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The Boxing Scene, Yesterday and Tomorrow: Some Random Thoughts

Bernard Fernandez




THE BOXING SCENE; RANDOM THOUGHTS — It’s early January, which means every boxing publication and web site has probably alerted readers as to who and what they believe were the best of 2016, and what all fight fans should hope for, if not necessarily expect, in 2017.

On the whole, 2016 gave us some good stuff in the ring, but not nearly enough. A lot of intriguing possibilities were left on the table, which has become the depressing standard in most recent calendar years. Don’t expect that to drastically change as boxing’s power brokers again play it safe, choosing to protect their own vested interests at the expense of what is best for the sport and the paying customers who justifiably are disenchanted with being promised filet mignon at some future date while being served up roadkill in the here and now.

Oh, there are fights that are already on the schedule that should command widespread interest, and deservedly so. Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz meet for a second time on Jan. 28, and the hope is that the action at least replicates that of their first meeting, which Frampton won, along with Santa Cruz’s WBA featherweight championship, on July 30 of last year.  We also can look forward to the March 4 welterweight unification matchup of undefeated WBC titlist Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KOs) and similarly unblemished WBA ruler Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs), but that bout comes with a caveat. It isn’t nearly as big as it ought to be, in no small part because Garcia hasn’t had a truly meaningful fight since he scored an upset unanimous decision over Lucas Matthysse on Sept. 14, 2013, filling in the interim for the most part with gimme victories over the non-threatening likes of Rod Salka and Samuel Vargas as well as a couple of almost-sure things over the faded likes of Paulie Malignaggi and Robert Guerrero. At least Thurman is coming off a scintillating, unanimous decision over Shawn Porter on June 25.

OK, so let’s again state the obvious to the dunderheads who can’t see the forest for the trees: it is always the best policy for all concerned to make the best fights now instead of allowing them to “marinate” indefinitely, or to simply not ever take place. It is time to do whatever is necessary to make the most-anticipated fight of 2017 – and I’m primarily speaking to you, Oscar De La Hoya – which is, of course, Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) vs. WBC/IBF/IBO middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs). Maybe what actually takes place inside the ropes wouldn’t qualify as a shoo-in for Fight of the Year, but there at least would be a decent chance fans would see something more akin to Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I than Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao. Of course, Golovkin would have to survive a pretty stern test as presented by WBA 160-pound champ Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) on March 18, but if “GGG” comes through unscathed, it says here that it would be high time for the familiar circle dance concerning Canelo to stop.

Oscar, as CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, apparently is concerned that he’d be exposing his cash cow, Alvarez, to potential defeat, which could adversely affect his marketability. Bunk. Was Thomas Hearns rendered inconsequential because he lost his classic first bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, or the thrill ride with Marvelous Marvin Hagler? Absolutely not. Nor was fan favorite Arturo Gatti’s popularity diminished because he lost barnburners with Angel Manfredy, Ivan Robinson (twice) and Micky Ward (in the first of their three epic clashes). People knew that with Gatti, they’d get their money’s worth, and more, in entertainment value whether he won, lost or drew, and they were rarely disappointed.

Hearns and Gatti actually are more representative of what used to be the norm than what we get in these overly cautious times. The Ring magazine has been listing its Fight of the Year since 1945, and the same names kept appearing in classic bouts meriting that designation in the early going. Rocky Graziano was in the Fight of the Year three consecutive years (1945 through ’47), Rocky Marciano in three consecutive years (1952 through ’54) and Carmen Basilio an insane five consecutive years (1955 through ’59), and nobody felt slighted because Graziano lost one of those slugfests and Basilio came up short in two.

Interestingly, Golden Boy apparently has no problem putting one of its fighters, a downsized Gatti clone named Francisco Vargas, into the bruising and well-bruised role filled by so many of his stylistic forebears. Vargas was in the consensus 2015 Fight of the Year, an epic, ninth-round dethronement of WBC super featherweight champion Takishi Miura, and to date his title-retaining June 4 majority draw with Orlando Salido has earned 2016 Fight of the Year plaudits from most boxing publications and web sites, including The Sweet Science. Accepting, even welcoming, the element of risk has made Vargas a cult favorite whose fan base is spreading; why not place the same sort of faith in Canelo? Even if he loses to a sure-to-be-favored Golovkin and provides a sufficient quota of exhilaration, his box-office status should not be affected. In fact, it might even get a boost.

