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Articles of 2009

Valero Strikes With KO; Katsidis, Escobedo, Reyes Get Ws

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There are those that will try and elevate Edwin Valero to the top tier of the 135 pound class with his second round rubout of  Antonio Pitalua at the Erwin Center at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas on Saturday night. Then there are those that would like to see the bombs away Venezuelan, to this point merely a YouTube sensation in the US because of licensing/health issues, take on a more proven opponent than Pitalua, whose record came padded with soft touches, before he is designated the next big thing at 135.

Despite the chasm between those camps, most all will agree that Valero is at the very least the owner of some intriguing power, and deserves to test it out against more stellar competition. He sent Pitalua to the mat twice in the second, and refused to give him any breathing room to get his legs as he pounced on the loser, and forced a TKO stop at :49 of round two. Valero owns the WBC lightweight belt with the win. He said after that he'd like Juan Manuel Marquez next, if promoter Bob Arum can make it happen. He said he'd be happy to go to 140 to take on the Pacquiao/Hatton winner. Barry Tompkins after said Valero showed him he has the good, as Pacquiao did when Tompkins saw him way back when.

The PPV event, put on by Golden Boy, was tagged “Lightweight Lightning,” and featured a solid slate of rubouts (Valero), upsets (Vicente Escobedo over Carlos Hernandez, Rolando Reyes over Julio Diaz) and all-around enjoyable beefs with a mystery finish (Michael Katsidis over Jesus Chavez).

Valero (former WBA junior lightweight champion; age 27; 134 ½ pounds; from Venezuela) was 24-0, with 24 knockouts, coming in, while Pitalua (age 39; 135; from Colombia) was 46-0, with 40 stops entering the scrap.

In the first, the lefty Valero came out furious. He jabbed to the body, surprisingly, and looked supremely confident as he went to work. Mostly, he fired power blasts, and exhaled like a tennis pro after many heaves. In the second, a right put Pitalua on the deck. It was thrown as the third punch of  combo,as the Colombian went to counter. He got up, on bad legs. Down he went again, after being trapped on the ropes. Valero went back to work, piling up unanswered blows, and ref Laurence Cole moved in to stop it as Pitalua, never in the game, crumbled.

Barry Tompkins, Doug Fischer and Bernard Hopkins worked the PPV show. Interestingly, the show did not feature the use of any punch-count service. Perhaps the absence of CompuBox was attributable to the woeful economy?

Jesus Chavez was giving punishment, and taking punishment, and he was in the thick of things through seven rounds against Michael Katsidis. He then went to his corner,  and after a conference with his crew, the ref raised Katsidis’ hands. Had Chavez quit, citing the cut on his hairline? Had his corner said No Mas? “The blue corner informs referee John Schorle that they can no longer continue the bout, and he stops the fight upon the conclusion of round number seven. Your winner, by way of technical knockout, Michael Katsidis The Great,” the ring emcee said.

Fans know that Chavez dealt punishment to Leavander Johnson in their 2005 bout, and Johnson succumbed to a brain injury from the effects, so to try and peg him as a quitter is an iffy proposition. But strangely, the announcing crew didn’t bounce off their butts to figure out EXACTLY what was said in the Chavez corner. Fischer only speculated that perhaps Chavez quit, saying, “We’ve never seen Chavez do that…” though he did the same thing against Julio Diaz in 2007 after he hurt his knee. And, he sat on his stool and didn’t rise for the tenth and final round in his 2001 bout with Floyd Mayweather either; he protested then that trainer Ronnie Shields pulled the plug, but he drew heat for not protesting.

Bottom line: People, if you have to, get an intern to suss out the truth. The fans deserve to know the details.
Chavez (age 36; 136 pounds; 44-4, 30 KOs coming in; ) lives in Austin, and said coming in, “I must win this fight.” The Aussie  Katsidis (a former WBA lightweight titlist; 24-2, 20 KOs entering; age 28; 135 pounds) heard some boos as his name was announced, as the faithful sent him a message that they backed their homie, the former IBF light heavy and WBC super feather crownholder. The Mexican-born Chavez has had knee and shoulder woes pile up over the years, and he knew coming in that his pool of chances at big fights was not infinite. In the first, wanted to send a message with right crosses, and set the table with jabs.

