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Articles of 2009

FAT CITY AND FAT CITY: AN APPRECIATION

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By almost any criterion imaginable, Leonard Gardner's FAT CITY is one of the two or three very best boxing novels ever written.  That it rates among the Top Ten is pretty much beyond dispute.

The 1972 screen version is also considered a classic of the genre and would appear on almost any Top Ten list of boxing films, which makes it unique. Name another book that appears on both lists.

THE HARDER THEY FALL — maybe. It would be on both of mine, but it should also be noted that when Budd Schulberg, who had written the 1947 novel, reviewed the Hollywood version in 1956, he all but warned moviegoers to save their money, so dissatisfied was he with the liberties Tinseltown had taken with his book.

Leonard Gardner had no such reservations about John Huston's treatment of FAT CITY.  The author in fact shared the screenwriting credit with the director, and it is to the latter's credit that so much of the book's original dialogue and storyline was preserved intact in the movie.  One could make a reasonable case that FAT CITY was such a critical success as a film precisely because it so closely reflected the language and cadences of Gardner's book.

They have in a sense become inextricably intertwined. I couldn't tell you how many times I've re-read FAT CITY, but I can tell you that for the past 37 years it's impossible to get through that first chapter without starting to hum Kris Kristofferson's “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” which accompanies the hung-over Stacy Keach's shuffling introduction in the film.

FAT CITY is one of those films that has continued to grow in stature over the years, and on September 18, Film Forum in New York inaugurates a two-week run.

(EDITOR”S NOTE: The opening night 7:30 screening of FAT CITY was introduced by journalist/author/screenwriter Pete Hamill and TSS columnist George Kimball. See http://www.filmforum.org/films/fatcity.html for further information about the Film Forum retrospective.)

Leonard Gardner was a graduate student in creative writing at San Francisco State when he began the novel in the mid-1960s. He learned the lore of boxing from his father, a lifetime devotee of the sport, had fought as an amateur in his native Stockton, and spent considerable time in the same gyms frequented by the pugilistic dramatis personae — journeyman middleweight Billy Tully, welterweight prospect Ernie Munger, and Ruben Luna, the Hispanic gym owner who manages them both — of the book.

The book opens with Tully, a once-promising local star who had bottomed out once he hit national-level competition, plotting a comeback — for the worst of reasons, but one that could immediately be appreciated by anyone who's spent much time around professional boxers. Tully, who had retired from the ring because he wasn't confident that he had it any more, had surprised himself by knocking out a guy with one punch in a barroom fight the night before, which he immediately interpreted as a sign that perhaps he may have been precipitate in hanging up his gloves.

The novel took four years from beginning to completion. At one point it was twice the length of the compact, stripped-down (183 pages in the copy I'm looking at) version in which it was eventually published.  Gardner had in the meantime published short stories in a number of literary magazines (including THE PARIS REVIEW, in 1965), and while his New York agent, Robert Lescher, encouraged the novel, he didn't push its author.

“I never showed [Lescher] any of the book until I felt it was ready,” recalled Gardner.

“I spent a lot of time cutting, editing, rewriting, polishing.”

The result was a book so utterly perfect that for forty years it has served as a source of discouragement to many a young writer.  A dozen years ago the award-winning novelist and playwright Denis Johnson recalled his FAT CITY phase in an appreciation published in SALON:

“Between the ages of 19 and 25 I studied Leonard Gardner's book so closely that I began to fear I'd never be able to write anything but a pale imitation.” (Johnson's eventual solution was to ban FAT CITY from his house.)

Gardner recalls that despite his meticulous to the writing process, it never occurred to him that he might have just written a great book.

“I was pretty happy with it,” he said a few nights ago from his California home. “I thought it was a pretty good story, but the truth is, I spent all that time with it because I wanted to be sure it wasn't going to be rejected. I wanted it to be a book I was sure would be published.”

Lescher submitted the manuscript to a number of publishers, and in short order had achieved the result every writer dreams of: Two houses who each wanted it.

“In the end Lescher said he probably could have gotten a bit more money out of Random House, but he felt Farrar, Straus would be more committed in what it would do for the book,” said Gardner.

The 1969 critics were almost unanimous in hailing the book as a triumph, and before the year was out Gardner's novel had been nominated for a National Book Award, along with Kurt Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE and Joyce Carol Oates' THEM. (Oates won.)  The Kansas City Star was moved to note that “probably there isn't a living  novelist who, if he were honest with himself, would not be proud to have written FAT CITY. That's how good it is.”