The same notion – with great risk comes great reward – should apply to a heavyweight division that has long been moribund, but of late has shown some signs of recovery. No, the current crop of big men isn’t likely, at least not yet, to make anyone forget the 1980s and ’90s Golden Age when Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe ruled the roost, but even that halcyon period failed to maximize its full potential; Bowe never got around to fighting Tyson and Lewis.

What the public demands and deserves is a unification showdown between IBF champ Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) and WBC king Deontay Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs). Who wouldn’t want to see a pairing of two guys with a current combined record of 55-0 and 54 KOs? Although Joshua attempts to add the vacant WBA and IBO belts when he takes on almost-41-year-old and former long-reigning titlist Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) on April 29, Klitschko was dreadful in losing to Tyson Fury his last time out and, despite his high knockout percentage, his penchant for long and frequent clinches apparently is alluring only to certain Europeans. And since claiming his title in the only bout he didn’t win inside the distance, against Bermane Stiverne, Wilder has defended it against a non-Murderer’s Row of Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka and Chris Arreola.

Hey, all you powers-that-be. Make the best fights as soon as possible. Boxing’s famished diners deserve more than the same old roadkill, or even the occasional inexpensive flank steak. Bring on the filet mignon. Treat the public to a pugilistic banquet every so often and the folks will keep coming back to the table instead of sampling other options like MMA.

Father Timeless

Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins reaffirmed his third announced, and presumably final, retirement following his eighth-round knockout loss to Joe Smith Jr. on Dec. 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Hopkins has been so good for so long, he went off as the favorite, despite the fact that he turns 52 on Jan. 15 and was old enough to have been the 27-year-old Smith’s father.

But the natural laws of diminishing returns cannot be repelled forever. No matter what a Hopkins or George Foreman or Archie Moore says or said, 50 is not the new 40, any more than 40 is the new 30. Bones get creaky. Reaction time slows. Hair falls out or turns gray, and the internal workings of the human body make it increasingly difficult to retain youthful vigor and muscle tone. You can still live a good and fulfilling life as your golden years beckon, so long as you acknowledge that nothing lasts forever.

B-Hop is nearly 17 years junior to me, so I understand these matters well. I count myself fortunate not only that I was at ringside for his final bout, but also for his pro debut, in which he dropped a four-round decision to a fellow first-timer, Clinton Mitchell, on a four-round majority decision on Oct. 11, 1988, at Resorts International in Atlantic City.

Not surprisingly, I had no idea then that Hopkins would go on to become a legendary figure and surefire future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Virtually all of my fight story for the Philadelphia Daily News focused on the main event, in which a world-rated junior welterweight from New York City, John Wesley Meekins, scored a 10-round majority decision over veteran Saoul Mamby. The Hopkins fight, as I recall, scarcely got a mention.

But you know what they say about what goes around eventually coming around again. Mamby was 41 at the time he lost to Meekins, and nearly 61 when he fought for the last time, dropping a 10-round unanimous decision to Anthony Osbourne on March 8, 2008. By Mamby’s standards, Hopkins was still something of a kid when he stepped inside the ropes against Smith.

Lest a hard-to-discourage Hopkins get the idea of following in Mamby’s footsteps and coming back yet again, let it be noted that the Bronx native lost his final three bouts, and 11 of his last 14, to finish 45-34-6 with 18 KO wins. Yeah, Hopkins lost to Smith on Dec. 17, but he was double-teamed that night, his other opponent being the relentless march of time.

Longevity Isn’t Everything

John Wesley Meekins, referenced in the previous item, also has a connection to another Philadelphian, Meldrick Taylor, who like Hopkins was a celebrated world champion but whose prime did not last nearly as long.

Following his points nod over Mamby, the-then-23-year-old lost his next fight on what officially became a seventh-round stoppage at the very fast hands of the even-younger IBF junior welterweight titlist, the 22-year-old Taylor, on Jan. 21, 1989, at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Ring physician Dr. Frank Doggett called a halt to the one-sided bout prior to the start of the eighth round with the well-battered Meekins’ right eye swollen shut and his left eye cut and also puffing up badly.