In round two, Katsidis came forward, which is no surprise to anyone that’s taken in his act. His hands looked faster than Chavez’. The close-quarters work guaranteed some heavy hits hitting flush. Both men were busy, and not afraid to eat a missile if it put them in position to launch one in the third. Chavez had a cut on his hairline, from an accidental butt, in round four. Katsidis saw red and stepped it up. He sees red, any red, his red, the ref’s red, and he always steps it up. In the fifth round, Chavez kept slipping, and using his feet to good effect. He shoved Katsidis off with his forearm time and again. But Kat’s jabs and rights landed cleaner late in the round.

In round six, the blood trickled down, and then the round stopped for the crimson Chavez to insert his mouthpiece. There wasn’t as much movement from Chavez and that didn’t bode well for him. He’s a puncher-boxer, but not so heavy a puncher that he can get too far away from smart, technical pugilism. In the seventh, Jesus clanged a right, and set a tone early. He made Katsidis miss a good amount here, and he looked like he had some premium left in the tank after the  close. Then he went to his corner, and started talking. The ref came over, and halted the bout. The crowd didn’t like that move at all, as they saw Chavez with vigor, and then saw the ref call it.

Vicente Escobedo came up big, as he subbed in for injured Jorge Barrios, and made the most of it. He sent  Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez to the deck in the first and  second, steered cleared of the vet’s rushes, for the most part, and rolled to a UD10 win. Quite likely, we’ve seen the last of the ultra professional Hernandez, who was hoping to act in the manner of Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins, and refuse to act his age. Instead, he played the part of Goyo Vargas, who bowed out to the fresher Hernandez in Jan. 1997.
The cards read: 96-91, 94-93, 95-91, for the kid.
Escobedo (age 27; from California; a 2004 US Olympian) came in with a 19-1 (12 KOs) record, and he weighed 134 ½ pounds on Friday. “El Famoso” Hernandez (age 39; from San Antonio, Texas) weighed 135 ¾ pounds on Friday and had a 43-7-1 mark entering, with 24 stops. He is the former IBF junior lightweight titlist. Escobedo dropped Famoso with a left hook-right follow in the first. The bell sounded, and prevented the younger man from piling on. Hernandez had been doing nice work to that point. The vet went down again off a counter right at 1:55 of the second. Esco has a nice jab, and sticks to it smartly. He was in trouble in the third, though, as Famoso, with blood trickling down his face, got down to business. He’d been away from the game since 7-14-2006, and fought just once, last September, since ’06.

In the fourth, the fight was up for grabs, as Esco had slowed down and the vet showed his gameness. In the fifth, it was more of the same: hard banging, Famoso bulling forward, Esco backing up a lot, but still scoring off counters. In the sixth, Esco hit the canvas, and he said that Famoso stepped on his foot. The ref didn’t see it that way. A replay told viewers that it was a foot on foot scenario which dropped Esco.

In the seventh, Famoso’s right eye was puffed, but his energy was decent. He slipped shots with pep, and hurt Esco. To start the eighth, there was Famoso, rushing across the ring to engage the kid. He knew, with that eye deteriorating, that he needed to stay aggressive and maybe step it up, or risk being stopped. The doc and ref looked hard at Hernandez after the session. In the ninth, Esco played it smart, as he knew the vet would look to unleash a Hail Mary on him. In the tenth and final round, Famoso hit with a mean right, and Esco held on. The vet won the round, and he was whaling away with all his might at the final bell. The crowd’s decibel level in their applause showed their respect for the two men, especially the veteran who may well wave goodbye to the sweet science.

