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Articles of 2003

GOOD INTENTIONS, YES – BUT COULD FIGHTERS WIND UP GETTING A F.I.S.T. TO THE FACE?

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GOOD INTENTIONS

GOOD INTENTIONS – The 43rd Round

I want to bring to your attention a press release, issued a couple of weeks ago:

News Release, February 27, 2003
(A formal announcement will be made at a New York City press conference on March 11th)

F.I.S.T. ANNOUNCES AFFILIATION WITH OPEIU & AFL-CIO
By Joe Sano, F.I.S.T. and Executive Director of OMCE

On February 11, 2003, the F.I.S.T. Board of Directors voted to approve an affiliation between F.I.S.T. and OPEIU, Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 153, AFL-CIO thus making F.I.S.T. a not-for profit guild-The Boxer’s Guild. Guilds throughout time have focused on upholding fair and equitable standards for the profession while providing mutual aid and promotion of its members’ common interests.

This is a bold step! Immediate benefits to F.I.S.T.’s members will be:

– F.I.S.T. members will receive all services and benefits of OPEIU, OPEIU #153 and AFL-CIO members including the $3000 death benefit, $225 disability payment as well as all Union Plus benefits, scholarships, Labor Council membership and official eligibility of our members for Consortium for Workers’ Education benefits

– Access to a Health Insurance plan NYC Metro area (HMO) includes dental payments, eye care and prescription drugs (through HIP- Health Insurance Plan of New York cost is $255.18/mo individual, Individual & child(ren) $466.03, Individual and Spouse $500.32 and Family $759.99

– Members actively fighting get a FREE review of a boxer/manager contract. Such contracts will be compared to the contract principles drawn up by the Muhammed Ali boxing bill and the model contract of the Attorney Generals’ Task Force on Boxing.

– Active boxer members will be able to use the OPEIU counsel for any litigation arising from these contracts at a set rate of $150 per hour.

– As stated in the by-laws of F.I.S.T. a variety of memberships will be offered to active, retired and friends of boxing. Dues will be set to include per capita payments to OPEIU international, Local 153 and to F.I.S.T. as determined by the Board of F.I.S.T. Initial dues are projected at $10 per month.

The OPEIU and the AFL-CIO have dedicated themselves to reaching out and encouraging non-traditional working people engaged as independent contractors to join the labor movement.

F.I.S.T. is proud to be part of OPEIU – one of the leading unions in the AFL-CIO

A formal announcement will be made at a New York City press conference on March 11th.

Well, the press conference was indeed held on Tuesday, and as promised, it was to announce the formation of what was referred to as a “boxers’ guild”.

When it comes down to it, this association will have the full force and effect of a union, at least to the extent that it can represent individuals who are independent contractors.

It should be clear that no one is inviting a bunch of fighters to come aboard for a free helping of the benefits of membership in the OPEIU. There are union dues to be paid. There are union rules that no doubt have to be adhered to. Indeed, these kinds of “benefit packages” as was listed in the press release are a key membership recruitment tool; part of an overall strategy for union organizing, as outlined at the following URL: http://63.250.1.227/frames/index.html

According to Article II of the OPEIU Constitution, “The International Union shall be devoted and dedicated to promoting, protecting and championing the legitimate struggles of professional, technical, office and clerical employees toward achieving economic well-being, their general welfare and rights as workers and citizens.”

Yes, this is a de facto union effort. But I don’t wish to get into semantics here – I really wouldn’t care whether this group called itself a union, a guild, an association, or an exaltation of larks. Let’s call it something we can all agree on – a SUPPORT GROUP FOR ACTIVE BOXERS. For purposes of making the points contained herein, I’m more concerned with FUNCTION than anything else.

According to a MaxBoxing article, at the press conference, Gerry Cooney, the founder of F.I.S.T., said, “We respect the fighters’ individuality, and the fact that they are independent contractors. We also represent the boxer’s right to fair and equitable contracts modeled on the Muhammad Ali boxing bill, and the model contract spelled out by the Attorney General’s Task Force on Boxing.”

