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Articles of 2005

Don King Pleads Not Guilty

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The decision was split, six, five and one even, but it was only a temporary reprieve for Don King against the evildoers of justice aligned against him. The federal government had accused the flamboyant boxing promoter of conspiring to defraud Lloyd’s of London of $350,000; now all the Washington, D.C. legal suits had to do was find 12 Americans who could closet themselves in a closed room and find anybody guilty of robbing an insurance company. A bank or a liquor store, sure. But an insurance company?

When the smoke had cleared at the 15th floor courtroom of the United States Courthouse in Lower Manhattan, six people thought the government had proved its nine charges of fraud, five had sided with King, and one was undecided. Both sides had been bloodied. Neither was happy when U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence McKenna declared a mistrial on Nov. 17, 1995.

“I’ve got nothing to say now,” said King, who did not invite the jury to join him on an all-expenses paid vacation to some exotic location. When another jury acquitted him of 23 counts of Federal tax evasion in 1984, King took those twelve discerning folks on a luxurious junket to London to see the Frank Bruno-Tim Witherspoon heavyweight championship fight. “I’m going to get my head and thoughts together. I will have a lot to say, man,” he said this time, while practically ignoring the hung jury. Then he went off to do lunch in Brooklyn.

Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney for the Southern District, was not so reticent. “No questions,” she snapped. “But I will tell you this. It is our present intention to seek a prompt retrial of the defendant.”

Like an old fighter who does not know when to quit, the inexhaustible government agents signed King for a rematch in 1998, with the same multiple charges of bilking the British insurance giant out of $350,000 by padding non-refundable training expenses for a fight that never happened. This time the feds included King’s promotional company, Don King Production, Inc., as a co-defendant.

Four months later, twelve of King’s peers voted for acquittal. With one lone holdout for guilty, the same jury informed the judge that it could not bring in a verdict concerning King’s company; it was unchangingly hung. The towel came flying in from the feds’ corner; the government said it would not retry the company.

King, who had been reading a bible while the verdict was announced, rushed the jury box. “Thank you all very much,” he said. “When I heard the verdict, my liver quivered and my heart palpitated.”

One lady juror leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “I just want to say goodbye,” she said.

While King was signing autographs, merrily and loudly, he spotted a trio of security guards. Rushing over, he hugged one of them, “I’m free, brother,” he said. “I’m free again.”

King had taken his jury from the IRS trial to London; he took this latest one on vacation in the Bahamas. From there, he flew them to Atlanta to watch Evander Holyfield successfully defend his WBA/IBF heavyweight championships against Vaughn Bean. As he was rounding them in the Bahamas for their trip to Georgia, King asked them if they had a good time.

“Well,” whined one of the male jurors, “I had hoped to do some fishing.”

Spinning around, King shouted at one of his attendants: “Get that man a boat!” The rest of the jurors waited while the now-appeased angler got in a few hours of fishing.

What follows is what occurred during one day early in the trials of King and the tribulations of the Fed attorneys . . .

NEW YORK, July 1994 – The judge was 45 minutes late, but Don King had already spotted the courtroom sketch artist. As Judge Nina Gershon took her seat, the defendant, his hair as stiffly erect as a Welsh Guard, struck the proper pose: head bowed slightly, hands school boyishly clasped in front, the picture of humble innocence. The artist's pencil swirled swiftly, capturing it all. King nodded at the judge and smiled.

In less than 15 minutes last Thursday King's arraignment in New York on nine charges of wire fraud was over. His press conference orations should be so short.

“How do you plead?” said the petite judge.

“Not guilty, your honor,” said King, his famous voice unwavering, strong but with no hint of anger at the US government's latest bid to narrow his world to a Spartan nine by 12 cubicle in a federal retirement home for crooks. Probably on the advice of his attorney, he did not add a plug for the fights he promoted in Bismarck, North Dakota last night. Judge Gershon did not look like a boxing fan.

After two years of intense investigation, and an exhaustive study of the 250,000 documents the FBI and IRS scooped up from King's New York headquarters, it had come to this: Uncle Sam's cops claim King swindled Lloyds of London out of $350,000 with a phony insurance claim.