What was Ron Borges talkin’ about!?  Lightweight Rolando Reyes (31-4-2, 20 KOs; 135 ½ pounds; age 30) knocked out former two-time IBF champion Julio Diaz (36-5, 26 KOs; 136 ½ pounds; age 29) in the fifth round. The Californian Reyes dropped the Mexican born Californian Diaz twice in the fifth before the bout was halted. A fierce right and uppercuts set the end in motion. Time was 2:17. Both men debuted in 1999. Reyes subbed in for Joel Casamayor

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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Articles of 2009

No One Is Leaving This Stage Of Negotiations Looking GOLDEN

George Kimball

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Early in his political career, the young Lyndon Baines Johnson served as a congressional aide to Rep. Richard Kleberg, the wealthy owner of the King Ranch who was elected to seven consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, at least in part because he often ran unopposed.

One year an upstart rival politician we'll call Joe Bob had the temerity to challenge Kleberg in the Democratic primary, resulting in the convocation of the Texas congressman's staff to plot an election strategy. Several ideas were kicked around before Kleberg himself came up with a brainstorm.

“Why don't we start a rumor that he [copulates with] sheep?” proposed the politician.

This was a bit over the top, even for Lyndon Johnson. The future president leapt to his feet and said, incredulously, “But you know Joe Bob don't [copulate with] sheep!”

“Yeah,” replied the congressman, “but watch what happens when the son of a bitch has to stand up and deny it!”

******

Events of the past week or two have seen the Floyd Mayweather camp adopt a similar tactic with regard to Manny Pacquiao.  But if introducing what would appear to be a red-herring issue — the debate over drug-testing procedures — to the negotiating process was intended as a negotiating ploy, it would appear for the moment to have backfired.  The idea might have been to force Pacquiao to go on the defensive, but Pac-Man instead responded with his stock in trade, the counterpunch — in this case the multi-million dollar defamation suit he filed against the Mayweathers, pere et fils,, with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

In boxing even more than in life, you never say never, but you'd have to say that Pacquiao-Mayweather is a dead issue right now, at least in its March 13 incarnation. Bob Arum says Pacquiao is prepared to move along to another opponent, and Mayweather is supposedly looking at Matthew Hatton in England.

We'll believe that when we see it, for at least three reasons: (1) There would hardly seem to be enough money in that one to make it worth Floyd's time, (2) He's going to have to put so much into preparing a defense to this lawsuit that he mightn't have time to train and (3) He'd get a better workout if he stayed in Vegas and boxed one of Uncle Roger's girl opponents.

*****

Colleagues on this site have already done a good job of dissecting this process. Ron Borges is absolutely correct in noting that in the midst of all the posturing that's gone on, you'd be a fool to accept at face value anything coming out of any of the parties' mouths. And Frank Lotierzo is spot on in noting that if you had absolutely no desire to actually get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao but were still looking to save face, you'd do pretty much exactly what Mayweather has done. Which is to say, talk tough while you get others to run interference with a series of actions seemingly calculated to ensure that the fight doesn't come off.

But left almost unscathed in all of this heretofore has been the convoluted role played by Golden Boy — by CEO Richard Schaefer, by the company's namesake Oscar the Blogger, GBP's subsidiary enterprise, The Ring, and at least a few of the lap-dogs and lackeys whose favor GPB has cultivated elsewhere in the media.

In late March of 2008, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah appeared at a New York press conference to announce a fight between them in Las Vegas two months later. As it happened, the BALCO trial had gotten underway out in California that week. That day I sat with Judah and his attorney Richard Shinefield as they explained that they intended to ask that both boxers agree to blood testing in the runup to the fight. Citing Mosley's history with BALCO and its products The Cream and The Clear (which Shane claimed Victor Conte had slipped him when he wasn't looking), Shinefield and Zab, noting that Nevada drug tests were limited to urinalysis, proposed that the supplementary tests be administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Want to know what Richard Schaefer's response to that was?

“Whatever tests [the NSAC] wants them to take, we will submit to, but we are not going to do other tests than the Nevada commission requires,” said Schaefer. “The fact is, Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one.”

But the fact is that Mosley had a confirmed history as a cheater. Manny Pacquiao does not. Yet in the absence of a scintilla of evidence or probable cause, less than two years later Schaefer was howling that the very integrity of the sport would be at risk unless Pacquiao submitted to precisely the same sort of testing he had rejected for Mosley.