And Joe Sano, the current F.I.S.T. president, said, in referring to active boxers that might join the organization, “That active boxer needs our assistance in reviewing a contract, if there’s a problem in litigating that contract. Then we feel that that’s the best way to put our efforts at this time. That’s where the industry is at.”

Sano also indicated to us on Monday that an active fighter with membership in F.I.S.T. would also simultaneously have membership in the OPEIU – a union – and that, in the event a fighter within the membership was victimized by someone in violation of the Ali Act, the union would put itself in a position to offer advice and counsel to that individual, not to mention making the OPEIU union attorneys available (for a fee).

So while there is not necessarily a collective bargaining component involved, there would appear to be little doubt that the OPEIU, by definition, represents itself as an entity that would support the rights of individual fighters, if requested, in certain dealings with their so-called “employers”, e.g., promoters, where there was a grievance or a certain issue of principle at stake.

I think it’s important for that foundation to be established.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. In fact, it would appear to be a good thing indeed that fighters might have access to benefits they wouldn’t have otherwise.

As far as I can tell, F.I.S.T. is a good, worthwhile organization, with the very best of intentions. Steve Farhood, one of the founders along with Cooney, is a high-quality individual who has worked hard on F.I.S.T. fund-raisers in the past.

But I wonder if any of these guys fully realize what they’ve potentially gotten themselves into.

The problematic aspect of this “association” starts with the F.I.S.T. Board of Directors. It includes, among others, Jay Larkin, executive producer of Showtime’s sports and event programming; Ross Greenberg, president of HBO Sports; Kery Davis, vice-president of HBO, also in the “boxing department”; Bobby Czyz and Farhood, both employees of Showtime; and Lou DiBella, a promoter. Maybe I’m just guessing, but I would imagine all of these people have given financial support to F.I.S.T., or have lent their names to an effort to raise funds. And ALL of them, as indicated on the F.I.S.T. press release, had an opportunity to vote on F.I.S.T.’s association with the union.

What do these people have in common? Well, they could all, at one time or another, find themselves on the opposite side of the table in any given instance where a fighter who has signed up with F.I.S.T. – and becomes a member of the OPEIU, affiliated with the AFL-CIO – might be looking for someone to “support” his/her rights in a grievance. Obviously we’re talking about grievances that involve those principle which represent something any active boxers’ support group would – and should – be standing squarely behind.

Considering some of the composition of the F.I.S.T. board, this could easily represent a very clear conflict of interest, although I’m sure this must have been something unforeseen by the F.I.S.T. administrators.

But let’s put it this way – if I were an operative of a “support” group for active fighters, especially one that is associated with a union, one of the most important issues on my slate would involve the principle of financial disclosure. I’d be wanting to know how much network money there was on the table for any fight involving one of my members, not only because that provides that particular fighter/member with optimum bargaining power, but because it’s at least implied in the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.

Let me show you:

“SEC. 13. REQUIRED DISCLOSURES FOR PROMOTERS.

`(b) DISCLOSURES TO THE BOXER- A promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes–

`(1) the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match”

Now, there may be differing opinions on this, but if I am involved with a boxers’ support group, and I am doing the right thing by my members, my position is going to be that this includes ALL compensation or consideration, including money that comes from television networks. Sure, it’s never enforced, but my posture, and an inflexible one at that, would be to do everything possible to make sure it is, wouldn’t it? In fact, I would be shucking my responsibility if I didn’t.

And we’re not even talking about all those states which tax promoters on the television revenue they receive (the amounts vary). Those agreements obviously have to be registered with the commission to ensure that they would know how much tax to assess, and as such they should be public record. In some states, however, like Nevada, they curiously are not.

Read this, from the Nevada Statutes, and take particular note of Paragraph #4:

“NRS 467.137 PROMOTER AND NETWORK TO FILE COPY OF CONTRACTS FOR TELEVISION RIGHTS; RECORDS OF ACCOUNTS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS; ASSESSMENT OF FEE FOR LICENSE; CONFIDENTIALITY OF CONTRACT.

1. A promoter and a broadcasting network for television shall each, at least 72 hours before a contest or exhibition of unarmed combat, or combination of those events is to be held, file with the commission’s executive director a copy of all contracts entered into for the sale, lease or other exploitation of television rights for the contest or exhibition.

