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Articles of 2002

WHEN PELTZ SCREWS A FIGHTER, WHICH HAT IS HE WEARING?

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As he sat in his dressing room on the night of May 10, Kassim Ouma, a junior middleweight from West Palm Beach by way of Uganda, was preparing to become, in a sense, boxing's version of Curt Flood. In the 12-round main event that evening, he was to step into the ring with Jason Papillon, a fighter from Louisiana, with the vacant USBA 154-pound title at stake.

In a tussle that will last even longer, he was also readying himself to take on some of boxing's powers-that-be.

One comforting thought for the fighter was that he was not going into the ring alone. Accompanying him were the principals of an organization called the B.O.C. (Boxers' Organizing Committee), who came to pledge their support in Ouma's quest for rights.

Rights? What rights were those, you might ask?

Well, Ouma came into the fight wearing a tattoo. Not your run-of-the-mill tattoo, mind you, but yes – one of those tattoos that read the name of GoldenPalace.com, an online gambling casino, on his back. And according to those on-high, that was a no-no.

Some weeks before, ESPN had issued an edict that no fighters were to wear these “back ads” in any fight they televised. Since the network couldn't prohibit the fighters from doing this directly because an actual contractual relationship didn't exist, they did the next best thing, threatening the promoter – with whom they DID have a contract – with a $10,000 fine, should any fighter wear a back ad at their event.

Bob Yalen made the point that if Miller was going to provide the paid sponsorship for ESPN2's “Friday Night Fights”, he felt it was a bad precedent to set to open the door for a fighter to wear, for example, a tattoo bearing the logo of a competitor, such as Budweiser. A perfectly understandable concern. Of course, what was not so understandable to people like the members of the B.O.C. was why Yalen proceeded to lobby other networks like HBO and Showtime, who rely more on subscribers than advertisers, to ban the tattoos as well.

Ouma, a legitimate contender and former member of the Ugandan national team, had signed an exclusive promotional contract last October with Russell Peltz, who also doubles as “boxing coordinator” for ESPN. The rationale of Ouma and his people was based on the salesmanship of Peltz, who told them there would be plenty of ESPN appearances on tap for the fighter if he put his name on the dotted line. Peltz obviously could make this kind of pitch to a potential recruit, because he controlled a large number of dates on the network, either via his own shows or those of other promoters he made deals with.

One of the fights pursuant to that contract was the faceoff with Papillon, which was televised live on ESPN2 and sponsored by Dover Downs in Delaware – one of those pari-mutuel establishments which had met with success after installing slot machines.

Now, before we go any further, let's take time out to explain something – the way it used to be, a promoter wouldn't necessarily have a stake in the career of a fighter he was using on his show – he would just contact managers, negotiate purses in good faith, and make the best matchups he possibly could. But when a promoter signs an exclusive deal with a fighter, and puts himself in a position where – a) he is primarily interested in moving a fighter's career along, and b) he will be negotiating, to an extent, on behalf of that fighter when he is offered a spot on another promoter's card – it's with the understanding that he will be working in the fighter's best interests (at least that's what the fighter thinks).

Well, Ouma was about to put that principle to the test. It was no coincidence that when the B.O.C. got together and decided to take a stand, Ouma was the fighter and the card was going to be one promoted by Peltz.

Before the fight, each member of the B.O.C. signed something called the “Boxers' Emancipation Declaration”. It read like this:

“We, the undersigned professional boxers do declare on this 10th day of May, 2002, our emancipation from the chains of bondage that have robbed our efforts and scarred our sport.

In solidarity with our fellow fighters, and with the backing of our union organizing effort, the BOXER’S ORGANIZING COMMITTEE (BOC), we demand that our voice be heard. For too long, in a business built with our blood and struggle, we have been treated as second-class citizens. The BOC has the support of the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers , National Football League Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, National Basketball Players Association, National Hockey League Players Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild and the Teamsters, amongst others.

Just recently, several television executives and promoters, have forbid “temporary tattoos” and threatened to fine and indeed “ban” boxers who have worn them, claiming that it was 'free advertising' and was demeaning to the sport. This was done without consulting boxers.

