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Articles of 2009

GEORGE KIMBALL RETURNS TO TSS!

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DUBLIN – Trailing by margins of six and seven points on two scorecards, Ireland’s Bernard Dunne rallied to knock out Ricardo Cordoba with a second remaining in the 11th round to win the WBA 122-pound title before a delirious crowd of his countrymen, touching off a night of wild celebration in his native city, where a sellout crowd of over 9,000 had packed the O2 Arena to christen the new venue with its first-ever boxing event.

With the three-knockdown rule in effect, Dunne had earlier barely survived the fifth, in which Cordoba had twice leveled him, but the Irishman was able to survive by clinching his way through the final minute of the stanza.

Dunne had scored a flash knockdown of his own in the third, but still faced a significant deficit on the scorecards prior to his late-round rally against the badly-tiring champion. Dunne had already put Cordoba down twice in the 11th before administering a flurry that served as the coup de grace. Although Cordoba’s final trip to the canvas was preceded by two right hands and a left hook, none of the punches landed with particularly lethal force. (“I think he was more exhausted than anything else,” said Dunne.) In any case, the instant Cordoba crashed to the floor, Hubert Earle immediately signaled the bout at an end.

As it turned out, the Canadian referee’s intercession was somewhat superfluous, since the spent Cordoba spent the next several minutes on the canvas and was in the end taken out of the ring on a stretcher, hooked up to an oxygen mask. Dr. Jack Phillips, the attending neurologist, reported that the Panamanian had regained consciousness and that there was no evidence of brain damage, but Cordoba was nonetheless transported to Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital and held overnight for observation.

Dunne, who also appeared to have been vitiated by the ordeal, also had oxygen administered in his dressing room. Both combatants will likely face some stitchery as well: Dunne bled from the fourth round on from a nasty cut above his left eye, while Cordoba was cut at the corner of his right eye late in the fifth.

It was Dublin’s first world title fight in 14 years, and the first ever in which a Dublin native had won a world championship in his hometown.  The title, in this case, was the WBA’s “regular” version, since the organization recognized Cordoba’s countryman Celestino Cabellero as “super champion,” but in this particular instance the distinction was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that in their only head-to-head meeting (in 2004 in Panama City) the “regular” champion had knocked down the “super champion” on the way to a convincingly one-sided win.

Dunne’s victory came just hours after Ireland’s national rugby team had defeated Wales in Cardiff to claim its first Grand Slam in sixty years, but within the confines of the O2 the euphoria of that victory had all but evaporated when Cordoba scored his two sixth-round knockdowns.

Although Cordoba, a southpaw, is normally a counterpuncher who prefers to sit back and wait for his opponent to make a careless mistake, the memory of Dunne’s ignominious first-round TKO loss to Spain’s Kiko Garcia two years ago resonated strongly with the Panamanian’s camp, who made a collective decision to test the Irishman’s chin early with a display of aggression – and it almost paid dividends.

“I had a bad round,” conceded Dunne. “He’s a tough son of a bitch, but I was all right when I boxed.”

Indeed, Dunne (27-1) climbed back into the fight by patiently wearing Cordoba down by boxing behind his jab.

With his gritty come-from-behind win, Dunne not only banished the lingering stigma of his loss to Martinez in that European title fight, but marked him a major player in the junior featherweight division.  Saturday night’s events also justified the faith of Irish promoter Brian Peters, who had signed Dunne as a young amateur eight years ago, packed him off to America for a four-year apprenticeship under Freddie Roach, nurtured him through a series of European bouts, stuck with him after the Martinez debacle, and ultimately lured the title fight to Dublin by outbidding all competition for what Cordoba and his handlers undoubtedly expected to be a relatively effortless defense.

Cordoba, whose only previous loss had been a split decision to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in Bangkok, dropped to 34-2-2. The losses and the draws (both to Wladimir Sidorenko in Germany) all came in road games. He had never before been knocked out.