2. The promoter shall keep detailed records of the accounts and other documents related to his receipts from the sale, lease or other exploitation on the television rights for a contest or exhibition. The commission, at any time, may inspect these accounts and documents to determine the amount of the total gross receipts received by the promoter from the television rights.

3. If a promoter or a network fails to comply with the requirements of this section, the commission may determine the amount of the total gross receipts from the sale, lease or other exploitation of television rights for the contest or exhibition and assess the appropriate license fee pursuant to paragraph (b) of subsection 1 of NRS 467.107.

4. Each contract filed with the commission pursuant to this section is confidential and is not a public record.”

As a support group, presumably interested in the welfare of active fighters, I would be campaigning for ALL that information to be available to my members, particularly if one of them came to me for some help.

But would I be campaigning so hard IF I were, at the same time, beholden to ANY board members who were boxing promoters, or boxing-related executives at television networks (sometimes referred to as the REAL promoters)? And just as importantly, if I were one of those board members who had very clear interests in this regard, would I be promoting that brand of “support” among any of the F.I.S.T. membership or administration?

The answers to those questions, my friends, are: absolutely not, and absolutely not. In fact, recent history demonstrates that networks fight as hard as they can AGAINST that kind of disclosure.

Let’s take the case of Bones Adams, the former World Boxing Association junior featherweight champion who a couple of years ago filed a lawsuit against the WBA for stripping him of his title. The WBA’s contention was that taking Adams’ title did not necessarily diminish his ability to earn. To illustrate that, the WBA attempted to compel a third-party witness to testify. That third-party witness, coincidentally (or perhaps not) was Kery Davis, vice-president of HBO, and a member of the board of directors of F.I.S.T.

It was the WBA’s claim that HBO did not necessarily pay Top Rank (Adams’ promoter) any less money for the rights fee for the Adams-Paulie Ayala fight, just because Adams did not hold the WBA title. But HBO did not want Davis to testify. According to the court documents, “HBO resists this disclosure on the grounds that the information is confidential and proprietary and that its disclosure would place it at a competitive disadvantage.”

HBO won that battle – primarily because Adams’ attorneys did not advance the claim that, just because he didn’t hold a title, he was prejudiced financially with regard to the fight with Ayala. But it was clear that HBO was not desirous of revealing that information in any manner in which it might become public, under any circumstances.

Adams tells us that despite the fact that Top Rank was his co-plaintiff in this action, he still does not know how much the promoter was paid by HBO.

It is no secret that the networks are offering strong resistance to Senator Harry Reid’s contention that they be subject to licensing and regulation, and all that comes with it. They simply do not want to grant fighters access to rights fee information, and naturally, neither do promoters. In that sense, they are very much on the same page. That page just happens to be very different than that of the fighters, or anyone who would propose to advocate for them.

So, in order words, if we assume that it would be in the best interests of a fighter, for negotiation purposes, for such disclosure to be made, and networks and/or promoters feel that it would be against THEIR best interests to make those disclosures, the interests of the two parties are, by definition, in CONFLICT.

If those network executives and/or boxing promoters are board members of a “support” group for active fighters, whose interests do you think will be served in the end? It certainly wouldn’t be any shock if fighters came in second place, once again. I think you’ll agree that the last thing they need is to fall victim to another conflict of interest in boxing. And it would defeat the purpose of what F.I.S.T. is purporting to do.

Let me put it in plain English – if you’re a fighter who is a member, whether it’s as an associate or otherwise, in a union – promoters and networks are the potential ADVERSARY. And those closely involved with a union – or whatever designation it wants to use – can’t be sitting on both sides of the table at the same time.

To dismiss this as being no conflict at all is tantamount to ignoring what would be a very legitimate concern for fighters. Period.

In fact, the very act of allowing the people in question to VOTE on an association with a union represents a conflict of interest, in and of itself. The proper thing, if F.I.S.T. is going to become involved on this level, might be to ask all those board members with connections to network boxing or boxing promotions to step down.

