it. In fact, to the unsuspecting observer, this was the first heavyweight title fight in the state of Mississippi since 1889, when John L. Sullivan KO'd Jake Kilrain in 75 rounds for the bare knuckle crown!

From what I can recollect, no one from the commission batted an eye. We even used their judges.

And our belt looked much nicer than the NBA's.

As for the fight itself, it wasn't much. Weaver stopped Mijangos in the second round of an uneventful affair.

In doing so, he retained his IBA title.

Of course, that was neither here nor there, because the IBA faded into memory. We didn't need to use it again. Weaver was not the worse for it. Abramson never stripped him, so he went on to make two more NBA title defenses and Abramson collected two more sanctioning fees.

The point of all this is, we were able to start an organization and create a title – just like that. If we did it, others can do the same. Just like that.

So when you see those “title fights” from people like the IBO, IBC, WBF, IBU, WBU, etc., you'll take note that it doesn't require a rocket scientist, or any degree of organization, to be able to step forward and call somebody a “world champion”. All it takes is the desire to do it and a little sense of humor.

And when you see something called the “IBA” – another ersatz group promoting out there on the ESPN telecasts, please remember – that ain't us.

No – we're the ones who had “credibility”.

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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