“He stole from an insurance company? That's what the Feds got him on?” said Max, a Manhattan cabbie. “They should give the bum a medal. Them creeps been robbing me for years.”

Max, apparently, is not aware of the long arm of the law’s dismal won-loss record against the elusive boxing promoter. The last time the cops made a charge against King that stuck was in 1967, but then they found him still standing over the warm body. When a man named Sam Garrett was slow in paying $600 he owed, King beat him to death. For trying to collect money owed in an improper manner, King served three years and 11 months at Ohio's Marion Prison, where he learned to misquote Freud and Voltaire and Nietzsche and that ilk.

Then, too, the guys wearing the badges that nailed King that time were locals, Cleveland cops with long memories; they had not been happy when the then numbers entrepreneur walked away from another killing in 1954 after a successful plea of self defense. That time King shot and killed a man he said was trying to rob his house. As the 63-year-old promoter likes to say, and does often, “Only in America.”

Unlike the Cleveland gendarmes, the Feds have not been so fortunate. While King savaged just about everyone he touched in boxing, three grand jury investigations, an FBI sting operation, and a hung jury on the same charges did little more than add to the national deficit. Laughing, King likes to bray: “I think I'm destined to be investigated until I die.”

The IRS thought they had him cold in 1985. He was indicted on 23 counts of federal income tax evasion. King's secretary went into the slammer; King walked. William Tell the IRS wasn't; they missed the apple, hit the kid. To show his gratitude, King invited all the jurors who acquitted him to the Tim Witherspoon-Frank Bruno fistfight in London that year; some of them went, although they never got to see Bruno play Juliet in a pink dress.

Showing they can learn from past mistakes, the Feds are keeping this one simple. Insiders say there is enough evidence and witnesses to keep King in court for the rest of his life. The Feds don't want him in court; they want him in jail. There are, for example, at least three separate cases of insurance fraud; Uncle Sam settled for one. As a Chinese cop once said, a sentence of a 1000 years begins with the first guilty verdict.

According to the indictment, King submitted a bogus claim to Lloyd's after scheduled fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Harold Brazier was cancelled when a sparring partner cut Chavez's nose. The Feds contend King drew up a phony contract between himself and Chavez, rewrote a rider, and then claimed he paid Chavez $350,000 in non-refundable training expenses.

King's mistake, if it turns out that way, was filing his claim in nine separate faxes from his New York office to London. You have to wonder what he would have been charged with if the claims had been hand delivered. You also have to wonder if anyone at Lloyd's ever reads the sports pages. They paid $350,000 for training expenses. Where did they think he was going to train? In Monte Carlo? For a year?

No matter. Lloyd's isn't on trial for being dumb, although you have to wonder now not if they would have paid Betty Grable if she had sawed a leg off a manikin and shipped it to them, but how much.

If King is wondering the same thing, he isn't saying. The man of a million words has thrown away half his vocabulary. Faced with a five years and a $250,000 fine for each of the nine counts, King isn't making any waves; he's only saying nice things about people, even the six ex-employees who are supposed to be blowing the whistle on him.

“I'm only here to say I am innocent,” said King after Judge Gershon turned him loose to wander through the U.S. District Courthouse in New York in search of the office where he could post bail. His bail was set at $250,000, but Judge Gershon told him it was personal recognizance bond, which meant King could just sign for it. Judge Gershon forgot to tell King where he was supposed to go.

“This is a great country,” King said as he wandered from floor to floor in search of the elusive bonding department. “I've done nothing to warrant these charges. I believe in the American system of justice. Like Patrick Henry, I have put my liberty where my mouth is. Where the hell is this place? I've got to catch a plane to North Dakota.”

Finally King disappeared into a small room. A large entourage trailing in his wake began to follow him in. “Hey, wait a minute,” said Fast Eddie Schuyler of the Associated Press. “That's the men's room. That's beyond the call of duty. The AP doesn't pay me enough to follow him in there.”

Even after the door swung closed, you could hear King’s voice from inside. “Only in America,” he was telling someone.

(Special to TheSweetScience.com from the Pat Putnam Classic Series. Portions of this article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated.)

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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