Andy Lee, who was added to the Dublin card on short notice after his scheduled fight against Antwun Echols imploded, along with the rest of Irish Ropes’ March 16 Madison Square Garden card, had an unexpectedly rough night against awkward German Alex Sipos. Although Lee (17-1) won handily (99-91 on the scorecard of referee Emile Tiedt), he was extended the 10-round distance for the first time in his career.

More ominously, the Emanuel Steward-trained Kronk middleweight was cut above the right eye in the opening round. Lee, who hadn’t fought since last July after undergoing corrective surgery which was supposed to prevent a recurrence of precisely this injury, in all likelihood faces another protracted recuperation.

Sipos (19-5-2), who had sparred with Lee at stablemate Wladimir Klitschko’s camp in Austria last year, had taken the fight on short notice, and proved to be a troublesome foe indeed in the early going, but the German, who had had to lose a pound and a half at the previous day’s weigh-in, appeared to weaken down the stretch.

The turning point in the bout had come in the sixth, when Lee slipped one of Sipos’ lunging charges to land a counter left followed by a short right that floored him and brought the irish crowd back into the fight.

Irish lightweight champion Andy Murray of Cavan won the vacant EU belt in a lopsided decision over Spaniard Daniel Rasilla.  There were no knockdowns, but Murray dominated, 119-109 on the card of Danish judge Freddy Christensen, and still carried the day on those of Hungary’s Bela Florian (116-112) and Poland’s Leszek Janowiak (115-113).  It was the 14th win in as many tries for the unbeaten Murray, now 14-0, while Rasilla fell to 12-2.

Jim Rock (30-4), the 37 year-old grandfather who has held Irish titles at four weights, ranging from 154 to 175, extended his six-year, nine-fight winning streak by outpointing rugged Italian Alessio Furlan in their super-middleweight 10-rounder. Rock rarely has an easy time of it, and this one was no exception, but he prevailed by a 97-94 margin on referee David Irvine’s scorecard. The result gave Furlan (21-12-5), who had earlier lost to John Duddy and Matthew Macklin, a personal Dublin Hat Trick.

Latvian Valentins Morzovs (2-0-1) battled Dundalk’s Michael Kelly (7-0-1) to a draw in their lightweight prelim, as Tiedt returned a 38-38 scorecard. In another four-rounder, Morzov’s middleweight countryman Janis Chernouskis (3-6) scored what on another night might have been a significant upset with a third-round TKO of Anthony Fitzgerald (2-1).

The inaugural card at the O2 was augmented by a trio of amateur bouts, the first of which saw Paddy Barnes, the Olympic light-flyweight bronze medalist from Belfast, post an 11-1 win in his three-rounder against Jim Linden.  Mayo 140-pounder Ray Moylette, the gold medalist at the World Youth Championships, posted a hard-fought victory over Rob Gorman, while in a rematch from the Women’s World Championships, Irish lightweight Katie Taylor left  American Caroline Barry’s face a bloody mess in rolling up a 27-3 win over four rounds.

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JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Bernard Dunne, 121 ¾, Neilstown, Ireland KO’d  Ricardo Cordoba, 124 ¼, San Miguelito, Panama  (11) (Wins WBA Title)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Andy Lee, 162, Limerick, Ireland dec.  Alexander  Sipos, 163, Munich, Germany (10)

Jim Rock, 163, Dublin, Ireland dec. Alessio Furlan, 163 ¼, Rocco Canavese, Italy (10)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Janis Chernouskis, 159 ¾, Tukurns, Latvia TKO’d Anthony Fitzgerald, 160 ½, Dublin (3)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Andy Murray, 135, Cavan, Ireland dec.  Daniel Rasilla, 134 ½, Santander, Spain (12) (Wins vacant EU Title)

Michael Kelly, 135, Dundalk, Ireland, drew with Valentins Morozovs, 131 ¼, Olaine, Latvia (4)

(Amateurs)

Light welterweights: Ray Moylette, 139 ¼, Westport, Ireland dec.  Rob Gorman, 140, Balbriggan, Ireland (3)

Lightweights: Katie Taylor, 135 ½, Bray, Ireland dec. Caroline Barry, 133, Boulder, Co. (4)

Light Flyweights: Paddy Barnes, 106, Belfast dec, Jim Linden, 106, Belfast (3)

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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Articles of 2009

No One Is Leaving This Stage Of Negotiations Looking GOLDEN

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Early in his political career, the young Lyndon Baines Johnson served as a congressional aide to Rep. Richard Kleberg, the wealthy owner of the King Ranch who was elected to seven consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, at least in part because he often ran unopposed.