It was not “free advertising” since fighters were paid directly for renting THEIR backs. In an industry and world where advertising signage has appeared nearly everywhere, it was finally a revenue stream that went directly to boxers, bypassing the established pay structure of the sport. When boxers have little control or awareness of other sponsorship arrangements, we resent this attempt to arbitrarily make decisions that effect our livelihood without consulting us. We recognize the importance of protecting the interests of the television networks, casinos and sponsors., but proper policy should be set by understanding all perspectives.

The tattoo issue is not the only matter of concern to us, and is merely a starting point for a larger union effort to build a better sport, especially with regards to pension, health insurance and fair business practices for boxers.

We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of others who speak on our behalf, whether they be broadcaster, journalist, politician, commissions, sanctioning organization, promoter, manager or other interested party. We ask all to work with us, making policy TOGETHER with mutual respect and understanding.

THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS”

This piece of paper was signed by the fighters who had joined the B.O.C. group – Ouma, former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, former 140-pound champ Zab Judah, former 122-pound champ Bones Adams, ex-middleweight titleholder Vito Antuofermo, and Canadian cruiserweight Dale Brown.

For purposes of this story, the issue I am bringing up here is not whether the B.O.C.'s stand here was right or wrong. The issue I'm exploring here is how the situation was handled by the promoter.

Which, as it turned out, was badly.

There was a lot of shock around ringside when Ouma took off his robe and displayed his tattoo. At that point, there was very little ESPN could do; even though they customarily have some alternative programming “in the can”, so to speak, for those occasions, they were already about 2/3 of the way into their show and it simply would have strained credulity to cut away. So the show went on, as did Ouma, who stopped Papillon at the conclusion of eight rounds.

After the fight was over, Peltz was beside himself. He had been screaming, “You'll never get paid” to Ouma's connections during the fight, within earshot of numerous ringside observers, and echoed those feelings after the bout. He then endeavored to have Ouma's purse withheld by Greg Sirb, the Pennsylvania administrator (and national boxing “czar” candidate), who had arranged to have himself installed as the local “regulator”, in the absence of any boxing commission in Delaware.

Sirb was perfectly content to carry out that errand, at least for a period of 48 hours, until the whole mess got straightened out.

But when it was established that Ouma had not signed anything in his bout contract, or his promotional contract for that matter, that expressly prohibited him to wear a “back ad” during a fight, there was nothing that could be legally done on Peltz' part to prevent him from getting paid.

Incidentally, Ouma received $15,000 for his main event appearance, despite the fact that Peltz raked in a reported $105,000 in combined revenue and tickets from network TV rights and the Dover Downs site fee (and not including his personal services fee from the network, I presume).

Peltz, nonetheless, wasn't going to take anything lying down; he certainly was not about to eat the “mandatory” $10,000 fine without a protest. “Russell said out loud, and VERY loud, 'He'll (Kassim) never fight on ESPN again',” said Tom Moran, manager of Witherspoon and friend of Ouma, who was present at ringside during the fight. “There were a whole bunch of people who heard him say that.”

If you'll indulge me for a moment, let's review his two statements again, directed, more or less, toward HIS fighter, after a WINNING effort in a TITLE fight:

“YOU'LL NEVER GET PAID”

“HE'LL NEVER FIGHT ON ESPN AGAIN”

There are only a couple of thoughts I want to leave you with today –

If, by chance, Peltz were ever asked, in a court of law, to revisit those statements, and explain whether he made them as Kassim Ouma's promoter – and protector of his best interests, or as “boxing coordinator” of ESPN – and protector of ITS best interests – what do you think he would say? What COULD he say?

If Greg Sirb, the man that aspires to be a “boxing czar”, with authority to enforce uniform rules across the country, were asked that same question about his favorite promoter, do you think he'd be tongue-tied?

Then ask yourself whether you think Russell Peltz' dual activities amount to anything other than what might be as dangerous a conflict of interest as can possibly be imagined; whether Greg Sirb, who was ready to hold up a purse for absolutely no reason at all, would be disposed in the least to do anything about it, and whether this shouldn't be a matter that is absolutely mandatory for any author of future boxing legislation to consider.

Go ahead – ask yourself.

(NOTE: Russell Peltz has refused to make comment to TotalAction.com with regard to his activities with ESPN)

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Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

Articles of 2002

$*%@#!

