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Articles of 2009

Borges Take On Pacman/Mayweather Debacle

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First understand this – there is no high ground here in this argument over blood tests and performance enhancing drugs. Some ground is lower than others but there is no one standing for purity or righteousness or even for the good of boxing. This is an argument about one of two things or maybe both but nothing else – it is about power and gamesmanship.

The rest, all of it from both sides, is smoke and mirrors and boxing bullshit designed to confuse the public but if the people representing Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao aren’t careful what they are going to succeed in doing is what they’ve done so many times in the past – they’ll turn the public off to the point that a great spectacle will become just another example of how the suits who have run the sport into the ground continue to throw a little more dirt on the coffin every chance they get.

On the surface the issue is about performance enhancing drugs and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s alleged insistence that both he and Manny Pacquiao agree to random blood tests right up to the day of the fight. Mayweather’s father has insisted Pacquiao is a drug cheat but has offered not one scintilla of evidence to prove it except that he knocked his fighter, Ricky Hatton, cold in two rounds. That was not a blood test. That was a beating administered by one class of fighter to another several rungs below him.

Now it is Golden Boy Promotions, who represent Mayweather in these negotiations, that is insisting on random blood tests for PEDs. That they are the ones demanding this is laughable because little more than a year ago they were on the other side of the issue and saying nearly the same words Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, is now using to refuse such testing when Zab Judah demanded it before fighting GBP’s Shane Mosley.

The only difference is Mosley had already admitted using PEDS, albeit claiming unknowingly. He also was found to be a client of BALCO, the disgraced San Francisco company at the center of the steroid scandal that sent Marion Jones to prison and cast a dark shadow over the baseball accomplishments of Barry Bonds and others.

Yet despite all of that, Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, told the Associated Press at the time that while Mosley would agree to any tests required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission “we are not going to do other tests than the Nevada Commission requires. The fact is Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one.’’

The facts however argue otherwise. He was a cheater, although he claimed unwittingly so, and he did need to be treated like one but the fight never came off so it didn’t matter until now, where Schaefer and Golden Boy find themselves arguing the exact opposite side while Arum is saying his fighter will adhere to any tests the NSAC wants but does not need to be treated like a cheater.

Arum is right because there is no evidence of Pacquiao using steroids, HGH or other performance enhancing drugs. He has grown from a 106 pound fighter to a world champion at as high as 147 pounds but he is not the first to move up in weight and win and won’t be the last.

Schaefer keeps insisting Golden Boy is not accusing Pacquiao of anything when Mayweather’s father already has and their continued insistence on putting the biggest fight in years in jeopardy over the issue implies they have concerns. In essence, they’re telling the public the fight might not be on the up and up unless drug testing labs are involved. If that’s true, why should they pay $55 or more to watch it?

Meanwhile, Arum and Pacquiao argue he’s willing to be tested when the first press conference is held in January and any time up to 30 days before the fight as well as immediately after it. That sounds reasonable enough unless you know anything about PEDs. If you do you would understand that that much time between the testing and the event would render the tests worthless.

Masking agents and the men and women who create them are already far ahead of the testing agencies. Jones, for example, is one of many dirty athletes who never tested positive. That’s because if you know when the tests are coming and the people around you know what they’re doing you’d have to be an idiot – or James Toney – to get caught.

Toney did get caught after defeating then heavyweight champion John Ruiz, thus vacating his victory and allowing Ruiz to retain the title. In his corner that night was Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer. There is not one hint of evidence Roach knew a thing about it but it happened any way, the point being only the fighter and his druggist really know what’s going on so the only way to be sure is random testing as close to the event as possible as well as immediately after it.

Pacquiao has claimed he doesn’t want to have blood taken so close to the event yet HBO’s 24/7 show prior to the Hatton fight clearly showed him having blood drawn two weeks before they fought. Apparently his aversion to blood tests so close to a fight is a recent phenomenon.

