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‘Rock’ Rahman and ‘The Rock,’ Marciano, Shared a Common Personality Quirk

In at least one very significant way, two-time former heavyweight champion Hasim “The Rock” Rahman has something in common with his more renowned

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In at least one very significant way, two-time former heavyweight champion Hasim “The Rock” Rahman has something in common with his more renowned predecessor upon boxing’s big-man throne, Rocky Marciano. Both held firm to the belief that cash in hand is actual money, but checks, bank drafts and even secured guarantees of future payments for their services constituted something of lesser value. The legend of Marciano is rife with tales of how, after his retirement from the ring, he’d accept speaking engagements for, say, a $10,000 fee and, after his turn at the podium, decline a check in that amount so long as those putting on the event might scrounge up even a fraction of the agreed-upon amount in folding money the “Brockton Blockbuster” could put in his pocket right then and there. And when the famously frugal Marciano died in the crash of a small plane on Aug. 31, 1969, the day before his 46th birthday, an appreciable portion of his fortune could not be located, with those familiar with his ways figuring he had stashed it in secret places known only to a fighter who was as fiercely protective of his legal tender as he was of his undefeated record.

But the obvious link between Rahman, now 45 and retired since 2014, and all-time great Marciano is not nearly as widely cited as that between the onetime street banger and James “Buster” Douglas, another presumably no-hope challenger for boxing’s most prestigious title who journeyed to a distant land and shocked the world by knocking out a seemingly invincible champion. Although the 10th-round KO Douglas – as a 42-1 longshot – scored against Mike Tyson on Feb. 11, 1990, in Tokyo is still regarded as the most shocking upset in boxing history, in retrospect the parallels between that fight and April 21, 2001, when 20-1 underdog Rahman starched Lennox Lewis in the fifth round in Carnival City, South Africa, appear to be increasingly flimsy. Douglas, although larger and probably a better natural athlete than Rahman, was less disciplined and dedicated to his craft; he took down the undertrained and overconfident Tyson in no small part because, for once, he prepared with purpose, dedicating his performance to his recently deceased mother. Lewis might also have incorrectly figured on a paint-by-numbers dismissal of Rahman, but the supposed victim had a powerful punch, better-than-decent skills and a history of showing up ready to give his best effort on most occasions. More than a few knowledgeable observers, familiar with the lackadaisical preparation put in by Lewis, figured that Rahman not only could, but would do what he did when he landed the devastating right hand that for a time turned the boxing world on its collective ear.

It is what happened in the aftermath of the first Lewis-Rahman fight, however, most notably in a covert hotel-room meeting and courts of law, that has resonated more than what took place inside the ropes in South Africa and even later, when the pugilistic principals squared off again in Las Vegas in a fight for so much more than dominion over the heavyweight division. The saga involved a duffel bag full of the kind of currency Marciano and Rahman so loved to hold in their hands, of a key deadline missed, of contractual fine print, of small fortunes that should have been larger ones, and of one man’s underappreciated career that perhaps had a chance to be recognized as something more than a footnote to heavyweight history.

You have to wonder how it all would have turned out had Rahman been less like Marciano, insofar as it concerned money matters, and more like, say, Bernard Hopkins, a product of his city’s (Philadelphia) meaner streets, as was Baltimore’s Rahman, but someone prudent enough to resist the temptation to affix his signature to the bottom of any blank piece of paper no matter how large and cash-stuffed the duffel bag being placed upon a table by crafty promoter Don King.

It is easy now for all the naysayers and tsk-tskers to criticize Rahman, whose purse for the fight immediately preceding his first go at Lewis (for which he was paid a then-career-high $1.5 million) was  said to be a paltry $13,000 for his seventh-round stoppage of journeyman Frankie Swindell. But how many of those raised in poverty and accustomed to just scraping by can look at a $500,000 pile of cash, further sweetened with an endorsed check for $4.5 million, and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” The agreement was finalized at 3 a.m., leaving Rahman’s promoter of record, the now-deceased Cedric Kushner, and HBO officials wondering where their missing guest was during the course of the annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards Dinner in midtown Manhattan, at which Rahman was to be warmly greeted and the recipient of an HBO offer that would have dwarfed the deal he had just accepted from King.

When Lewis and his representatives successfully sought to have the rematch clause in his contract enforced, judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled that Kushner had the right to serve as Rahman’s promoter for the do-over, albeit with part of Rahman’s purse going to Kushner to satisfy legal claims against King and Rahman. Not that Rahman’s end of the reduced deal — $4 million – was chump change, but had he come away from the first fight with Lewis as the free agent he had envisioned himself to be, he would have been the object of a bidding war between HBO and Showtime that might have earned him an additional $70 million to $80 million on a multifight deal, most of which would have been guaranteed money.