Rick Folstad

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Walk the dog, stroll through the park, have a picnic at the lake.
There are safer things for IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov to do this month than defend his title against James “Lights Out” Toney.
Barbecue, play softball, fish, visit the zoo. Thank his lucky stars.
Jirov, who lives in California, won’t be fighting Toney on HBO on Jan. 25.
Something to do with his insides.
Ask Toney why Jirov pulled out of their fight and he’ll tell you it was Jirov’s heart that let him down, his backbone that went soft, not his banged-up ribs. Ask Toney and he’ll tell you about heartbreak and lies and revenge and fighting anybody in the universe if it means another title. Jirov claims he suffered the damage while sparring. Maybe. But it’s the fourth time Jirov has found a reason not to fight Toney. How many times you got to be told to go home before you realize the guy doesn’t want to come outside and play? How many times you got to be bit by the same dog before you realize it wants to be left alone? Jirov has more excuses than a politician caught with a hooker on his lap.
In his own eloquent way, Toney recently described how disappointed he was in the cancellation of their title fight on the undercard of the Vernon Forrest – Ricardo Mayorga welterweight title fight.
“The @#%$%*&#@,’’ Toney said after learning of the postponement on Christmas Eve. “Jirov can @&%$#% and then he can @%$#@#$. He’s nothing but a #$%#@#.’’ That said, it doesn’t brighten up the New Year in the Toney household.
“I’m done with it,’’ said Toney, sounding like a guy who finally gets tried of being stood up by the same girl.
As of Dec. 30, there was still no word of an opponent for Toney, though he’s still making regular trips to the gym.
Merry Christmas, James. Have a Happy New Year.
“Bah, humbug,’’ said Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen. “We didn’t have much of a Christmas. I got the news on Christmas Eve. But you just have to bounce back.’’ Funny thing about fighters. Some make excuses, some fight through them. You get the feeling Toney could have cracked five ribs and his right tibia and still climbed into the ring against Jirov.
It raises a lot of questions. What’s Jirov got against fighting? After a busy 2001, he hasn’t fought since last February. How do you hold a title after you’ve gone into retirement? Just who is this guy and why does he like to hide? Is there really a Vassily Jirov out there, or is he a creation of the IBF, a shadowy figure who won the title and decided it was too big a risk to keep defending it? The bottom line is, Toney may be left with a lot of unexpected free time on his hands if they don’t find him another fight, though he knew better than to mark the date on his calendar in ink. There are no promises in boxing. When dealing with a guy like Jirov, all bets are off. But Toney can still hope. The name O’Neil Bell – the WBC’s No. 1 challenger – has been knocked around, and Toney said he doesn’t care what contender or champion he knocks out on Jan. 25. “#@#$%$#,’’ Toney said.
You can say that again.

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Articles of 2002

New Year's Resolutions

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A new year is upon us, which means it's time for new years resolutions. Yeah, never mind that most resolutions are broken, oh, around the third week of January; everybody still makes them.

Here are my resolutions that I'd make for some of the luminaries in the sport of boxing.

* Floyd Mayweather: No more excuses. Anyone else sick of listening to 'the Pretty Boy' whine about what ailments he came into the fight with? Whether it's his fragile hands, a bum shoulder or his squabbles with his promoter Bob Arum, he always has an alibi. Hey Floyd, nobody cares, you get paid plenty to perform and those that buy tickets don't care that you might have a hangnail; they want nothing but the best effort out of you.

Mayweather reminds me of former Los Angeles Dodger slugger Mike Marshall, who's second home seemed to be the disabled list. The bottom line is this guy is lucky to be a boxer where he only has to perform once every 6 months- he simply couldn't handle the rigors of an NBA, NFL or baseball season. Ask any athlete if they are ever 100-percent healthy after the first day of training camp or spring training and they'll laugh at you.

Injuries and ailments are a part of the job, overcoming them is what makes a true professional. Mayweather still hasn't grasped that concept.

* Jim Gray: Respect. I guess this little weasel is whom Aretha Franklin was talking about in her song. Think about it, have you ever seen a guy be so disrespectful to fighters in post-fight interviews like this guy. Don't even mention HBO's Larry Merchant- he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions like a true journalist and he's consistent. Gray looks at boxing as a secondary gig and looks down on boxers in general.

Don't believe me? Just compare and contrast his softball interviews that he does for NBC and the hatchet jobs he does on Showtime.