DiBella understands this, and would act accordingly if the need arose.

“Let me be clear that I am absolutely not against the unionization of fighters. That has the potential of being good for the game,” he said. “But if it (F.I.S.T.) turned into something that was a de facto union, I would resign, citing a conflict of interest.”

Perhaps the most appropriate thing F.I.S.T., now working on behalf of active fighters, could have done at that press conference would be to respectfully request, in the interests of boxing – and boxers, both now and in the future – that its board members take the lead in the area of financial disclosure to the constituency it represents.

How likely would that be?

In the way of conclusion, I’d also caution other groups who would propose to offer anything in the way of support for the active professional boxer to look before leaping – consider all circumstances and contemplate all associations before you jump into those philanthropic waters. Even if it’s by accident, you may find yourselves potentially hurting the very people you intend to help.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Articles of 2003

The War at 154

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They're calling it the “War at 154,” though no one will confuse it with plucking evil dictators out of dirty rat holes or patrolling the rubble and dark streets of a dying city.

Still, they're hoping this fight somehow lives up to its top billing, praying a slugfest breaks out instead of 12 rounds of elevator music.

IBF champ Winky Wright (46-3, 25 K0s), versus WBA and WBC champ Shane Mosley (39-2, 35 K0s) for the undisputed junior-middleweight (or, depending on your mood, super-welterweight) championship of the world.

Finally.

It has a nice, long-overdue ring to it, a kind of “it's about damn time,” feel to it.

If you want to give credit to the right people for getting this fight done, you can start with Cory Spinks, an unlikely hero now known as the undisputed welterweight champ of the world.

If Spinks hadn't beaten Ricardo Mayorga on Dec. 13, Wright could have spent January and February snagging some sun on a St. Petersburg beach. That's because Mayorga was expected to walk through Spinks on his way to a lucrative fight with Mosley in March.

But somehow, Spinks found a way to beat Mayorga and suddenly, Mosley no longer had a March opponent and everything appeared to be ruined. Plans were shattered, promises broken, money was lost. The wife cried, the dog howled and the kids were sent to bed early.

How can this happen?

Then an idea occurred to someone important.

Hey, what about Ronald “Winky” Wright? I don't think he's got any big plans for March.

Winky, who was free in March, owes Cory a friendly slap on the back.

So what does the March 13 fight between Mosley and Wright (on HBO) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas mean?

Just about everything if you weigh 154 and hold a world title belt.

It means Winky finally gets the big-money, big-name fight that could define his career, the fight he's been chasing since his controversial majority-decision loss to Fernando Vargas in 1999.

It means Gary Shaw, Mosley's promoter, also deserves a little pat on the back for somehow putting this fight together.

It means for the first time in 29 years, you'll only have to know one name when the bar talk turns to who the best junior-middleweight fighter in the world is.

It means Mosley better arrive at the gym early and leave late. He's not fighting the awkward banger he'd be facing in Mayorga. While Mayorga knows how to slug, Wright knows how to box.

It means Wright doesn't have to pack his passport the day he leaves for the fight. He won't have to hire an interpreter, change his currency, drive on the left side or learn how to eat and pronounce strange food. Of Wright's 49 fights, 20 have required extra paperwork and extra-long plane rides. He's fought in eight different countries and on four different continents.

No wonder no one over here knows who Winky Wright is.

Finally, this fight means that with the right money and for the right reasons, two guys in the same weight class holding different world titles, can come to an understanding that meeting inside the ring to decide who is the real champion makes all the sense in the world.

The sad thing is, it took an upset by another fighter in a different weight class – Spinks – to finally make it happen.

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Articles of 2003

KILL THE BILL Volume 7 — ANOTHER REFORMER WHO NEEDS TO BE REFORMED

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The 99th Round

Earlier this month, in response to what he, and others, considered an excessive amount of “pork” in the latest energy bill, John McCain told his Senate colleagues, “The outbreak of Washington trichinosis will be so severe, we will be forced to have a field office for the Centers for Disease Control right next to the Capitol.”

In a recent Associated Press wire story, McCain was described as “an avid critic of spending for lawmakers' pet projects.”