When the extremely fit and highly motivated Lewis – who had scuffled with Rahman during a joint appearance on ESPN in which Rahman had derisively hinted that Lewis was gay – exacted his revenge with a fourth-round knockout at the Mandalay Bay, connecting with the same sort of overhand right to the jaw that Rahman had landed on him seven months earlier, it seemed as though Rahman’s giddy time in the spotlight had come to an end. But such a presumption would prove to be at least somewhat premature. “Rock” did have another reign as a world champion, by decree of the WBC after Vitali Klitschko suffered a knee injury and subsequently retired late in 2005. (The elder of the two fighting Klitschko brothers returned to the ring in 2008, regained the WBC title and held it until he retired again, this time for good, in 2012.) Rahman relinquished the strap he had been given without ever having to throw a punch in his first defense, when he was stopped by Oleg Maskaev in the 12th round on Aug. 12, 2005, and he later came up short in title shots against Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin, both inside the distance. He called it quits after a three-round unanimous decision loss to fledgling pro Anthony Nansen on June 4, 2014, in Auckland, New Zealand, finishing with a record of 50-9-2 (41) and six KO losses.

It is highly unlikely that Rahman ever will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but a plausible case can be made that he was the most legitimate of the alphabet American heavyweight champions not named Evander Holyfield from 2001 to 2008, a fallow time for U.S. big men in which the other temporary claimants included the likes of John Ruiz, Chris Byrd, Lamon Brewster and Briggs. You say that future Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr. held a heavyweight title during the referenced period? True, but RJJ was not a real heavyweight, just a one-and-done visitor to the division who beat the eminently beatable Ruiz and immediately went back down to light heavyweight. Byrd was a slick southpaw who could give anyone fits, but he was actually a bulked-up super middleweight who always seemed like a point guard trying to post up power forwards.

Rahman, on the other hand, could take his man out with a single shot, as evidenced by his turn-out-the-lights drilling of Lewis, and when he put his mind to it, box intelligently and execute fight plans mapped out for him by the more astute members of an assembly line of nine trainers, the better-known of the group being Mack Lewis, Kevin Rooney, Janks Morton, Thell Torrence and Bouie Fisher. He also was quick with a quip, making him popular and accessible to the media, and he had the kind of back story that made for good copy. There was that jagged scar on the right side of his face, a conversation piece that was the result of a 1991 accident in which he was a passenger in a truck whose drunk driver was speeding and ran a stop sign. The driver was killed, but Rahman was thrown clear, only to have his head pinned under the gas tank until help arrived after 20 agonizingly long minutes. Then again, living dangerously was a part of his daily existence in Baltimore, whose inner-city perils were explored in depth during the 1993 to ’99 run of NBC’s gritty series, Homocide: Life on the Street.  For a time, he served as muscle for some neighborhood drug dealers. He also survived a shooting in which he was struck by five bullets.

“I felt like I was in a maze with no exit,” Rahman said in 2014. “There were only two ways out, death or the penitentiary.”

But Rahman’s life changed when he was 20 and flattened a former pro boxer in a street fight. The beaten ex-pro directed Rahman to a gym and told him he would make a million dollars in the ring if applied himself with the proper dedication. “He didn’t need to say no more,” Rahman recalled.

Of course, Rahman didn’t make a million dollars, and would not for a long time.  But the big break he had been waiting for came when Lewis, who was angling for a megafight with Mike Tyson, decided to fill in some of his down time by accepting a $7 million payday for a stay-busy fight in South Africa against Rahman, who, despite a 35-2 record that included 28 KOs, had been stopped by both Oleg Maskaev and David Tua. Lewis apparently felt so certain of victory that he did not fly into Johannesburg, where the elevation is 5,200 feet above sea level, until just 12 days before the fight. He instead put in most of his moderately exerting training in Vegas, where he had a cameo role in the remake of an old Frank Sinatra heist movie, Ocean’s 11, in which he and Klitschko were to engage in a reel fight instead of a real one. Rahman understood the importance of training at altitude and adjusting to the time change (the fight would take place at 5 a.m. local time, or seven hours later than on U.S. East coast to accommodate the HBO telecast, and he arrived a month in advance.