“He hits you so many times, you think it’s raining on your face,” Taylor’s trainer, George Benton, said of his fighter, who was just 17 when he won a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Then known simply as “The Kid,” Taylor was indeed a marvel to behold at his best, with fists that moved with the blurring swiftness of a hummingbird’s wings. He had the fastest hands of any fighter I’ve ever seen, and, yes, that includes Roy Jones Jr. He had won the title on a one-sided nod over the very capable Buddy McGirt, and he brought a 24-0-1 record, with 14 KOs, into his March 17, 1990, unification showdown with the great WBC champion, Julio Cesar Chavez, at the Las Vegas Hilton.

You know the rest. Taylor hit “JCC Superstar” with the same rapid-fire combinations that had semi-disfigured Meekins, but Chavez had a head like a cinder block. Not only did the Mexican standout not wobble, his face scarcely bore the marks of the steady tattooing Taylor was administering. Still, entering the 12th and final round, Taylor, whose own face was a bloody mess (JCC’s far-less-frequent connections landing with the force of a sledgehammer), needed only to finish on his feet to get the victory in what would eventually be hailed not only as Fight of the Year, but in some quarters Fight of the Decade. Judges Jerry Roth and Dave Moretti had Taylor ahead by respective margins of 108-101 and 107-102 while colleague Chuck Giampa’s card favored Chavez by 105-104.

You know the rest. Taylor, told that he needed to win the 12th round by co-trainer Lou Duva, did not play keepaway but foolishly and needlessly continued to trade with Chavez, who floored him with a jolting overhand right in the closing seconds. The way the fight ended – with referee Richard Steele awarding Chavez a TKO victory with just two ticks remaining before the final bell – remains one of boxing’s hottest controversies.

Although Taylor enjoyed some post-Chavez success, winning the WBA welterweight crown on a unanimous decision over Aaron Taylor and successfully defending it twice, he was pummeled in losing by fourth-round stoppage to WBC super welterweight champion Terry Norris on May 9, 1992. He was even less competitive, if that were possible, in an eighth-round TKO loss to Crisanto Espana for the WBA welterweight title on Oct. 31, 1992.

In retrospect, it was obvious that Meldrick Taylor’s abbreviated prime was beaten out of him in that first clash with Chavez (he also lost the rematch on an eighth-round TKO on Sept. 17, 1994). But that prime, what there was of it, was truly special, and raises an interesting question.

On June 11, Holyfield’s Olympic teammate, Evander Holyfield, will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame along with Marco Antonio Barrera and the late Johnny Tapia. They are all worthy selections, but it is highly likely they will never be joined as IBHOF members by Taylor, who burned so brightly but not long enough to meet any sort of longevity requirement for serious consideration.

I voted for Taylor, on the grounds he was to boxing, in a manner of speaking, what baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was to his sport. When Koufax was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, he was a hard-throwing but wild lefthander. Koufax was just 36-40 in his first six years in the majors as he attempted to harness his incredible stuff, but, suddenly, it all blossomed for him in 1961, when he went 18-13 with a 3.52 earned run average and 269 strikeouts in 255.2 innings. For the rest of his career, which ended after the 1966 season when he was only 30 because of an arthritic left elbow, he was the most dominant pitcher in the game, and arguably the best ever. For his final six seasons, Koufax was 129-47 with 35 shutouts, including four no-hitters (one a perfect game) and 1,713 strikeouts in 1,632.2 innings.

Taylor, in a manner of speaking, was a sort of Koufax in reverse. His first six years as a pro were his best, and they were breathtaking. He wasn’t able to sustain them, however, and even his heady run to the top did not make as deep or lasting as impression on IBHOF voters as was the case with Koufax, who entered baseball’s Hall of Fame with overwhelming support in 1972.

Like they say, it is what it is.

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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In Boxing, the Last Weekend of July was Chock Full of Surprises

The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated

Arne K. Lang



The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated

The first upset of last weekend occurred in an undercard bout on the big show at London’s O2 Arena. David Allen, a journeyman with a 13-4-2 record, knocked out previously undefeated Nick Webb (12-0, 10 KOs) in the fourth round. Allen said that he intended this to be his final fight, but will now hang around awhile.