Joan Didion wrote that “FAT CITY affected me more than any new fiction I have read in a long while.” Another female admirer wrote Gardner a letter telling him how much she had enjoyed the book, “but if it was any darker, I think I'd kill myself.”

David Milch, who taught creative writing at Yale before moving to Hollywood to create “NYPD Blue” and “Deadwood,” regularly made FAT CITY a staple of his writing classes. Forty years after FAT CITY's publication, Gardner was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America with the A.J. Liebling Award, along with fellow recipients Larry Merchant and the late John Lardner.

The success of the book predictably brought Hollywood calling, and producer Ray Stark secured the film rights.  It would be nice to say “and the rest is history,” but as is so often the case with these tangled tales of cinema, the journey from perfect book to perfect film appears to have been the result of a series of happy accidents.

FAT CITY in the hands of another director might have been a very different film. Stark had at one point hired Monte Hellman (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP), who eventually backed out of the deal for a more lucrative assignment. Mark Rydell (CINDERELLA LIBERTY) was offered the project, but wavered so long that Stark eventually turned to the 64 year-old Huston.

Besides maintaining his allegiance to Gardner's work in refusing to “go Hollywood” with the film, another Huston stamp on the movie came when he insisted, against the producer's wishes, on retaining cinematographer Conrad Hall's noir recreation of the interior skid-row barroom scenes. Stark felt the dark scenes would render the film unsuitable for drive-ins (not an insignificant consideration in 1972), wanted to fire Hall and re-shoot the scenes. Huston told the producer, in effect, “if he goes, I go.” If it was a bluff, it worked.

Now imagine FAT CITY with Marlon Brando with all that scar tissue above his eyes instead of Stacy Keach.  Huston initially wanted Brando to play Tully, but interpreted his vacillation as a lack of interest, and when Brando wound up taking the eponymous role in THE GODFATHER, the director turned to the relatively unknown Keach.

Would Margot Kidder have delivered an Academy Award-nominated performance had she and not Susan Tyrell (who did earn a nomination) been cast as Oma, the philosophical barfly who takes up with Tully?

And one thing we know for sure. Had someone other than Huston been the director, we don't know who would have played Earl, Tully's rival for Oma's affections, but we can tell you with absolute certainty that it wouldn't have been Curtis Cokes.

Huston had been living in Ireland since 1964, and once he took on the project he invited Gardner to his estate in Galway. It was a pretty heady experience for the young writer.

“I'd already written a first draft of the screenplay, and what we did over there was go through it bit by bit,” recalled Gardner. “Huston spent most of his time painting, so he only wanted to address one scene per day. Sometimes I could rewrite a scene overnight, sometimes I couldn't, but we'd move on to the next one.”

Huston had boxed himself in his youth. His first published short story had a boxing tale called “Fool,” which H.L. Mencken published in his AMERICAN MERCURY in 1929. Though authenticity was important, Huston didn't define FAT CITY as a boxing movie at all.

“It's about life running down the sink without being able to pull the plug to stop it,” was the director's description.

“But his boxing background was reassuring to me,” recalled Gardner. “He knew the sport and he understood it. Particularly back then every time Hollywood got near boxing they seemed to turn to the same schlock clichés, but there was no danger of that with him.

“And just as he was an 'actors' director' because he gave his cast an extraordinarily free hand in interpreting scenes, I guess you could say he was a 'writer's director,' too. He knew what was good about the book and didn't want to screw it up by changing a lot of things.

“And I'd like to think that I have a pretty good cinematic sense myself,” added Gardner, who would later enjoy success writing for film and television (in a five-year run at NYPD BLUE). “I could visualize the way certain things would work on the screen, and he retained most of that — though I'm not so vain that I'd have argued for keeping something Huston didn't think would work once he'd explained it.”

Thirty-seven years on, the casting of FAT CITY seems a work of genius, but in 1972 it was very much a crapshoot.  Keach had previously had featured roles in two films, both of which had essentially been cast out of the same New York saloon — the Lion's Head — over the previous year and a half: After starring (with James Earl Jones and Harris Yulin) in the film version of John Barth's END OF THE ROAD, he played Doc Holliday (to Yulin's Wyatt Earp and Faye Dunaway's Big-Nose Kate) in DOC, for which Pete Hamill wrote the screenplay. Young and relatively unfamiliar to film audiences (though not to viewers of SEA HUNT, where since the age of nine he had occasionally appeared with his father, Lloyd Bridges), both Jeff Bridges (Munger) and Susan Tyrell had recently appeared in what would also become cult films — Bridges in Larry McMurtry's THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Tyrell in Richard Farina's BEEN DOWN SO LONG IT LOOKS LIKE UP TO ME.

