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Articles of 2004

Boxing Body Can Do Nothing About Burton-Augustus Fiasco

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OKEMOS, Mich. — Brad Wright is a paint contractor who once said his sense of authority as Michigan Athletic Board of Control chairman sometimes feels like arriving at work without his brushes and rollers. No matter how plainly he finger-painted the portrait Tuesday of what went wrong in the Courtney Burton-Emanuel Augustus fight two months ago, Wright was powerless to do anything but push for the standard snapshot result, then paint his own picture of a better future.

The Burton-Augustus outcome, if not outcry, finally was put to bed when the Athletic Board of Control — constrained both by its figurehead status and boxing etiquette — voted to take no action on the widely assailed split decision awarded to Burton two months ago. Ultimately, the 5-0 vote was rendered here for the same reason it would be anywhere, because if you start reversing decisions, where do you stop?

Only five members of the nine-person board attended. In fairness, one of the seats is vacant, pending approval of a gubernatorial appointee. And one board member has been out of contact for two years, because it seems no one knows where Beth Lavallee is. No one has a phone number or address, no one has been able to contact her, and she hasn't contacted them. Her board term has expired, but some legal absurdity won't allow the seat to be filled until someone actually finds her.

The absences of Dr. Roy T. Bergman and William A. Phillips hopefully were less Hoffaesque than Lavallee's, though just as unexplained. Before anyone says Michigan did nothing about the Burton-Augustus travesty, bear in mind you were warned in advance that there was no empowerment to do anything. What was the board going to do, call in Emanuel Augustus and have the referee raise his hand and a ring announcer blare into a microphone that last July 6 in Muskegon, Mich., was all just a mix-up because Teddy Atlas said so? Tell Courtney Burton that judges' decisions are binding, except when one a lot of people disliked happened to go his way?

In lieu of upheaval and dangerous precedent, and after consultation with commission chairmen in several other states, Wright led the push not to formally address the fight's outcome. The board still went through the exercise of reviewing the videotape with the sound muted before casting the only vote it could, and taking no action on the decision. That is not to say they took no action. They tried, and the result offered visual confirmation of the bureaucratic cycle that has consumed Michigan boxing.

Wright, whose strength as board chairman has been coalition building and pursuit of legislative reform, announced he has secured independent funding to conduct regular training seminars for state boxing officials. Incredibly, Michigan requires no such pre-licensure training. Wright hopes to use the Burton-Augustus sham as a springboard for better-trained Michigan officials, which wouldn't seem a difficult task.

Pending rules promulgation to make the training mandatory — which could take months or even years for the state to enact, because it requires statutory adjustment — Wright said he would like to send a “strong recommendation” to the board's umbrella regulatory agency, the Department of Labor and Economic Growth, to assign only clinic-certified officials to future Michigan shows.

Andrew Metcalf Jr., director of the Bureau of Commercial Services — the branch of DLEG responsible for hands-on boxing regulation — quickly rebuffed Wright's request.

“Assignment of officials is nothing new,” Metcalf said. “You want us to be selective and to discriminate against licensees. I'm going to tell this board the same thing I've been telling it for 20 years — put your requirements, your criteria, on the books. If there's not some legal guidelines on the books, then it's just a judgment call. It's discriminatory as far as who's allowed to participate, and if we don't have a legal basis, it's not going to happen.”

Metcalf then left the meeting, but not before proclaiming on his way out the door that nothing pertaining to Burton-Augustus would negatively affect Michigan's pursuit of world championship fights, because the sanctioning bodies provide their own officials for those bouts anyway. Michigan officials wouldn't be used, hence the state's collective officiating acumen would not be a factor. Of course, for the Athletic Board of Control to establish legal guidelines for boxing judges requires rule promulgation, which it is not empowered to pursue. Metcalf's agency must do so on the board's behalf. Yet Metcalf himself demanded the board do something he knows it can't — but his state agency can — before his staff will enforce standards on assignments of officials.

Any neutral observer would have left with the same impression: Regardless what happened in the Burton-Augustus fight, the biggest concern is that bureaucratic limits will not allow Michigan to take appropriate formal action to prevent future replays of the same scenario.

The legislative proposal to overhaul Michigan boxing, stuck in state Senate committee after 106-1 passage in the House of Representatives early this year, increasingly appears to be the last-ditch hope for a once-great boxing state. It would create a Michigan Boxing Commission to replace the Athletic Board of Control, with real regulatory powers the current board doesn't possess, and increased burden on the state to explain whenever it does not adopt a stance taken by the proposed commission.

Meantime, Michigan boxing is stuck in bureaucratic hell that has made it a laughing stock in the sport. The industry does not regard Michigan as a good place to do business, and it seems every time the state tries to take corrective action, it backfires. Classic example: In October 2000, as she entered the ring for a fight on the Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota undercard, Laila Ali was informed she would have to fight three-minute rounds, as per state rules. Ali protested, citing the industry standard of two-minute rounds for women. After a lengthy debate between ringside officials and inspectors, embarrassingly caught by television cameras, the state acceded to Ali's wishes, and the bout was contested using two-minute rounds.

In the aftermath, the Athletic Board of Control requested from its state umbrella organization a rules promulgation to adopt two-minute rounds for women's boxing. The proposal met little resistance until it got run up the pole at the Department of Consumer and Industry Services (the precursor to today's DLEG), where someone freshly instructed in political correctness proclaimed that adopting two-minute rounds for women would be sex discrimination. The proposal was dropped.

Today, in 49 of 50 states, women's professional boxing is contested using two-minute rounds. But women better come to Michigan prepared to fight three-minute rounds, or don't bother coming here at all.

It all chips at the foundation. Some women won't fight in Michigan because of the longer rounds. Some managers won't allow their fighters to come to Michigan because of officiating concerns. Even some television networks apparently aren't anxious to originate programming from Michigan either, according to Gerald Evans of 1 World Productions Inc., who has been the state's most active promoter this decade. “I had a conversation with an official at a television network shortly after that fight,” Evans said, referring to Burton-Augustus, “and I was told, 'If you want dates, find a different place to promote.'”

Metcalf was correct that Burton-Augustus officiating, in and of itself, probably would not deter a promoter from bringing a championship card to Michigan. But that, combined with the other factors, may. Except for cards featuring Michigan native Floyd Mayweather, there hasn't been a championship bout in Michigan since Acelino Freitas-Lemuel Nelson, before a handful of fans at Detroit's Fox Theatre in 2000. If a promotable Michigan commodity surfaces, there will be a promoter anxious to test the market. But failing that, Michigan has dried up as a championship venue.

What happened July 6 was not a championship card. It was just a clowning fighter, Emanuel Augustus, who deserved better than the 99-90 and 97-92 shaftings he got on two scorecards, and had a general public willing to stand up on his behalf and say so. It was a small city where fights rarely are conducted, playing host to a controversy which held up a mirror to an entire statewide industry.

The Michigan Athletic Board of Control conducted a meeting on the matter in which it couldn't vote to overturn the decision because of the precedent it would set, couldn't vote to sanction the judges for voting their opinions, and couldn't promulgate a rule to mandate training of officials to minimize the possibility of it happening again.

Wright vowed to push forward with sponsoring training seminars, regardless whether they ever are made mandatory, or ever are considered by the state in assignments of officials. He hopes the advancement of an officials training program is the lasting legacy created by Burton-Augustus. But he also doesn't need anyone to draw him a picture to understand that Michigan boxing bureaucracy might make something as basic as training seminars unworkable, and that the only legacy left by Burton-Augustus could be a truly terrible decision.

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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