And you thought it was Arum who was famous for saying “Yeah, but yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth!”

Schaefer, by the way, defended his 180-degree turnabout by saying he is now better educated on the issue. He couldn't resist aiming a harpoon at the media by adding that many sportswriters “don't know the difference between blood and urine testing.”

Don't know how to break this to you, Richard, but sportswriters, who have had to deal with this stuff for the past twenty years, probably know more about drug-testing procedures than any other group you could name.

*****

Now, the reasonable assumption would be that by assuming the role of the point man in this unseemly mess, Schaefer was insulating his boss (De La Hoya) and his fighter (PBF) by keeping their fingerprints off it while he made a fool of himself publicly conducting this snide little campaign.  

And yes, Money would have stayed out of the line of fire had not a two-month old, expletive-filled rant in which he described the Philippines as the world's foremost producer of performance-enhancing drugs not exploded on the internet at the most inopportune moment. That the lawsuit was filed less than 24 hours after “Floyd Meets the Rugged Man” overtook the Tiger Watch probably wasn't a coincidence.

And we're assuming that this Dan Petrocelli, the lawyer who filed Pacquiao's suit, knows what he's doing, because if there were an even one-zillionth chance that somebody could credibly link Manny to PEDs, then it was a pretty dumb thing to do. You could ask Roger Clemens about that.  Clemens' transformation from Hall of Famer-in-waiting to nationwide laughingstock didn't come from the Mitchell Report. It came from his wrongheaded decision to file a lawsuit against Brian McNamee, which in turn threw everything open to the discovery process.

*****

De La Hoya, in the meantime, was playing both sides of the fence. He let Schaefer play Bad Cop as he distanced himself from the negotiating process, but simultaneously was sniping away at Pacquiao from his First Amendment-protected perch as a Ring.com blogger.

“If Pacquiao, the toughest guy on the planet, is afraid of needles and having a few tablespoons of blood drawn from his system, then something is wrong…  I'm just saying that now people have to wonder: 'Why doesn't he want to do this?' Why is [blood testing] such a big deal?' wrote Oscar the Blogger. “A lot of eyebrows have been raised. And this is not good.”

Ask yourself this: Exactly what caused those eyebrows to be raised, other than the innuendo coming straight from Oscar's company?

Providing De La Hoya with a forum from which to dispense propaganda  only begins to illustrate the hopelessly compromised position from which The Ring continues to operate. They might as well give Schaefer a column, too, while they're at it.

Nearly seven months have elapsed since we last visited the Ring/Golden Boy relationship, and at the risk of winding Nigel up, it might be useful here to note that in the midst of last June's discourse, The Ring's editor offered a laundry list of the magazine's covers since the De La Hoya takeover as a demonstration of Golden Boy's restraint.

After listing them, Nigel Collins wrote “that's 28 covers over the course of 21 issues, of which Top Rank had 12 fighters, as opposed to eight for Golden Boy and eight for other promotional entities. Obviously, The Ring has shown no bias to Golden Boy when it comes to magazine covers.”

It had never even been suggested that the conflict of interest extended to the magazine playing favorites in choosing its cover subjects, but since Nigel brought it up it is probably worth noting now that of those eight covers given over to “other promotional entities,” two were of David Haye, whose promoter was properly listed as “Hayemaker,” but who had also signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy in May of 2008. (Just last month GBP issued a release in De La Hoya's name in which it described itself as “Golden Boy Promotions, the United States promoter of World Boxing Association Heavyweight World Champion David Haye.”)

And even more to the point, in four other issues Nigel Collins offered in evidence the cover subject was Floyd Mayweather (Independent), although what has transpired with regard to the Pacquiao fight doesn't make Money look very independent at all, does it?

We don't regularly keep track of these things, but in making sure we didn't misquote  Oscar's Blog we also came across a representation of the January 2010 issue on The Ring's website.  The picture on the cover of the Bible of Boxing is of the Golden Boy himself, and the cover story “De La Hoya: The Retirement Interview.”

Wow! Now there's a hot topic for crusading journalists.

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