* Max Kellerman: No more over-hyping New York boxers. Look, I get along and respect Max, but when you look up the term 'East Coast Bias' in Webster's, his picture may be used as the definition of it. From Zab Judah to James Butler and to Tokumbo Olajide, he'll have you enshrined in Canastota if you come out of the Big Apple.

What's worse are the excuses he'll come up with for his New Yorkers when they fall on their faces. Max is great for boxing but he's gotta realize New York hasn't been a player on the boxing scene for at least 20 years.

* Crocodile: A new catchphrase. You know Crocodile, right? He was Mike Tyson's hype-man for all these years…the guy with the menacing shades and the army fatigues who used to scream, “GUERILLA WARFARE” at the top of his lungs over and over again.

I've heard that enough and it's about as played out as 'Whoop, there it is' and it's time he came up with a new one. All the great ones can add to their repertoire.

* HBO: Admit they acknowledge the titles. Stop being the Hypocritical Boxing Organization and just stop saying that you don't recognize these organizations. The latest example of their double-talk? Well, for years they dogged John Ruiz and his WBA title, suddenly Roy Jones challenges Ruiz and HBO is hyping this up as some sort of historic challenge of a light heavyweight trying to capture a heavyweight title.
Yeah, the same title they had basically trashed for years.

* Joe Cortez: No more over-officiating. His line is that,' He's firm but he's fair'. I'd argue about that the last couple of years but my biggest gripe with him is that he seems to make himself waaaaay too visible during fights and gets too involved. Nobody is there to watch him and he should just let the fighters fight.
Too often I see these fights with Cortez lose their flow as Cortez continually interrupts the action with his admonishments and warnings. Joe, take a step back and let us watch what we came to see.

* Don Turner: Stop living off of Holyfield-Tyson I- If you ever talk to this guy, he'll talk as though he invented boxing. And his big coup was co-training Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson. 'The Real Deal' upset Tyson and suddenly Turner was being hailed as the new Chappie Blackburn and he became a media darling.

My question is this, did he suddenly teach Holyfield how to fight 35 fights into his career? Also, I contend that my mother and I could work Holyfield's corner and he would whip Tyson everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And ask yourself this, when was the last time he was in the winning corner for a big fight?

* Newspaper writers: Start crediting the Internet. Ok, this is a sore subject with me, but too many times I've seen stories from the major newspaper scribes who amazingly have stories that are eerily similar to stories that I've read on the internet (or that I've written myself) and use quotes that I got in one-on-one interviews and they don't attribute their sources- the internet.

When I take quotes or info from a story I make a point to give credit where it's due. Now, I just wish these guys would do the same.

* Roy Jones: no more hip-hop entrances. Roy, you're a magnificently gifted prizefighter, you can also play just a bit of hoops, but your rhyming skills are that of Shaquille O'Neal. In other words, you're doing street nursery rhymes not Nas.

Please, oh please, stop embarrassing yourself and the sport with your cheesy as nacho's attempt to become a hip-hop performer. His last entrance/performance reminded me of one of those really bad Sir-Mix-Alot videos of the early 90's.

* Panama Lewis: an exit out of the game. You remember Lewis right, the guy who gave Aaron Pryor the mysterious white bottle before the 14th round of his bout against Alexis Arguello, which seemed to give 'the Hawk' a sudden burst of energy that enabled Pryor to brutally KO Arguello. Afterwards, Pryor would skip out on his post-fight drug test.

Then there was the fight with Luis Resto, where he would tamper with his gloves between rounds, and bearing the brunt of this tomfoolery was Billy Collins who's faced was turned into a bloody mess. Collins, in the aftermath of this brutality committed suicide. For this, Lewis was banned permanently from working a corner. But that doesn't mean that he can't go into the gym and train fighters and even attend fights.

The bottom line is simple, this man has no place in the game of boxing and boxing shouldn't tolerate him in any way.

* Cedric Kushner: no more gimmicks. This guy has tried everything from the disastrous 'ThunderBox' to one-day $100,000 heavyweight tournaments- and all have failed miserably.

He can put on a boxing version of 'Survivor' or 'Real World' if he wants but the reality is, boxing fans want good fights and interesting fighters, nothing more, nothing less.

Stop with the shenanigans and stop with the junk.

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Articles of 2002

Dream Fights of 2003

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Hey, we can all dream, right? Isn't it our God-given right as boxing fans to think about fights that should happen – but often times don't?