South African promoter Rodney Berman, who was instrumental in bringing the fight, which was being hyped as “Thunder in Africa,” to Carnival City, said “there is no doubt that (Lewis) will suffer from jet lag when he arrives,” a prediction that proved accurate when a physician who examined Lewis shortly after his plane touched down said the champion was “extremely jet-lagged” and was having difficulty breathing the thin air. And if all that weren’t enough, Lewis came in at a then-career-high 253½ pounds for the weigh-in, another warning sign that he had forgotten the lesson he should have learned on Sept. 24, 1994, when he took Oliver McCall lightly and got starched in the second round in London.

When Rahman dropped the hammer on Lewis in a virtual repeat of the McCall bout, HBO commentator Larry Merchant wryly observed that the dethroned WBC, IBF and lineal titlist “just drowned in Ocean’s 11.

The unexpected emergence of a unified American heavyweight champion in a division that was increasingly dominated by foreign fighters stamped Rahman as the fight game’s hero du jour in the U.S. He became the subject of two documentaries, the principal in numerous lawsuits, made the rounds of the late-night talk shows and, relishing his first taste of affluence, purchased five luxury cars. HBO was prepared to offer him $14 million for a rematch with Lewis, and Showtime was going to go even higher, $19 million, for a bout with Mike Tyson.

So why did Rahman meet with King in that New York hotel room on the sly and sign for a $5 million title defense against Denmark’s Brian Nielsen, which was to be on the undercard  of an Aug. 4, 2001, show in Beijing, China, headlined by WBA ruler Ruiz’s rubber-match defense against Evander Holyfield? Pending a victory over the oafish Nielsen, which was a virtual given, Rahman then was to move on to a bout with the Ruiz-Holyfield III winner for the fully unified championship.

It was a Rubik’s Cube of maybes that quickly fell apart. Nielsen fell out and his slot was filled by David Izon, another kind-of-decent fighter floating along on the periphery of actual contention. He, too, was out of the picture when negotiations to stage the Beijing card collapsed. Ruiz and Holyfield did fight for a third time, on Dec. 15, 2001, with Ruiz retaining his version of the title on a split draw in Mashantucket, Conn. But the biggest impediment to King’s purported plan for Rahman was when the lawsuits began being filed, as they surely had to, with Lewis demanding that his rematch clause be fulfilled and Kushner claiming that his promotional rights to Rahman had been infringed upon.

But questions continued to hang in the air like Los Angeles smog. Why would Rahman, despite his unfamiliarity with the high-finance aspects of boxing, accept pennies on the dollar to go with King when the other options available to him would have brought him so much more money and, were he to beat Lewis again or maybe Tyson, far greater prestige?  Maybe it was because he figured that, with Kushner’s deliverance to him of a $75,000 payment before the first Lewis fight but after the contracted deadline, he was at liberty to go in whichever direction he chose. It’s possible he figured that by taking a much easier bout with Nielsen or, later, Izon, he could enjoy the status of being a world champion longer before the harsh reality of a rededicated Lewis or a snarling Tyson set in. And, who knows, perhaps it was simply the sight of that half-million bucks piled on that hotel-room table that made him reach for the pen that made him a bystander to the negotiations instead of the person driving them.

Whatever the reason, Rahman comes off looking the worse for comparison to Douglas, who got knocked out by Holyfield in his first post-Tyson defense but at least had the satisfaction of being paid $23 million. Rahman eventually sued to gain his release from his contract with King, and got it in December 2005, but his new deal with Top Rank did not yield the benefits either side had hoped for. Rahman filed for bankruptcy, citing debts of more than $5 million, including $2.1 million to the Internal Revenue Service.

There is an old saying: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Hasim Rahman mistakenly figured $500,000 in his hand might turn out to be better than $85 million stashed somewhere in that proverbial bush. As financial gambles go, it was a doozy of a miscalculation, but it’s a mistake that has been made before in boxing and will again, human nature being what it is. The gut instinct fighters rely on in plying their brutal trade does not always play out so well when it comes to reading and understanding the fine print.

Here’s hoping the memory of the moment when Rahman’s right hand exploded on Lewis’ chin is enough to salve the disappointment of the duffel bag that did not prove to be quite as full as he once thought. Here’s also hoping that Rahman’s son, 26-year-old heavyweight Hasim Rahman Jr. (4-0, 3 KOs), should he ever give signals that he has the stuff to be a true contender, can avoid the financial pitfalls that have kept his dad from receiving all the rewards he should have reaped from a career mostly well spent.

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Argentina

The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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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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Canada & Usa

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Asia & Oceania

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

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Moonves

“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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