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Articles of 2003

WBO BASHERS HAVE FORGOTTEN THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF ALL

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The 46th Round

Here is an official statement from the WBO concerning the protest of David Tua, who wished to be considered “available” to challenge new WBO heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders:

“After careful consideration the World Boxing Organization has denied Team Tua's petition to be considered available to fight WBO Heavyweight Champion Corrie Sanders, while at the same time taking part in an IBF sanctioned elimination bout to choose the mandatory challenger for International Boxing Federation titlist and former WBO Champion Chris Byrd.

According to the WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests, newly crowned Heavyweight Champion Corrie Sanders must defend his title against the best available contender no later than 120 days from the date he won the Championship. Therefore, the bout must take place no later than July 4, 2003. This is due to the fact that Sanders was not the mandatory challenger when he dethroned then Champion Wladimir Klitschko on March 8, 2003 in Hamburg Germany. Klitschko had fulfilled his mandatory obligation when he defeated number one ranked heavyweight Jameel Ben McCline on December 7, 2002.

David Tua was number one in the WBO Monthly Rankings at the time of Sander's victory over Klitschko. He was unavailable to fight for the WBO Heavyweight Title, however, because he was already contracted to face Hasim Rahman in an International Boxing Federation sanctioned elimination bout to be held on March 29, 2003. The winner would then meet IBF Champion Chris Byrd.

The World Boxing Organization cannot freeze its proceedings pending the outcome of the Tua vs. Rahman bout. If Tua wins, and decides to face WBO Champion Sanders, it would take him considerable time to rest and recover from his bout with Rahman and then prepare to face Sanders, thus not complying with the July 4 deadline set by the WBO Rules. If Rahman wins, Tua would lose his position in the rankings and with it the opportunity to face Sanders. It was therefore decided that number two ranked Lamon Brewster was the best available contender to face Sanders in the required time. After contacting all parties involved, a purse bid was announced, as requested by representatives of Champion Corrie Sander and challenger Lamon Brewster. The bid will take place March 28, 2003 at The Crown Plaza Hotel in Hamburg Germany.

Team Tua promoter Cedrik Kushner claimed he was unable to contact WBO President Francisco Valcárcel the week of March 14 to discuss this matter. Yet, even though Valcárcel was in Chicago, Illinois, supervising the bout between WBO Champion Acelino Freitas and challenger Juan Carlos Ramirez, he was in contact with the WBO main offices and could also be reached via his hotel or his cell phone.

“We believe Tua is one of the best heavyweights out there and would like for him to fight for the WBO Title,” stated Valcárcel, “But the WBO Rules are clear in this matter. Sanders must face the best available contender before July 4, 2003.”

As for the comments made by Tua’s co-manager, Martin Pugh, as to their intention of taking legal action to force the WBO into declaring Tua available to fight Sanders, the WBO President said, “As a practicing attorney in state and federal court for over 28 years, I recognize their right to go to court, but we must uphold the WBO bylaws and play by the rules.”

The winning bid for the Corrie Sanders-Lamon Brewster WBO Heavyweight Championship Contest will be announced March 28, 2003.”

Following the WBO's announcement, this press release came from the camp of David Tua:

TEAM TUA PLEADS ITS CASE AGAINST WBO TO SENATOR McCAIN

NEW YORK, NY (March 26, 2003) – Cedric Kushner has personally requested Senator John McCain to investigate the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) exclusion of it's No. 1-rated heavyweight contender, DAVID TUA, from negotiating for a mandatory challenge against WBO heavyweight champion, Corrie Sanders. Kushner is Tua's promoter.

“Something is not Kosher with the way the WBO is giving David Tua the bum's rush,” said Martin Pugh, Tua's co-manager. “That is why Cedric went to a higher authority – Senator McCain.”

The WBO ordered its new heavyweight champion Sanders to defend his title within 120 days of “acquisition of the title, against the Best Classified Contender Available.” The problem is, the WBO is violating its own rules by ignoring its “Best Classified Contender Available” — WBO No. 1 contender Tua. Instead, the WBO has decided that second-best is good enough – Lamon Brewster, the WBO's, No. 2-rated contender.