And not just fights that have the highest profile or the biggest names – because sometimes those fights, like Lewis vs. Tyson – are nothing more than high-profile mismatches. I'm talking about fights that are evenly matched between the game's best and are the most intriguing inside the ring.

Here are some fights I'd pay to see in the upcoming year; full well knowing that most of these fights are pipe dreams as the business end of the sport would bog these fights down quickly. But hey, we can dream right?

* Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera: Name me another fighter that has never won a world title belt that is better than Marquez? You can't and this guys been ducked and dodged long enough. On February 1st he takes on Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title and it says here that he should face one of the game's best known 126-pounders, either Morales or Barrera. Marquez is a master boxer with great counter-punching skills and his hand-speed would give either one of his Mexican compatriots fits. There are some in the industry who have been saying for a while that Marquez is already the game's premiere featherweight; I'm not inclined to disagree that strongly.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: With Barrera, not good, as Ricardo Maldonado sees no real upside in this match-up and would most likely take an easier fight on HBO for about the same amount of money he could make facing Marquez.

With Morales, the logistics are much less complicated. Both of them are promoted by Bob Arum and there is some talk that they could face each other in May if a Morales-Barrera III isn't made.

* Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones: Not only because it's a match-up of two of the very premiere fighters in the world, but Hopkins needs to resume his career with some meaningful fights and Jones should be fighting guys like 'the Executioner' instead of participating in novelty acts like his proposed bout with John Ruiz.

And don't think for one minute that this would be a blowout. Jones couldn't blowout a green Hopkins in 1993 and won't be able to do it now. Hopkins, unlike most of Jones' opponents, isn't in total awe of Pensacola's finest.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not good, Sharon and Arafat will find a common ground regarding the Middle East before these two proud and stubborn men find one in contract negotiations.

* Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vernon Forrest: For fans of pure boxing and strategy this is a fight that can't be missed. Both men have strong jabs and match-up well physically. 'The Golden Boy' has the better left hook and 'The Viper' has a more effective right hand. Between these two well-schooled boxers you can expect a tense and tight boxing match with subtle momentum swings round by round.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: For 2003, not very good because it looks like Oscar will be fighting once in the upcoming year – a September rematch against Shane Mosley – and Bob Arum has stated that Forrest simply brings nothing to the table promotionally. This can be interpreted as another way of saying that he's not Latin, too dangerous or just another black fighter who can't sell a ticket. The bottom line seems to be that unless Forrest raises his profile in the upcoming years, De La Hoya will be facing guys that make economic sense.

* Floyd Mayweather vs. Kostya Tszyu: This would be a face off of the sport's premier lightweight against the game's best jr. welterweight. 'The Pretty Boy' would bring speed, quickness and boxing ability to the dance. While Tszyu would bring a decided edge in strength, size and punching power. They say styles make fights and you have two contrasting ones here.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not likely. This is for a couple of reasons. First, Vlad Wharton who promotes Tszyu, is seemingly deathly afraid to take any risks with Tszyu, who's basically his cash cow. Secondly, Mayweather got a reality check from his two bouts with Jose Luis Castillo, who at 135 pounds was able to muscle him throughout their 24 rounds they fought in 2002. And Tszyu is faster, sharper and just as strong as Castillo. I'm not sure Mayweather is in any rush to make the move up to 140-pounds.

* Lennox Lewis vs. Wladimir Klitschko: The industry is always better off when there is action in the heavyweight division. So why even mess around by having Lewis take on 'the other' Klitschko or knock out Tyson again; getting right in there with the man most pundits are claiming is the heir to his throne in Wlad Klitschko?

The time is now, Lewis is getting up there in age and really doesn't have that much left in his gas tank anyway and it would be prudent for him to face Klitschko now before he gets any better. Remember, that's the tact they took in facing Michael Grant when they did – but it has to be noted that Klitschko is much better than Grant.

Lewis would have the advantages in experience and savvy, but for one of the few times in his career he would be facing a disadvantage in size and perhaps power. The two best big men on the planet squaring off, what else could you ask for?

CHANCES OF HAPPENING: Actually pretty good, since Lewis himself has stated his plans to take on both Klitschkos in between his rematch with Tyson. But with Don King now making a full court press to garner the services of Lewis, who knows what direction he goes to now.

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