One of the great curiosities of McCain's campaign to slip through Congress his own pet project, the expensive ($36 million over five years), ineffectual, and perhaps unconstitutional Professional Boxing Amendments Act (to federalize control of boxing) has been his outright refusal to include television entities – by far the most powerful and influential forces in the sport – among those which would fall under regulatory jurisdiction.

Critics have cried foul – and they've had a point. If networks are going to control the balance of power, define the major 'players', put fighters under contract, and in some cases actually assume the 'de facto' role of a promoter, they are receiving unequal and unfair protection vis-a-vis the promoters in boxing who are actually required to be licensed and regulated.

However, McCain has been resolute about maintaining this protection, avoiding all opportunities to adjust or amend the bill to accommodate the reality of the industry, not to mention Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who had previously introduced legislation that would provide some oversight of networks when they play a promotional role. McCain has been nothing short of combative on occasion, “calling out” Reid in press conferences, and in correspondence he has leaked to the public.

Why is McCain so stubborn? Part of the reason lies in a mode of political operation that has become imbedded in the man itself, despite countless “spins” to the contrary.

What is common knowledge inside the Beltway, but not necessarily among average boxing fans, is that while McCain has carefully crafted an image as a reformer railing against special interests, he has developed a talent that is much more acute, as one of the very best in the business at feeding from the corporate trough.

He has been slick enough to parlay his coziness with corporate interests into political capital, resulting in lots of money coming his way for campaigns. And his public relations apparatus, which has included many highly-cooperative writers, both in and out of sports, has enabled him to avoid having to discuss the considerable influence special interest groups have had on the drafting and development of McCain's boxing bill – the same types of groups he would purport to be thwarting in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (otherwise known as McCain-Feingold), which, at the end of the day, amounts to little more than a rather brazen attempt to protect his own incumbency and that of other elected officials.

Campaign finance records available through the website OpenSecrets.org indicate that, for example, during 1999, the third-highest contributor to what, at the time, was McCain's insurgent run at the Republican presidential nomination was Viacom ($47,750), which controls a number of TV outlets, including Showtime, which has a major investment in boxing.

The top eight corporate contributors to McCain's “Straight Talk America” political action committee from 1997-2002 included three companies that would be affected, one way or another, by the way McCain's bill was shaped – Viacom, AT&T (which controlled cable outlets and sold pay-per-view boxing events), and AOL Time Warner (which owns HBO, boxing's most powerful single entity).

And as for McCain's last U.S. Senate campaign, waged in 1998, the list of his top fifty corporate donors is replete with entities who have a substantial stake in boxing, and which have a “special interest” in avoiding the regulatory blanket – Viacom (3rd – $55,250), AT&T (4th – $51,563), NBC/General Electric (20th – $19,500), Fox/News Corp. (22nd – $19,050), Time Warner (T43rd – $12,000), and Univision (T43rd – $12,000), not to mention Anheuser-Busch (5th -$51,563), a company in which McCain has considerable financial interests, both individually (he has reported at least a half-million dollars in debentures) and through his family (which controls the largest distributorship in Arizona), and which over the past two decades has been boxing most prominent sponsor, with nearly all of that advertising delivered through television.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which McCain chairs and under whose domain the boxing bill falls, is heavily courted by companies with interests in the sport. For the six-year cycle between 1995-2000, the top committee-related contributors to committee members include: AT&T ($369,960), Time-Warner ($249,585), Viacom ($167,654), the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN ($147,758), and the National Cable Television Association ($129,101).

Noted boxing promoters like Don King, Bob Arum, Cedric Kushner, Main Events, Duva Boxing, Gary Shaw or DiBella Entertainment do not appear on that list; apparently there was not enough in the way of donations to rise in McCain's pecking order.

Despite his well-cultivated “reformer” image, McCain has time and again demonstrated that he is a creature of corporate America and a bedfellow of corporate lobbyists. His leveraging efforts have been particularly remarkable, and he's utilized his position on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – first as the ranking Republican and now as chair – to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations he has regulatory power over.