The WBO released a statement yesterday, which included the following: “The World Boxing Organization cannot freeze its proceedings pending the outcome of the Tua vs. Rahman bout. If Tua wins, and decides to face WBO Champion Sanders, it would take him considerable time to rest and recover from his bout with Rahman and then prepare to face Sanders, thus not complying with the July 4 deadline set by the WBO Rules.”

“Now the WBO has added fortune telling to its purvey,” countered Pugh. “Who are they to predetermine what David's condition will be BEFORE he fights Rahman?!!!

“The WBO declared Tua unavailable without any formal notice to him, his management or his promoter. Tua is available to negotiate and has always been available to negotiate. If Tua is the No. 1 contender and he's available to negotiate, I think it is safe to say Tua is the ‘Best Classified Contender Available.'”

Tua is scheduled to fight Hasim Rahman, at the First Union Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA, March 29. The fight will be televised on HBO's “World Championship Boxing,” beginning at 10 P.M. EST / 7 P.M. PST.

On March 18, Luis Batista Salas, Chairman of the WBO Championship Committee, stated in a letter to Rodney Berman, Sanders' promoter, “We cannot await the results of this [Tua vs Rahman] for considerations of any sort but a Rahman win would not place him in the number one position. The Championship Committee has thus designated now ranked #2 Lamon Brewster for Corrie Sanders next title defense…”

“Salas states in his letter that a Rahman win would not get him rated No. 1, but what Salas conveniently omits is, that if Tua wins, Tua REMAINS the WBO No. 1 contender,” said Pugh.

Salas closed the letter stating that the promoters of the two fighters, Berman and Don King [Brewster's promoter] “Must inform WBO if they wish to negotiate within a 30-day period or go to an immediate Purse Bid.”

On March 19, Dana Jamison, an executive of Don King Productions, faxed a letter to Mr. Salas of the WBO requesting an immediate purse bid. Later that same day, the WBO issued a Notice of Purse Bid, scheduled for March 28 in Hamburg, Germany.

“THIRTY DAYS to negotiate,” continued Pugh. “If the WBO can wait 30 days to negotiate the fight what is the harm in waiting one day to see if Tua is victorious against Rahman on Saturday? I have no problem making Tua's 30-day negotiation period inclusive of the time leading up to the Rahman fight to meet the WBO's deadline. I find it so curious that the WBO goes from a 30-day period of negotiation to a purse bid one day before David's fight against Rahman. David Tua is the ‘Best Classified Contender Available. All we ask is that the WBO adhere to its own rules and respect its own ratings.”

I'm not really sure what they were looking for there. McCain doesn't have a good recent history of bringing Ali Act violations to light. Let's put it this way – he hasn't done it yet. So whether he'll do anything substantive in this case may be completely dependent upon whether there are any cheap headlines that can be garnered.

You know, the WBA has mandated Roy Jones to fight Vitali Klitschko in defense of his heavyweight title, while Klitschko had filed a legal action in an attempt to compel Lennox Lewis to defend his WBC championship against him in a mandatory situation. My understanding is that the action was dropped, but what if it was still alive, Jones committed to a fight with Klitschko, and then Klitschko won a legal decision over Lewis? Going into court would seem to be a clear statement of intention on Klitschko's part, and it could be argued that he would have left Jones high and dry.

On that basis, wouldn't the WBA have been justified in granting Jones the leeway – at least for the time being – to fight an optional defense, while the Klitschko situation was being resolved? I'm not sure there's a definitive answer. But it's a damn good question.

There is a certain similarity in the Tua situation. Clearly, in fighting an IBF-sanctioned fight, there is every intention on his part to become the IBF's mandatory challenger in the heavyweight division. But there is no guarantee that even with a win, Tua would WANT to fight Byrd, whose style confounded him the first time around, if there were another way to go. And there is certainly no guarantee that Tua wouldn't perhaps make more coin fighting Corrie Sanders in South Africa than he could fighting Byrd on U.S. soil, because of the live gate possibilities.