Prior his portrayal of Ruben Luna in FAT CITY, Providence-born Nicolas Colasanto (who would become familiar as “Coach” on CHEERS) had played both cops and robbers in television bit roles, but his film resume was almost nonexistent.  Candy Clark (Ernie's girlfriend/wife Faye) had never appeared in a movie before.

Neither, of course, had Curtis Cokes. Remarkably, in a film in which more than a dozen boxers and former boxers appear, the former welterweight champion played Earl, a character who isn't a fighter at all.  Cokes, who had lost his welterweight title to Jose Napoles a few years earlier, had fought out of Texas for most of his career, but in 1971, nearing the end of the line, he had lost fights in San Francisco and Sacramento. We had always assumed that he must have stumbled into a casting call around this time, but the actual story is even more interesting.

“What happened is that Huston was back east for a fight in New York,” said Leonard Gardner. “He was sitting at ringside, and a well-dressed black gentleman a few seats away in the same section caught his eye.  According to Huston, he was already thinking, 'This is what I want Earl to look like' before he even struck up a conversation. I'm sure he must still have had to go through the formality of an audition, but Huston claimed he'd actually decided he wanted this guy to play Earl before he even realized he was Curtis Cokes.”

Cokes fought three times in South Africa, winning two, in the year after FAT CITY came out. His first screen role also proved to be his last.  He has been a successful trainer (Reggie Johnson, Kirk Johnson, Ike Ibeabuchi) back in Dallas for the past quarter-century.

In Gardner's book, Tully is a middleweight, Munger a welterweight, but for the movie it was more important that opponents approximate the sizes of Keach and Bridges, who were both light-heavyweights in 1972.

Argentine light-heavyweight Gregorio Peralta had been the first choice to play Arcadio Lucero, the fading former main-eventer brought to Stockton from Mexico as the opponent for Tully's comeback fight. In 1970 Peralta had fought George Foreman to a decision at Madison Square Garden, and both Gardner and Ray Stark were in the audience for their 1971 rematch at the Oakland Coliseum. Peralta was approached about the role, but his manager, who felt there was money yet to be made with Gregorio in the ring, didn't like the idea of putting his career on hold for several months.

The inspired choice of Sixto Rodriguez was Gardner's idea. The former California light-heavyweight champion, Rodriguez was by then retired, having finished with a record of 28-13-3. A useful boxer, Sixto had wins over Bobo Olson and Eddie Cotton, but the close of his career seemed to mirror that of Lucero's in the book: He had just six wins in his last 20 fights, most of them on the road.

Although he isn't given a lot of lines — just a few snippets, in Spanish, exchanged with his cornermen and an inspector in the dressing room — Rodriguez' haunting performance as the aging — and ailing — opponent is memorable one. He alights from the Greyhound bus with the cocksure walk of a matador, despite being hampered by a violent case of the runs. (In the movie the bodily function is somewhat altered; Lucero walks into the men's room and pisses blood. And this is before the fight.)

What must be attributed to a bit of prescient casting, Rosales, the opponent who breaks Ernie Munger's nose in his first amateur fight, was played by a 20 year-old Stockton amateur named Alvaro Lopez. So young that he's barely recognizable in the film, Yaqui Lopez engaged in the first of what would be 76 professional rights shortly after shooting wrapped up for FAT CITY. Lopez would go on to unsuccessfully challenge for the light-heavyweight championship on four occasions (vs. John Conteh, Matthew Saad Muhammad, and twice against Victor Galindez), and late in his career fought (against S.T. Gordon) for the cruiserweight title as well.

A couple of other, more familiar boxing types have roles in FAT CITY. Art Aragon, the original “Golden Boy,” works the corner with Colasanto as the trainer Babe. Aragon, who died two years ago, was one of the more popular fighters in Los Angeles history, and was Budd Schulberg's best man at the author's third wedding. (The old trainer Al Silvani is the referee in the Tully-Lucero bout.)

Both Aragon and Silvani appeared in many boxing movies, but a California club fighter (middleweight Billy Walker) won a speaking part as young Wes Haynes, a boxer in Ruben Luna's traveling entourage.