McCain, who through his campaign finance measure is regarded by many First Amendment advocates as no friend of free speech, is notorious for freezing out consumer groups who would like to present their cases to his committee but who have not lavished him with campaign donations. According to a February 2000 story in the New York Press, representatives of corporations – the lion's share of which are directly tied to McCain's campaign war chests – out-number such consumer-interest groups by a 10-to-1 margin when it comes to appearances at committee hearings.

The causative links between campaign donations and special favors have become a McCain trademark. In 1999, after McCain-authored legislation to allow satellite TV companies to carry local programming in each market, which had previously been prohibited, was approved by his committee, one of the players who stood to experience a resulting windfall – EchoStar Communications – held a huge fund-raiser for McCain's presidential campaign.

During the 2000 primary season, as word came down that McCain was pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to act on a license transfer in favor of Paxson Communications, a company that had, to that date, “coordinated” $20,000 in contributions for his run at the nomination and treated him to many free flights on its corporate jet, his then-opponent, George W. Bush, was moved to remark, “I think somebody who makes campaign financing an issue has got to be consistent and walk the walk.”

Of course, one understands McCain's pattern of behavior more vividly upon an examination into his central role in the infamous “Keating Five” scandal, one of history's most naked examples of politicians exerting special levels of influence for the sake of large campaign contributors.

Charles Keating Jr., who owned the Lincoln Savings & Loan Association and was a major presence in Arizona, was under investigation by authorities – specifically the Federal Home Loan Bank Board – for making investments of such a speculative nature that they put at risk the government-insured money of depositors. Keating took issue with the premise of the investigation, and wanted the regulators off his back. He had, between 1982 and 1987, stuffed the campaign coffers of five United States Senators – John Glenn of Ohio, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, Don Riegle of Michigan, and McCain – to the tune of $1.4 million.

At the same time, McCain family members, including his wife and father-in-law, were the chief investors in the Fountain Square Shopping Center, controlled and managed by Keating, with a stake estimated at $359,000. McCain and his family were also frequent vacation guests of Keating – traveling at Keating's expense on Keating's private jet to the resort Keating owned at Cat Cay in the Bahamas – at least nine times in all. Surely there were interests to protect on more than one front.

Although he later claimed to be very reluctant in doing so, McCain nonetheless couldn't resist in joining with his four Senate colleagues in April of 1987 to pressure regulators to end their investigation of Keating, which had been ongoing for two years. The regulators later testified that they felt intimidated by McCain's group, which was tagged the “Keating Five”.

To illustrate the justification of the investigation, the S&L controlled by McCain's friend Keating busted out, ruining thousands of investors and costing taxpayers $3.4 billion in bailouts, the worst hit in the entire saving and loan scandal.

There was also more than one call within his home state of Arizona for McCain to resign.

During this particular period in his career, McCain was hardly interested in raising the issue of campaign finance reform. In fact, quite the contrary – he resisted it at every turn and resisted others who made an effort in that direction. According to a December 8, 1987 story in the Phoenix Gazette

, “So why has Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., gone to unprecedented lengths to block reform of the Senate campaign finance system? Why does he oppose letting this important matter even come to a vote? Perhaps it's because he is a prime beneficiary of the special interest funding of congressional elections. McCain raised over $2.5 million for his 1986 election . . . more than $760,000 of his campaign funds came from political action committee (PACs) . . . especially disturbing are the contributions to McCain's campaign coffers from PACs outside of Arizona.”

And McCain simply embarrassed himself when his family's investment deals with Keating were uncovered. In September of 1989, as he was questioned about them by the Arizona Republic, he called the reporter “a liar” and denounced his efforts as “irresponsible journalism”. When pressed later, he told the same reporter, “That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot.”

In ultimately protecting one of their own, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics asserted McCain broke no laws, but did say this about the man who is now the self-professed “champion of campaign finance reform”:

“Mr. Keating, his associates, and his friends contributed $56,000 for Senator McCain's two House races in 1982 and 1984, and $54,000 for his 1986 Senate race. Mr. Keating also provided his corporate plane and/or arranged for payment for the use of commercial or private aircraft on several occasions for travel by Senator McCain and his family, for which Senator McCain ultimately provided reimbursement when called upon to do so. Mr. Keating also allowed Senator McCain and his family to vacation with Mr. Keating and his family, at a home provided by Mr. Keating in the Bahamas, in each of the calendar years 1983 through 1986……..”