In hindsight, this was an omen. Before the show was over, upsets – albeit mild upsets – were registered in both featured bouts. Dereck Chisora, trailing on the scorecards, stopped Carlos Takam in the eighth. Dillian Whyte outpointed Joseph Parker. And later that same day, in Kissimmee, Florida, Japanese import Masayuki Ito made a big splash in his U.S. debut, beating up highly touted Christopher Diaz.

– – – –

Joseph Parker is quite the gentleman. Following his loss to Dillian Whyte, Parker was gracious in defeat: “I say congratulations to Dillian. I gave it my best. The better man won.”

In case you missed it, Whyte survived a hoary moment in the final round to win a unanimous decision. Most everyone agreed that the decision was fair but there were a few dissenters. Well known U.K. boxing pundit Steve Bunce said, “I thought Parker deserved a draw.” Bunce noted that the scribes sitting near him were in complete accord that the most lopsided score (115-110) was far too wide.

We’ve seen fighters grouse that they were robbed after fights that were far less competitive. Parker’s post-fight amiability was all the more puzzling considering that he had a legitimate beef that referee Ian John Lewis was too lax, enabling Whyte to turn the contest into a street fight.

Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry was all on board with the selection of Lewis. “He’s a very highly qualified guy who I think is the best British referee,” he said. But Barry changed his tune after the fight, saying that there were at least two occasions when Lewis should have deducted a point from Whyte.

Veteran Australian boxing writer Anthony Cocks said that going forward, Parker, a soft spoken, mild mannered man, needs to have more of a mongrel in him. Cocks noted that when Whyte transgressed, Parker’s response was to look at the ref with a bemused expression. The first time that Whyte bent the rules, opined Cocks, Parker should have hit him in the balls.

– – – –

Top Rank hasn’t had much luck with their Puerto Rican fighters lately. First there was Felix Verdejo. Hyped as the next Felix Trinidad, the 2012 Olympian was 22-0 when his career was interrupted by a motorcycle accident. He won his first fight back in Puerto Rico, but was then exposed by Tijuana’s unheralded Antonio Lozada Jr. who stopped him in the 10th round at the Theater of Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick’s Day, 2018.

More recently, Top Rank gave a big build-up to Christopher Diaz, but Diaz, the 2016 ESPN Deportes Prospect of The Year, also hit the skids after starting his pro career 23-0. Diaz was upset on Saturday by Masayuki Ito in a match sanctioned for the vacant WBO 130-pound title.

Unlike Verdejo, Diaz was still standing at the final bell, but he was taken to the cleaners by his Japanese opponent who won comfortably on the scorecards.

– – – –

Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin made his pro debut on the Diaz-Ito undercard. Nikitin won every round of a 6-round contest.

If the name sounds vaguely familiar, this is the guy who defeated top seed Michael Conlan in a quarterfinal bantamweight match at the Rio Olympics. The decision, which Conlan greeted with a middle finger salute to the judges, was widely seen as a heist.

In signing new prospects, Top Rank honcho Bob Arum likes to gather up fighters who compete in the same weight class as fighters that he already controls. This sets up a scenario where he can double dip, extracting a commission from the purse of both principals.

The cluster is most pronounced in the lower weight classes. These fighters, listed alphabetically, are currently promoted or co-promoted by Top Rank: junior bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-1), junior featherweight Michael Conlan (8-0), featherweight Christopher Diaz (23-1), super bantamweight Isaac Dogboe (19-0), super bantamweight Jessie Magdaleno (25-1), super bantamweight Jean Rivera (14-0), featherweight Genesis Servania (31-1), bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (7-0), bantamweight Antonio Vargas (7-0), featherweight Nicholas Walters (26-1-1).

The aforementioned Nikitin launched his pro career as a featherweight.

– – – –

In July of 2004, Danny Williams knocked out Mike Tyson in the fourth round at Louisville. Iron Mike had one more fight and then wisely called it quits. Williams had 48 more fights, the most recent coming last weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Williams was stopped in the 10th round by a local man, 35-year-old Lee McAllister, whose last documented fight had come in 2013. In that bout, McAllister, carrying 140 pounds, outpointed a Slovakian slug in a 6-round fight. During his hiatus from boxing, McAllister (that’s him in the red and white trunks), served a 9-month prison sentence for assaulting a patron while working in an Aberdeen kebab shop.