But in a very real sense, Stockton's legacy as a fight town makes it a co-star of FAT CITY as well. Resisting the temptation to shoot the film in more hospitable surroundings, Huston filmed it on location to capture the actual places, people, and milieu Gardner had so meticulously described in the book.

“Almost every extra you see in the film, from the entourages to the gym backdrops to the crowd scenes and what have you, came from the gyms and the boxing scene in Stockton,” said Leonard. ” The local promoter, Jack Cruz even gets several scenes.

“And of course a lot of the fighters back then would have moonlighted in the fields, just as Tully and Munger do together later in the book. Some of them worked as longshoremen, too.

That's right, longshoremen, as in ON THE WATERFRONT. Nearly a hundred miles inland from San Francisco Bay, Stockton is uniquely situated. Its geographic proximity to the rich farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley made it a haven for migrant workers — field hands both black and Chicano, scuffling Okies — and boxers. The River and a ship channel also conspired in the 19th century to make it one of California's two deep-water ports, and since the days of the Gold Rush ships bearing canned produce and lumber sailed from Stockton in such profusion that it was for a time the pirate capital of California.

“After the movie came out, I sent my mother on a cruise on a ship that sailed from Stockton to Europe,” said Gardner. “When I took her down to the ship I ran into a couple of ex-fighters who were working on the docks. The same two longshoreman had been in the film, where they played the guys working Lucero's corner when he fought Billy Tully.”

Gardner went on to high-profile journalistic assignments, covering Foreman-Norton in Caracas for Esquire, Ali-Chuvalo in Vancouver for Sport, and, Duran-Leonard in Montreal for Inside Sports.  Gardner (b. 1933) also adapted his short story “Jesus Christ Has Returned to Earth” for the film “Valentino Returns,” and created nearly two dozen episodes of NYPD Blue, but his first novel turned out to be the only one he would write. Although he has dropped hints from time to time of another, forty years have elapsed since his masterpiece. From time to time you wonder whether looking back at FAT CITY had the same effect on its author it did on the young Denis Johnson.

Gardner, who gets asked about it a lot, has developed a stock response:  “Sometimes,” he says, “you only get to win one championship.”

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

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.

*****

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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Articles of 2009

Paul Malignaggi Explains Why He Thinks Manny Has Used PEDs

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In theory and in practice I am vehemently opposed to people tossing out unfounded allegations against someone. Supply evidence, then we can talk. But saying someone is using steroids, or EPO, or HGH, based on a theory, or your gut instinct….I have to consider, what if the allegation were thrown at me, and I was 100% innocent. I'd be mightily irked. And so too would you be.

Manny Pacquaio has been hammered from all sides with folks insinuating and coming right out with the contention that they think he's been cheating, that he's been using illegal performance enhancers to give him an edge in competition. Floyd Mayweather Sr, Paulie Malignaggi, Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron have either accused Manny, or insinuated that he's been using PEDs. One has to wonder, where's all this smoke coming from? Is it possible that there's fire lurking? That these folks aren't just lobbing unfounded barbs at Manny, that their allegations and hints aren't just sour grapes, or posturing, or a ploy to lure Manny into a fight?

By and large, there hasn't been much in the way of coverage from the standpoint of: what if Manny is using PEDs, or was using PEDs? I think that is rightly so; I'd be more comfortable if none of us trafficked in the innuendo and speculation, and worked within the realm of evidence, and facts. But it's out there, and a topic of conversation and speculation. Perhaps it's a symptom and sign of the times we live in…

TSS reached out to Malignaggi, just off a solid win in his Dec. 12 rematch with Juan Diaz. The Brooklyn-based pugilist has never been shy about speaking his peace (I picture him exiting his mom's womb and barking at the labor and delivery crew to get the room cleaned up, stat!), and he shared with TSS what he bases his allegations, which he's careful to label opinion, upon.

First off, Malignaggi is of the belief that if the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations are at a fatal impasse, Yuri Foreman, and not he, will get the coveted date with Pacquiao. Malignaggi has been mentioned as stand-in for Mayweather.

He started off by insisting that ” I have nothing against Pacquiao” but then went from mellow to madman in a 30 second span.

First off, the boxer wonders why Team Pacquiao isn't going after big-time newspapers, with deep pocketed owners, for libel, for insinuating that Pacquiao is drug cheat.

“If Pacquiao's so sue happy, why not sue the New York Daily News?” he asked. “Maybe they know the steroid allegations are true.”