One year an upstart rival politician we'll call Joe Bob had the temerity to challenge Kleberg in the Democratic primary, resulting in the convocation of the Texas congressman's staff to plot an election strategy. Several ideas were kicked around before Kleberg himself came up with a brainstorm.

“Why don't we start a rumor that he [copulates with] sheep?” proposed the politician.

This was a bit over the top, even for Lyndon Johnson. The future president leapt to his feet and said, incredulously, “But you know Joe Bob don't [copulate with] sheep!”

“Yeah,” replied the congressman, “but watch what happens when the son of a bitch has to stand up and deny it!”

******

Events of the past week or two have seen the Floyd Mayweather camp adopt a similar tactic with regard to Manny Pacquiao.  But if introducing what would appear to be a red-herring issue — the debate over drug-testing procedures — to the negotiating process was intended as a negotiating ploy, it would appear for the moment to have backfired.  The idea might have been to force Pacquiao to go on the defensive, but Pac-Man instead responded with his stock in trade, the counterpunch — in this case the multi-million dollar defamation suit he filed against the Mayweathers, pere et fils,, with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

In boxing even more than in life, you never say never, but you'd have to say that Pacquiao-Mayweather is a dead issue right now, at least in its March 13 incarnation. Bob Arum says Pacquiao is prepared to move along to another opponent, and Mayweather is supposedly looking at Matthew Hatton in England.

We'll believe that when we see it, for at least three reasons: (1) There would hardly seem to be enough money in that one to make it worth Floyd's time, (2) He's going to have to put so much into preparing a defense to this lawsuit that he mightn't have time to train and (3) He'd get a better workout if he stayed in Vegas and boxed one of Uncle Roger's girl opponents.

*****

Colleagues on this site have already done a good job of dissecting this process. Ron Borges is absolutely correct in noting that in the midst of all the posturing that's gone on, you'd be a fool to accept at face value anything coming out of any of the parties' mouths. And Frank Lotierzo is spot on in noting that if you had absolutely no desire to actually get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao but were still looking to save face, you'd do pretty much exactly what Mayweather has done. Which is to say, talk tough while you get others to run interference with a series of actions seemingly calculated to ensure that the fight doesn't come off.

But left almost unscathed in all of this heretofore has been the convoluted role played by Golden Boy — by CEO Richard Schaefer, by the company's namesake Oscar the Blogger, GBP's subsidiary enterprise, The Ring, and at least a few of the lap-dogs and lackeys whose favor GPB has cultivated elsewhere in the media.

In late March of 2008, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah appeared at a New York press conference to announce a fight between them in Las Vegas two months later. As it happened, the BALCO trial had gotten underway out in California that week. That day I sat with Judah and his attorney Richard Shinefield as they explained that they intended to ask that both boxers agree to blood testing in the runup to the fight. Citing Mosley's history with BALCO and its products The Cream and The Clear (which Shane claimed Victor Conte had slipped him when he wasn't looking), Shinefield and Zab, noting that Nevada drug tests were limited to urinalysis, proposed that the supplementary tests be administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Want to know what Richard Schaefer's response to that was?

“Whatever tests [the NSAC] wants them to take, we will submit to, but we are not going to do other tests than the Nevada commission requires,” said Schaefer. “The fact is, Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one.”

But the fact is that Mosley had a confirmed history as a cheater. Manny Pacquiao does not. Yet in the absence of a scintilla of evidence or probable cause, less than two years later Schaefer was howling that the very integrity of the sport would be at risk unless Pacquiao submitted to precisely the same sort of testing he had rejected for Mosley.