According to a Time magazine story in December of 1999, ” He (McCain) denounces big-spending special interests and yet accepts flights on corporate jets; he puts the speaker of the Arizona house of representatives on his campaign payroll despite a flurry of ethics charges around him; he neglects to recuse himself from debates about measures that would affect his family beer business.”

Yet the writers, Nancy Gibbs and John F. Dickerson, insist, “But a funny thing happened on the way to his deathbed conversion (to campaign reformer): he really reformed.”

McCain's posture toward television interests in the process of crafting the boxing bill would strongly suggest otherwise.

On a personal note, as I reviewed some of the material for this story, my mind regressed to a couple of years ago, as I was compiling the investigative report “A Commission Run Amok”, which dealt with the Florida State Athletic Commission.

At the time, Mike Scionti, the commission's former executive director, was awaiting a hearing on ethics charges. He had been embroiled in a firestorm of controversy that eventually led to his firing by Governor Jeb Bush, over what was considered to be highly improper conduct while in office. A non-profit organization – a charity for youth – that the commission had established and Scionti had spearheaded, accepted a large donation from promoter Don King, after which Scionti had sought to change a commission regulation about promotional contracts that would have benefited King.

There was no evidence that any money went into Scionti's pocket directly, or that it went to furthering any personal agenda of Scionti's – public relations-related or otherwise.
Meanwhile, McCain had gone to bat, more aggressively and, by all accounts, with a much heavier hand, on behalf of entities that plowed money into his election campaigns and to political action committees that were designed to promote McCain's political objectives – in many respects creating a higher public profile for the senator, which has in turn spawned media coverage, book sales, and even more political donations.

And I'm saying to myself, isn't what McCain has done more devoid of an ethical foundation than what Scionti did? And are there not 500 others engaged in the same ballgame as McCain – albeit not as skillfully – on Capitol Hill?

The stories you hear about boxing people pale by comparison. If state boxing regulators conducted business in the same manner as McCain has conducted his business in Congress, would I not have been able to write about twenty “Operation Cleanup” books by now?

And given those parameters, at what price would we be placing the sport into the hands of politicians like him?

As one writer put it, “The John McCain of old should be thankful that his political fate wasn't determined by John McCain the reformer.”

I would suggest McCain's nothing more than an old dog who could care less about learning new tricks.

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.

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Articles of 2003

The Highs and Lows.

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In a few days we'll be turning the page on 2003 and looking ahead to another year that is bound to be eventful- they almost always are.

But before we go full speed ahead to 2004, let's look back on what we've witnessed the past 12 months in the game of boxing.

And what we've found out is that sometimes the sports highlights, were also it's lowlights. Oftentimes, they were one in the same.

HIGHLIGHT: Vitali Klitschko's valiant performance against Lennox Lewis.

Coming in as a late replacement for Kirk Johnson, Klitschko would give the heavyweight champion all he could handle for six rounds before the fight was halted because of a grotesque cut over his left eye. In fighting so well and bravely against Lewis, he not only changed the perception of himself, but off his whole fighting family. The Klitschko name had been redeemed.

LOWLIGHT: Lennox Lewis's behavior with HBO's Larry Merchant after that fight.

Lewis has been a very respectable and representative champion during his reign. But he acted like a downright brat in his post-fight interview with Larry Merchant on live television. When confronted with the truth, he tried to hijack the interview by yanking the microphone away from Merchant, who had to hold on for dear life. During the bout he looked like a fading fighter on a bad night. Afterwords, he looked like an infant in need of a timeout.

HIGHLIGHT: Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward complete their thrilling trilogy. 

Gatti and Ward had a lot to live up to when they met for the third time this past June. And live up to it they did, in a fight with momentum shifts and a constantly changing ebb-and-flow. Gatti would overcome a damaged right hand to win a hard-fought ten round decision. It was a fitting conclusion to one of the games great rivalries and the career of Ward, who called it a day on a proud career.