By and large, Malignaggi thinks it is impossible, utterly impossible, for a boxer to put on 15 or more pounds between March 15, 2008, when he fought Juan Manuel Marquez and weighed 129 pounds at the weigh in, and Nov. 14, 2009 when he fought Miguel Cotto and was 144 pounds at the weigh in, and more on fight night.

“It's not natural looking,” Malignaggi said. But, I countered, what if Manny's supremely blessed, that unlike some other fighters who go up in weight, and look a bit bloated, and lack definition, he's just a special creature?

“He's not supremely blessed,” Maliganngi said. “I know body builders. They can't put on 17 or whatever pounds of muscle in a year. It's not doable, in my opinion. These are my speculations, my opinions based on certain factual evidence. Does his weight gain look normal to you? And his head looks like it has blown up in size, too.”

I offered to Malignaggi that perhaps we should be attacking the system, if we believe it to be lacking, rather than the individual.

“We can blame the system a little bit, but if you were Manny, wouldn't you want to leave no doubt? Or speculation?” said Maliganngi, who believes that by not agreeing to the terms set forth by Team Mayweather, and opposing a blood test within 30 days of the bout, Pacquaio appears guilty.

Pacquiao has agreed to take 3 blood tests: the first during the week of the kickoff news conference in early January, the second random test to be conducted no later than 30 days before the fight, and a final test after the bout. A video making the rounds from the HBO 24/7 series shows Pacquiao submitting to a blood test two or three weeks before he was due to fight Ricky Hatton, and that has cast doubt on Team Pacquiao's stance that Manny is disinclined to get a blood test too close to a bout, for fear he may be weakened. Originally, it was reported in error that that test was taken 14 days before the Hatton bout, but subsequent reports pegged the test as being taken 24 days before the scrap. Malignaggi feels Pacquiao has been caught lying, that the report from Team Pacquiao that he “has difficulty taking blood” is a cover story. “Why is he effing lying?” Malignaggi said, heatedly.

The New Yorker doesn't believe too many fighters in the lighter weight classes are using PEDs, but thinks usage isn't uncommon in the heavyweight division. “That's hard to do and make weight,” he said.

The question is asked of Malignaggi: why does the issue make him so steamed?

“I don't like cheaters,” he said. “This is not baseball. You're not just hitting home runs. You have to worry about peoples' lives. Miguel Cotto in my opinion has been beaten by two cheaters. Manny if he's cheating is taking away from guys who are doing things the right way. His team is reneging on their words.”

And what if you're wrong, Malignaggi? What if Manny is clean, and you are hurting his rep with these allegations?

“I bet everything I own that I'm not,” he said. “But we'll never find out. Hey, I would take the test in a heartbeat. I would want people to know I'm clean. He wants to leave doubts!?? His entire legacy is being questioned, he's willing to hurt his legacy and leave $40 million on the table?”

Maliganngi, after reminding TSS that he was correct in predicting he'd be gamed by judges in the first fight with Diaz, insisted that he isn't singling out Pacquiao for a personal vendetta. “”I've never had anything against him. But that's enough now. I call it like I see it.”

What about those who'd say he's just trying to anger Pacquiao, to lure him into a fight?

“No. I expected he'd take the random tests to get this fight. No way I thought he'd throw away everything. That blew me away. It was cool to have my name mentioned.”

Malignaggi thinks the boxing media has dropped the ball, and not exercised due diligence in examining the possibility that Manny has used PEDs.

“I understand most people like Manny, and not Floyd. Just cause that's the case doesn't mean Manny might not be cheating. It's nothing to do with him personally. But I call a spade a spade. Too many people avoid the possibilities because Manny's a likable person. He's got that front, his country loves him. That front works like crazy. Floyd plays the bad guy, but he's natural. Just don't downplay the fact that Manny might be cheating. You have to open your eyes and at least be willing to look at it. This is bigger than me. The fact that the fight is not being made, you have to question the integrity of Pacquiao.”

Malignaggi then offered an analogy to the Manny-refusing-to-be-subjected-to multiple-random-drug-tests prior-to-a-fight-with-Mayweather deal. “It reminds me of the drunk guy who's pulled over at 3 AM. He has a field sobriety test, the cop knows he's drunk, he looks and acts drunk. But he refuses a breathalyzer test. That don't mean the cop don't haul him to the police station.”

I reiterate…I don't think anyone should be casting aspersions based on circumstantial evidence. But with so many people ganging up on Manny, I think fight fans are owed some details on why people are accusing Pacman of using PEDs.

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