And you thought it was Arum who was famous for saying “Yeah, but yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth!”

Schaefer, by the way, defended his 180-degree turnabout by saying he is now better educated on the issue. He couldn't resist aiming a harpoon at the media by adding that many sportswriters “don't know the difference between blood and urine testing.”

Don't know how to break this to you, Richard, but sportswriters, who have had to deal with this stuff for the past twenty years, probably know more about drug-testing procedures than any other group you could name.

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Now, the reasonable assumption would be that by assuming the role of the point man in this unseemly mess, Schaefer was insulating his boss (De La Hoya) and his fighter (PBF) by keeping their fingerprints off it while he made a fool of himself publicly conducting this snide little campaign.  

And yes, Money would have stayed out of the line of fire had not a two-month old, expletive-filled rant in which he described the Philippines as the world's foremost producer of performance-enhancing drugs not exploded on the internet at the most inopportune moment. That the lawsuit was filed less than 24 hours after “Floyd Meets the Rugged Man” overtook the Tiger Watch probably wasn't a coincidence.

And we're assuming that this Dan Petrocelli, the lawyer who filed Pacquiao's suit, knows what he's doing, because if there were an even one-zillionth chance that somebody could credibly link Manny to PEDs, then it was a pretty dumb thing to do. You could ask Roger Clemens about that.  Clemens' transformation from Hall of Famer-in-waiting to nationwide laughingstock didn't come from the Mitchell Report. It came from his wrongheaded decision to file a lawsuit against Brian McNamee, which in turn threw everything open to the discovery process.

*****

De La Hoya, in the meantime, was playing both sides of the fence. He let Schaefer play Bad Cop as he distanced himself from the negotiating process, but simultaneously was sniping away at Pacquiao from his First Amendment-protected perch as a Ring.com blogger.

“If Pacquiao, the toughest guy on the planet, is afraid of needles and having a few tablespoons of blood drawn from his system, then something is wrong…  I'm just saying that now people have to wonder: 'Why doesn't he want to do this?' Why is [blood testing] such a big deal?' wrote Oscar the Blogger. “A lot of eyebrows have been raised. And this is not good.”

Ask yourself this: Exactly what caused those eyebrows to be raised, other than the innuendo coming straight from Oscar's company?

Providing De La Hoya with a forum from which to dispense propaganda  only begins to illustrate the hopelessly compromised position from which The Ring continues to operate. They might as well give Schaefer a column, too, while they're at it.

Nearly seven months have elapsed since we last visited the Ring/Golden Boy relationship, and at the risk of winding Nigel up, it might be useful here to note that in the midst of last June's discourse, The Ring's editor offered a laundry list of the magazine's covers since the De La Hoya takeover as a demonstration of Golden Boy's restraint.

After listing them, Nigel Collins wrote “that's 28 covers over the course of 21 issues, of which Top Rank had 12 fighters, as opposed to eight for Golden Boy and eight for other promotional entities. Obviously, The Ring has shown no bias to Golden Boy when it comes to magazine covers.”

It had never even been suggested that the conflict of interest extended to the magazine playing favorites in choosing its cover subjects, but since Nigel brought it up it is probably worth noting now that of those eight covers given over to “other promotional entities,” two were of David Haye, whose promoter was properly listed as “Hayemaker,” but who had also signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy in May of 2008. (Just last month GBP issued a release in De La Hoya's name in which it described itself as “Golden Boy Promotions, the United States promoter of World Boxing Association Heavyweight World Champion David Haye.”)

And even more to the point, in four other issues Nigel Collins offered in evidence the cover subject was Floyd Mayweather (Independent), although what has transpired with regard to the Pacquiao fight doesn't make Money look very independent at all, does it?

We don't regularly keep track of these things, but in making sure we didn't misquote  Oscar's Blog we also came across a representation of the January 2010 issue on The Ring's website.  The picture on the cover of the Bible of Boxing is of the Golden Boy himself, and the cover story “De La Hoya: The Retirement Interview.”

Wow! Now there's a hot topic for crusading journalists.

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