Understandably, he wants to have more than one option open. And just as understandably, Don King wants to narrow those options. If King can put Lamon Brewster in the ring with Sanders, as has now seemingly been mandated, and if Brewster wins, King will have two heavyweight champs under his promotional wing – Brewster and Byrd. And he's still desirous of doing extended business with both Lewis and Jones, who comprise the rest of the heavyweight landscape.

The question I have is – since when did the WBO become such a believer in its own rules? As I look at the super middleweight ratings, I see Freeman Barr as the #1 contender – the mandatory challenger for champion Joe Calzaghe. Barr has been sitting in the #1 position since May 1, 2001. That's almost two years. He has done everything the WBO has asked of him, including fighting for, winning, and defending his NABO belt. He has brought up the issue of this mandatory defense for quite some time, and has made repeated requests for purse bids; something I know because Barr's manager, Steve Canton, is a friend of mine and we have been discussing this for about as far back as I can recall. Yet Barr has never received his opportunity to fight Calzaghe.

Why?

Well, in this case, it's very simple. Because Frank Warren, one of the promoters who has his hands clutched very firmly around the WBO's collective neck, doesn't want to put the fight on. He claims he can't make any money with it. He says he can't sell it to television, etc.

That could all be correct. But you want to know something? That's Frank Warren's problem, if he wants to handle the super middleweight champion, that is. The WBO should not be making it Freeman Barr's problem. Whether Barr is a worthy #1 contender doesn't matter. The fact is – rules are rules – at least that's what the WBO would have you believe – and if Barr is the top contender, he deserves his title shot as per the WBO rules, every but as much as the WBO contends Brewster does. In fact, even more so, because Barr is #1, and has been waiting for so long.

I fully understand the economics of boxing. But TV networks shouldn't be running sanctioning bodies. And neither should promoters.

And if Frank Warren doesn't want to put his fighter into the ring with Freeman Barr, then Joe Calzaghe SHOULD BE STRIPPED OF HIS TITLE.

Under the circumstances, I hardly think the WBO has a case for hiding behind its own rules, and creating what amounts to a bogus purse bid situation, when it appears to be selectively playing to the advantage of one promoter in particular. And it probably shouldn't be allowed to do business in the United States until such time as it is ready to enforce its rules equally.

And gee, while we're at it, can someone tell me the last time Dariusz Michalczewski faced a mandatory challenger, in accordance with WBO “rules”? I must admit – I haven't done a ton of research here, but it certainly hasn't been any time in the last few years. And to my recollection, he NEVER has. Michalczewski has been permitted to fight a roster of stiffs and has-beens while leaving #1 contenders, most recently Antonio Tarver, waiting and waiting and waiting for him to come to the table.

Please understand that none of this is particularly hard to pull off when your promoter/manager (the Boxing Writers Association remembers him as their “Co-Manager of the Year”) is Klaus-Peter Kohl (rhymes with “control”), who is one of the guys in charge at the WBO. That's okay – his head is big enough to wear many hats.

While you're whining about such misbehavior, though, please make note of Rule #20 in the WBO's “Regulations”

“20) EXCEPTION TO THE REGULATIONS

The World Championships Regulations shall be amended at any time, with respect to any aspect, through an exception or special case, provided the amendment is approved by the majority vote of the World Championships Committee and the Executive Committee.”

That's the rule that applies here – get it?

See, I knew there was an explanation somewhere (for the uninitiated, that's called a “tongue-in-cheek” remark).

Naturally, I'm predisposed to feel a certain way about the WBO, since, after all, one of its officials once made the offer to steer one of my fighters straight into a mandatory challenger's position – in exchange for a layoff of ten grand, of course (something that was detailed in our first “Operation Cleanup” book).

So David, you've got someone potentially even better than Senator McCain on your side.

You've got Mr. Jay.

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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