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Articles of 2004

Bowe, Mesi, Holyfield and Boxing Ethics

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Boxing and ethics seem ever at odds, too often remaining disparate terms for reference, alluding to – in a sporting sense – connotations of war and peace.

No doubt, examples of boxing’s ‘inattention’ to ethical prohibitions are all too common and, in fact, manifestly blanket the history (and very fabric) of the sport. One need not essay the catalogue of boxing’s ethical shortcomings; however, within boxing today the figures of heavyweights’ Riddick Bowe, Joe Mesi and Evander Holyfield stand out for those concerned with the topical imperative of boxing and ethics.

So why concern ourselves with ethical responsibilities, when discussing professional boxing? Because history – the historical – only informs by connotation and predictability. At this juncture of our millennial crossing, with the market share and social currency of boxing diminished, boxing needs more than token efforts at systemic reform.

The need for boxing reform is, admittedly, never to be trivialized. But perhaps, within the diaspora that is the community of those constituting the sporting practices and business of boxing there needs to be a common consciousness of a more abstract – ethical – nature.

One might contend, we do need to see boxing in relation to ethical standards as an imperative. Devolved culturally into a niche (periodically relevant) entertainment spectacle, boxing’s status exists on the margins of intermittent (situational) media relevance. In North and South American and most of Europe, since the baby booming aftermath of the WWII generation, boxing like horse racing has – with only two short exceptions – been displaced from the central position of sporting consciousness.

Thus, despite the ‘recreational persona’ of Olympic based amateur boxing, grounding the developmental side of boxing for the last 60 years, the ‘sport’ of boxing remains a wild west like business enterprise, still sustained by gambling wealth, corporate media ratings calculations and sociological (global) poverty. How much more ‘red-light’ could boxing be? To be at a championship prizefight has been, since Sullivan-Corbett, to witness the human stratum of politics, finance, show business – hucksters, hustlers, the ‘big time’ and the self-important – all preening themselves in anticipation that something only marginally legal and poetically martial is about to go down.

And since the Jazz Age flappers and robber-barons watching Dempsey dismantle Luis Firpo or Frank Sinatra and Frankie Carbo taking in a post-Depression Yankee Stadium Joe Louis fight, the notion that boxing is sinful exploitation of condoned violence, for the purposes of ‘regressive’ public psychological consumption remains its (un)written subtext. Day to day the business of boxing identifies to differentiate those who are channeled toward greater exposure, money and titles from those who either fail outright or those who are descending away from profitability and prominence, creating a moral (benefactors vs. vanquished) quandary for the so-called boxing industry. There are only winners and losers, it might be said. And yet it is how the system of boxing deals with the vanquished and the diminishing, to what extent it exploits inability and decline in fighters remains the test for the sport.

Can fighters be saved from exploitation, as readily as medical oversight tries to protect them from direct and unnecessary physical harm?

That’s were ethical conduct has to interpose itself as a safeguard. Don’t some fighters – limited of skills or advanced of age – have to be saved from themselves? One wonders if a figure such as Evander Holyfield – a legend in post-modern boxing – might be just that individual.

Having for so long defied convention in being a small heavyweight in the era of the giants, in overcoming injuries and carving out a stellar, lucrative career, might an over 40 Holyfield now – in 2004 – not be a figure on the margins of ethical tolerance?

Business and maximization of profits cannot be all, if boxing is to be more than a niche sporting industry.

We sound out large conceptual notes, then draw persuasion back toward the particular and the known. If the ‘comeback’ of Riddick Bowe does not alarm those who care about boxing then what could? In the summer of 1998, Riddick Bowe entered estranged wife Judy Bowe’s home, threatened her with a knife, armed additionally with pepper spray, tape and handcuffs, forcing her and their children into a mini van to take them to his home in Maryland. Part of the defenses case was predicated on Bowe having suffered ‘brain damage’ and ‘trauma’ as a prizefighter. We all remember his slurred post-Golota interviews, his in the ring mediocrity, during the very years he should have been demonstrating his prime performances.

His once unguarded, comically infectious Bowe-speak now comes out more as rambling mumbles on topics wavering in and out of relevance; his words almost all having the quality of sardonic reflection, as if even the things he intends to make happen, fights he intends to win, the justification he says his boxing can make out of his life, all define illusion as much as faint desire.

Nearing middle age and being bored should not be justification to re-enter a professional boxing ring.