Danny Williams’ weight wasn’t announced, but in his three fights prior to fighting McAllister he came in a tad north of 270 pounds. He reportedly out-weighed McAllister by 4 stone (56 pounds), likely a loose approximation.

Williams is a product of Brixton, the hardscrabble Afro-Caribbean neighborhood in South London that also spawned Dillian Whyte. But he has no intention of going back there. After the McAllister fight, in which he was knocked down three times, he said he was retiring to Nigeria where he had a job waiting for him as a bodyguard.

– – – –

The ink was barely dry on the weekend’s events when news arrived that Tyson Fury was close to signing for a December bout with WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder. On social media, Fury said the deal was almost done and Fury’s promoter Frank Warren confirmed it while saying that it was conditional on Fury looking good when he opposes Francesco Pianeta on Aug. 18 at the Windsor Park soccer stadium in Belfast. Fury vs. Pianeta underpins Carl Frampton’s WBO featherweight title defense against Luke Jackson.

As to whether he would be ready to defeat Wilder after only two comeback fights, Fury, who turns 30 this month, said he was ready to beat Wilder on the day he was born.

Deontay Wilder is disappointed that his dream match with Anthony Joshua won’t happen until next spring at the earliest, but there are plenty of options out there for him and more of them for him to ponder after this past weekend’s events.

Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz looked good against Razvan Cojanu, dismissing his hapless Romanian adversary in the second round on the Garcia-Easter card in Los Angeles.

After the bout, WBC prexy Mauricio Suliaman gave Wilder his blessing to skirt his mandatory against Dominic Breazeale for a rematch with Ortiz.

Presumably that also applies if Wilder accepts promoter Eddie Hearn’s offer for a match with Dillian Whyte. The WBC now lists Whyte as their “silver” champion and has bumped him ahead of Breazeale into the #1 slot in their rankings. And then there’s Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller who has an Eddie Hearn connection and is a more interesting opponent than Breazeale.

If Wilder vs. Fury is a go, say Fury and Warren, it will be held in December in New York or Las Vegas. We make New York the favorite. The only good date in Las Vegas in December for an event of this magnitude is Dec. 1 and that’s only because Thanksgiving arrives early this year. The National Finals Rodeo, a 10-day event which fills up the town, arrives on Dec. 6, eliminating the next two weekends. And when the rodeo leaves, Christmas is right around the corner. Historically, boxing promoters shy away from putting on a big show right before Christmas on the theory that fight fans have the “shorts,” having exhausted their discretionary income on Christmas gifts.

There are some interesting fighters competing in the upper tier of the heavyweight division and a slew of intriguing prospects coming up the ladder. The division hasn’t been this exciting since the Golden Age of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, et al. Enjoy.

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Les Moonves, Hero of Mayweather-Pacquiao Deal, Now Cast as a Villain

“He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
That comment, offered in praise of Les Moonves for the pivotal role the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation played in helping make the May 2, 2015, megafight pairing

Bernard Fernandez




“He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

That comment, offered in praise of Les Moonves for the pivotal role the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation played in helping make the May 2, 2015, megafight pairing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, has taken on a more sordid connotation in light of the avalanche of accusations of sexual impropriety that have thrust the 68-year-old Moonves into the unwelcome company of such accused high-visibility miscreants as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer.

But while the other aforementioned power players have been fired or indicted, their reputations in tatters, Moonves remains on the job as one of the most influential and highest paid (a reported $70 million in 2017) media executives in the United States. Despite a damning article authored by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker that details numerous instances of bad behavior ranging from merely dubious to criminally actionable, and to which Moonves himself has admitted to some extent, CBS on Monday issued a statement of support that seemed to catch the editors of Variety somewhat off-guard. The entertainment publication’s opening paragraph reads thusly: “In a surprise move, CBS’ board of directors is keeping Leslie Moonves as chairman-CEO even as it launches a probe of sexual assault allegations leveled against him by six women in a New Yorker expose.”