Arum keeps changing what he’ll agree to, now saying the Pacquiao camp would agree to whatever the Commission says. That may sound noble but NSAC executive director Keith Kizer said during the Judah-Mosley flap that “Our inspectors aren’t qualified or licensed to draw blood.’’ Nevada Athletic Commission rules make no mention of blood testing, using only urine testing which is useless for discovering most forms of PED use because they are so rudimentary.

So he’s agreed to that knowing the NSAC isn’t going to order random blood testing in the final week or two before the fight. There is a question if they could even legally do so if they wanted to because it would require a change in the state regulations, which would need to be approved in advance and there isn’t time enough for that.

If Pacquiao is clean and knows he’s clean why not just agree and be done with it? Well, one could argue the same way Schaefer did for Mosley and much more effectively since unlike Mosley he has no priors and hence deserves the full presumption of innocence.

Then again, if he knows he’s clean, why not just say “Sure, let’s make this the most tested sporting event in history. Let’s be leaders in what has become professional sport’s dirty little secret. Let’s be cleaner than the Olympics, which wouldn’t take much. Let’s be cleaner than baseball and football, which wouldn’t take much. Let’s both be tested right up to the morning of the fight.’’

He could but instead he’s said “I’m willing to be tested as long as they’ll be done at a time when they’ll be meaningless.’’ It is reasonable to ask why but then again it’s just as reasonable to ask why Golden Boy is demanding this testing of a guy never implicated in PED usage after having been so adamantly opposed to it when Mosley, an admitted cheat, was involved.

What it tells me is somebody for some reason doesn’t want the fight. Is it Mayweather? Is it the people around him? Is it Pacquiao? Is it the people around him? No one knows but if it doesn’t happen because of blood testing the public will turn up its nose, close its eyes and return to ignoring a sport that has earned their disinterest by just this kind of stupidity.

The NBA has a gambling scandal with an official and the same day he’s busted Commissioner David Stern is screaming the guy is a rogue official. Every sport works to keep their reputation unsullied. Boxing works at heaping dirt upon itself and one of its greatest ambassador’s – Manny Pacquiao. Why? They can’t help themselves that’s why.

Golden Boy issued a press release on Monday saying if the fight doesn’t come off don’t blame them. They also said “nobody from Team Mayweather or Golden Boy Promotions is accusing Paquiao of anything.’’ That is simply a bald-faced lie. Every one of their actions accuses Pacquiao. It is, as they say in the ghetto, a classic case of throwing a rock and hiding your hand. The guy’s father puts the accusation out there. His promoters then say they’ll call off the biggest fight in boxing history if he Pacquiao won’t agree to random blood testing, which is not required in Nevada, right up until days before the fight.

No, they’re not accusing him of anything. That would take some courage…and a good lawyer. They just put it out there and let it, and him, hang.

But before you canonize Pacquiao and Arum, hold on a minute. They know the testing they have agreed to would be useless in catching anyone using PEDs efficiently to prepare for this fight. It would be less than a take home exam.

They also know if he’ll be clean or not. If he is he could just throw it back in Mayweather’s face and say, “All right Little Floyd, you want blood tests we’ll take blood tests. We’ll take a test two weeks before the fight, a week before the fight, at the weigh-in and then a last one a minute after you wake up from after I knock you stiff.’’

Now that would drive some interest.

In the end who knows how this will go. The money interests in all sides would seem to demand a settlement but Arum claims he’s already making plans for an alternate March 20 fight for Pacquiao against Paulie Malignaggi. Now that’s interesting because Malignaggi long ago accused Pacquiao of using performance enhancing drugs and Bob Arum isn’t threatening him. Maybe that’s because he knows he’s no threat to Manny Pacquiao.

That’s boxing. The theatre of the absurd and a sport that, even on the cusp of one of its brightest moments in years, couldn’t help but sully itself once again.

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

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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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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