Curiosity and amusement more than disgust has greeted Bowe’s comeback. Rich Giacetti, Larry Holmes ex-trainer – plays the front man, for Bowe’s comeback, telling those who listen all the proper propaganda. Truth is Bowe can’t even get fit, and has never, since taking the championship from Evander Holyfield, November 13, 1992, exhibited the commitment to even train to approach anything like optimal physical readiness. Added to that he’s an ancient 37.

If those in boxing were to draw a line in the sand of toleration, regardless the criminality of Bowe’s domestic actions, we are left with the implication and legality of that legal characterization, his defense before the stricture of judgement, of his being not responsible for his actions due to neurological trauma to his brain.

So in 2004, he undertakes CAT scans and all manifest issues are voided? The ethical query suggesting itself asks, does he have the legal right to box again, if medically sanctioned? Yes, of course! It’s his personal prerogative. But should he be allowed to box without the boxing community voicing censure? Does his boxing, at an increasingly diminished skill level, not reflect on boxing that avoids sanctioning him? Should the sport of prize fighting not be concerned with ‘the margins’ (old fighters endlessly replaying their failed youth) becoming problematic or tragic?

Should the assertion of the individual’s self-interest trump all other ethical considerations which reflect upon a community of ethics? Again, legally, yes, but what of the stricture ethical reasonableness might enact? Just as the continued presence of a failing Evander Holyfield presents us with another facet of this same question. The matter of a prime -almost 31 – Joe Mesi represents the ethical question from the opposite chronological reference point. Buffalo’s popular Italian contender fought his way to the doorstep of a heavyweight title, only to be ‘undone’ by bleeding within his brain following a torrential fight against ex-cruiserweight champion Vassiliy Jirov in March of 2004, ultimately making him medically unfit to box in most states within the US. And still there was an attempt to circumvent medical standards, to look for promotional access, seeking the return of “Baby” Joe Mesi, top heavyweight contender.

The media and boxing industry response was notification but almost nothing of rebuke or warning condemnation.

Ex-heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield readies himself for a bout, on the Madison Square Garden November 13 Don King heavyweight extravaganza, against Larry Donald. This fight comes on the heels of a savage stoppage loss to a medium hitting, former middleweight champion James Toney.

Generally, there are suggestions that Holyfield should ‘probably’ retire, though no collectivist outcry for him to retire. The boxing industry has not voiced their sense of rejection based on a community ethic safeguarding Evander Holyfield from himself.

Don’t medical tests represent only a guideline threshold for participation? Medical prognostics do not constitute the full range of verification that we can hold a prospective fighter to before taking part in prize fights.

Why shouldn’t boxing attempt the process of policing itself, tempering promotional self-interest (read: exploitation) desperate for fighters with name recognition?

Holyfield and Bowe will probably continue to box beyond the mounting cautions of medial oversight. Can boxing, as a system or loose federation of interested parties, project an ethical group interest in cases like Riddick Bowe or Evander Holyfield or a Joe Mesi, sending the message to this generation of sporting fans that boxing can act upon a standard of decency?

Could that dis-interested protectionism for a greater good – curtailing the vagaries of individual self-interest as a general safeguarding – be construed as ethical; and in fact, can the ‘boxing industry’ make manifest a ‘community of ethics’?

In other words, can boxing pay more than lip service to having a collective conscience, going beyond the special interests of the moment, the self-interest of monetary maximization for the objective good (long term interest) of a beleaguered sport and the exploited (or self-exploiting) individual?

If not, then I ask why not?

I believe boxing can and must.

Cynicism and deferring to what has always been the Darwinian history of boxing, doesn’t have to represent an impenetrable barrier.

Communities can, and do, include variance, a welter of conflicting interests, affirming the rights and freedoms of individuals, while still safeguarding a generalizing integrity.

How much longer can boxing pretend to safeguard its participants?

It doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms to suggest that those in boxing can follow self-interested initiatives and yet hold to ethical standardization, making manifest a community of ethics. Surely, the extreme cases can be held up for censure or condemnation or criticism or peer pressure or whatever ‘critique’ is sufficient to impact upon the integrity of the sport.

Let boxing journalists everywhere begin the refrain!

One might well suggest that the promotion of ethical responsibility is boxing’s greatest moral and actionable challenge.

Its traditional self-deluding rationalism stating, “who’s to say what’s anymore dangerous than anything else” just will no longer serve the long term health of boxing.

Time for the boxing industry to protest itself at all times; time to draw upon common sense and the laws of probability, at least as a guideline for judgement.

One place to start, concurrent with a general and meaningful reform movement, would be a broad based assertion that boxing can have at its core a sense of ethics.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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