Why should still another story of alleged sexual misconduct by an older man seeking to exert improper control over younger women be of any significance to a fight audience? Well, normally it wouldn’t, except for Moonves’ position, which includes a say in the direction of Showtime’s increasingly important boxing operation if he so chooses. When negotiations for Mayweather-Pacquiao, a pay-per-view event which was to be co-produced by Showtime and HBO, hit a snag, Moonves insinuated himself into the discussion because it made financial and logistic sense for him to do so. CBS/Showtime had entered into a six-bout, $250 million deal with Mayweather, and three of the four fights held to that point had underperformed. Subsequently, the prevailing belief in CBS/Showtime’s executive offices was that Mayweather’s long-delayed showdown with Pacquiao was not only advisable, but absolutely necessary to stanch the flow of red ink.

“Without Les Moonves, this fight wouldn’t have had a prayer of happening,” Top Rank chairman and CEO Bob Arum, a longtime friend of Moonves, said after the last “i” had been dotted and the last “t” crossed. “The real hero in getting this done is Les Moonves.”

And this from Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ executive vice president and general manager, tossing another verbal bouquet to his boss: “One of the main reasons this deal got done, when maybe other ones didn’t, was having Les Moonves as part of the process. He was deeply committed to making this deal. He is someone that all parties in this negotiation respected. He was really the catalyst for seeing this through. He refused to take `no’ for an answer from any side. He was there making sure that the parties came together in a successful and cooperative manner.”

But while the high-level wheeling and dealing to finalize Mayweather-Pacquiao was done behind closed doors, so too were those instances when Moonves was attempting to arrange a private deal with a female subordinate whose career he could either advance or stymie. One such occasion allegedly involved writer-actress Ileana Douglas, who was summoned to Moonves’ office to discuss matters involving a television project in which she was to have starred. The New Yorker story quotes Douglas’ heightening discomfort as Moonves made coarse and physical advances toward her.

“At that point, you’re a trapped animal,” Douglas said of the incident. “Your life is flashing before your eyes. It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”

After The New Yorker story came out, Moonves apologized, sort of, to the six women who told Farrow that the CBS bigwig had sexually harassed them. All claimed he became cold and hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.

In a statement, Moonves said, “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected – and abided by the principle – that `no’ means `no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career … We at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”

What makes the furor that has suddenly swirled up around Moonves all the more curious is his prominent support for the #MeToo movement and other feminist causes. In December, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. A month prior to that, at a conference in November, he said, “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for (sexual harassment). And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”

There’s a lot we didn’t know? Oh, for sure. We didn’t know for a very long time that TV’s favorite father figure, now-81-year-old Bill Cosby, would be classified as a sexually violent predator by a Pennsylvania court. Cosby is due to be sentenced Sept. 24 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and his alma mater, Temple University, rescinded the honorary Ph.D. it conferred upon him in 1991. The Cos resigned his spot on Temple’s  Board of Trustees in 2014, after 32 years, amid accusations that he sexually assaulted dozens of women over decades.

We also didn’t know that Harvey Weinstein, 66, the co-founder of Miramax, would be dismissed from the company and be expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after the New York Times ran a story on Oct, 5, 2017, detailing decades of allegations against him by over 80 women. It would seem that the most important piece of furniture in Weinstein’s office was not his desk, but the proverbial casting couch.

One of the more intriguing developments in the widening scandal involved TV newsmen Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer. In September 2017, O’Reilly, fired by Fox News for a series of alleged sexual improprieties, appeared as a guest on NBC’s Today show, where he told host Matt Lauer that his dismissal was “a hit job – a political and financial hit job.” Two months later, Lauer was canned by NBCUniversal after it was found he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with another much more junior NBC employee. Three additional women subsequently made complaints against Lauer.

Boxing is a physical sport, maybe the most physical there is, and in most cases the transgressions committed were by fighters who resorted to brute force, the fastest way to bring cops and attorneys into the equation. Think Tony Ayala Jr. spending 17 years behind bars for rape, a conviction that came on the heels of a previous incident in which he broke a teenage girl’s jaw after he made unwanted advances toward her in the restroom of a drive-in theater. But it might be argued that those who seek to have their way with women by exercising a different kind of power are just as much or even more reprehensible, an affront not only to the females they view as disposable objects but to any man who would not want to see his mother, wife or daughter treated so shabbily.

According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims and no settlements against Moonves during his 24 years at the network. He deserves, as everyone does under the American system of jurisprudence, the presumption of innocence. But given the current landscape befouled by others who apparently felt that they could do whatever they wanted because they always had gotten away with it, sticking with the status quo might send the wrong message.

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