LOWLIGHT: There will be no more Gatti-Ward in the future.

Which may actually be a good thing, because I'm not sure they could handle anymore of each other. But boxing will miss this rivalry.

HIGHLIGHT: Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley rematch.

It's always good for the business of boxing when 'the Golden Boy' engages in a mega-fight. The interest is high- even among the usually apathetic general media- boxing becomes the showcase event in the world of sports and everyone involved: from the fighters, to the promoters, the pay-per-view outlets and casino's make money.

LOWLIGHT: De La Hoya's and Arum's reaction to the decision in that fight.

It's one thing to think that you won a close fight, it's even acceptable to complain about the decision. But the manner in which both Oscar and his promoter cast aspersions on the judges and Nevada State Athletic Commission, were low blows of the Andrew Golota variety. Luckily for them, they were only given light slaps on the wrists for their irresponsible and incendiary comments.

But the bottom line is they both hurt the sport with their allegations and the fact that more than one media outlet ran with their quotes, further hurt boxing's reputation.

HIGHLIGHT: Roy Jones makes history

In defeating John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight belt, Jones became the first middleweight in over a hundred years to win a heavyweight crown. This fight also did very well, registering over 500,000 pay-per-view buys, which is always a good sign for the industry.

LOWLIGHT: Jones' indecisiveness after that win.

Jones had all the momentum in the world after his win over Ruiz, but instead of capitalizing on it, he tried to pinch pennies with Evander Holyfield, threw out astronomical numbers for a fight with Mike Tyson( which is a loooong ways from ever happening) and then had to settle for a rather non-descript fight back at light heavyweight against Antonio Tarver.

HIGHLIGHT- Toney turns the 'Lights Out' on Holyfield

James Toney had seemingly been in exile since his embarrassing loss to Roy Jones in 1994. But he came back strong in 2003 with wins over Vassiliy Jirov and then a stoppage of Evander Holyfield, which stamped his entrance into the heavyweight division. The game can always use a few good big men and who cares if that comes in the form of former middleweights like Toney and Jones.

LOWLIGHTS: Holyfield isn't retiring.

'The Real Deal' maintained that he wouldn't retire till he won the undisputed title or got his hat handed to him. Well, after this bout it was evident that the former wasn't happening and the latter did. But like most other great fighters, they are the last to know when it's time to call it a day.

HIGHLIGHT: 'Pac Man' gobbles up Barrera.

It's always shocking and uplifting when a fighter bursts onto the scene and elevates himself the way Manny Pacquiao did against Marco Antonio Barrera this past November. Barrera, had universal acclaim as one of the sports premiere pound-for-pound performers. Pacquiao, while a respected fighter, was thought to be just a notable opponent for Barrera.

Instead, Barrera would get blitzed by the all-out, frenetic attack of the Filipino. Barrera would be simply overwhelmed by the punches of Pacquiao and his corner would have to rescue him from the onslaught of the southpaw in the eleventh round.

LOWLIGHT: Murad Muhammad allegedly gobbles up Pacquiao.

This was mentioned prominently on the HBO broadcast that out of the $700,000 license fee given to Pacquiao's promoter, Murad Muhammad, only about $300,000 had gone to the fighter. And that was before the money was cut up in various ways.

Once source close to the situation tells me that after all was said and done, Pacquiao, wound up with about $80,000. It looks like he may have taken a worse beating than the one he gave out.

HIGHLIGHT: Johnny Tapia comes out of a coma in January.

You gotta hand it to Tapia, most guys take standing eight counts, this little guy takes mandatory flat lines, this is about the third or fourth time he's been close to dead only to come off the canvas. Once again after another relapse in drugs, he would be in an intensive care unit battling for his life. As friends, family and loved ones surrounded him, he would beat the odds once again to walk out of the hospital and fight again.

LOWLIGHTS: Tapia reportedly overdoses in December.

Tapia swears that he did not overdose, but rather took some cold medication that he had an allergic reaction to. Uh, ok, sure, whatever you guys say. But do they have to insult everyone's intelligence, here? Isn't it time that Tapia got some real help for his problems?

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