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Articles of 2009

If Michelangelo Had Been A Boxing Manager

George Kimball

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He'd be the first to tell you he made his share of mistakes in the 64 years he spent on this earth, but rescuing Peter McNeeley that night in Vegas wasn't one of them.

For most boxing fans the enduring image of Vinnie Vecchione remains the night in August of 1995 when he climbed through the ropes at the MGM and deliberately forced Mills Lane to disqualify McNeeley just 89 seconds into his fight against Mike Tyson. The seemingly precipitate haste of his intercession was widely criticized elsewhere, and to those who didn't know better it created the impression that the fight had been a prearranged charade.

It was, but only in the sense that the scenario he had anticipated had materialized before Vecchione's eyes.

The night before the fight Vinnie had confided his intentions in me. “People are saying Tyson might kill Pete, and he probably could, but I'm not going to let that happen,” he said. “Believe me, if I see he's in any danger I'm going to stop the fight before he gets hurt.”

Vinnie knew how outgunned he was. He knew his heavyweight wasn't on Tyson's level, and that the only chance he had lay in the element of surprise.

“Pete is going to charge out of the corner and crash right into Tyson, and maybe we'll get lucky,” he said.

When McNeeley did exactly that, Tyson was indeed startled.

“You came right after me, White Boy,” he smiled wryly when he spoke to McNeeley afterward. “You were trying to knock me out!”

In most newspapers the next day Vecchione was widely criticized for having abetted a scam:  Not only had the paying customers been defrauded and a pay-per-view audience that had shelled out $49.95 a whack had been ripped off, but McNeeley had collected almost $10,000 a second for his participation.

Personally, I thought Vinnie deserved to be named Manager of the Year. And at least one respected scribe, Bob Lipsyte of the New York Times, agreed.

“I would fight Tyson myself if Vecchione would manage me,” wrote Lipsyte. “He did the right thing. If, as St. Cus D'Amato often said, the first obligation of a manager is to make sure his boy doesn't get hurt… That's the moral bottom line in boxing.”

The Ring magazine did join the Boston Herald in making Vinnie the Manager of the Year for 1995. The BWAA gave the award to Roy Jones' management team of Fred and Stanley Levin. The Brothers Levin had also done a commendable job on behalf of their client that year, but you'd have to admit they had a bit more to work with.

#     #     #

Vinnie was a boxing guy through and through, a Runyonesque character who looked as if he'd modeled his image on that of Joe Palooka's manager Knobby Walsh. It was as if he had been born in that white cap he wore into the ring when he saved McNeeley, and for all I know he slept in it too; I don't think I ever saw him without it.  The other constant was the stubby remains of a cigar he kept clinched between his teeth. You never saw him light up a new cigar, and I always wondered whether Vinnie had found a good deal somewhere on half-smoked stogies.

He didn't like to fly on airplanes because it always required some fairly complicated explanations when the metal detector went off. For most of his adult life he carried around a bullet slug in his shoulder, a souvenir of a shooting he described as “a case of mistaken identity.”

Sports Illustrated described him as a “former mobster,” and Vinnie never tried to discourage that notion. “I used to be in organized crime,” he once told me, as if a guy could resign, or be expelled from, the mafia. He never elaborated but it was my impression that any criminal activities in his earlier incarnation weren't very organized at all, and must have been at the club-fight level of the hoodlum world.

He learned the business side of boxing at the footsteps of the legendary promoter Subway Sam Silverman, and 40 years ago he was operating a gym in Brockton. One day a kid who'd never even put on a pair of gloves walked in. He sat around for three days and nobody said a word to him, so the kid finally got up and walked across the street to another gym, this one run by Goody and Pat Petronelli, who turned out to be more welcoming and took the kid on.

Not bothering to say hello to Marvin Hagler that day may have been one of the more costly miscalculations of Vecchione's life.

In those days the star of Vecchione's gym was a Massachusetts middleweight named Paul Poirier. Poirier was unbeaten, 18-0, when Vinnie signed him for a fight in Italy. The execution of the contract more or less coincided with Poirier's religious conversion; when he joined the Seventh-Day Adventists he took a vow not to fight again. Rather than welsh on the contract, Vinnie flew to Italy and, under Poirier's name, lasted three rounds before he was stopped by a guy named Ennio Cometti.  Years later Poirier decided to make a comeback, and it took him a dozen years to convince people he hadn't lost to Cometti and to get that “L” expunged from his record. [Box.rec now lists two Paul Poiriers. The first was 31-3, and retired for good after his 1993 loss to Larry Holmes. The other Paul Poirier (0-1) was actually Vinnie.]

But he understood how the game was played, and when he spotted a raw amateur named Peter McNeeley, Vinnie could have been Michelangelo eying a slab of marble. It was a chance to create his masterpiece.

By then he had migrated to Cliff Phippen's South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman, Mass., not far from Medfield where McNeeley had grown up. The boxer's father Tom had played football at Michigan State before turning to a boxing career. The high point ofMcNeeley pere's career had come when he earned $40,000 in a title fight against Floyd Patterson. McNeeley knocked the champion down once. Patterson knocked Tommy down eleven times before Jersey Joe Walcott stopped the fight at 2:51 of the fourth.

The creation of McNeeley's resume was indeed a work of art. His first five opponents had never won a fight. In fact, up until the time he fought Tyson he fought 13winless opponents, a couple of them twice. Eight of these were guys who never did beat anybody; they finished with an aggregate record of 0-49-1. Five others (including John Basil Jackson twice) wound up 11-179-4. He fought Jimmy (Lurch) Harrison three times in the space of six months in 1992. Lurch was 6-28-4 when this rivalry commenced, 6-31-4 when it ended, and 6-35-5 by the time the Commonwealth of Massachusetts took his boxing license away. The only mistake along the way came when Vinnie matched Peter against Stanley Wright, a 6'10″ former basketball player, for the New England heavyweight title in Boston. McNeeley got cut and was bleeding so copiously that the referee stopped the fight.

Not long afterward Vinnie and Peter presented themselves at the offices of Don King and signed a promotional contract, and shortly after that miraculous things began to happen. McNeeley was still fighting bums, but every time he'd knock one of them out he'd move up another notch in the ratings.

This process took a few years, but Vinnie's timetable knew only one limit: The date of Tyson's release from the Indiana Youth Center, where he was serving out his rape sentence.

Vinnie was a promoter without peer. He never actually held a promoter's license, but he always knew somebody who did, and he staged shows at the Whitman Armory and Plymouth Memorial Hall and at the racetrack in Foxboro or the dog track in Revere, while he continued to chisel away on his work-in-progress.  By then he had reached out for some help. Al Braverman seemed to have an endless supply of beatable victims, and Beau Williford, the Louisianan who aligned himself with Vecchione in the early 1990s, was on speaking terms with more bad heavyweights than any man in the country. When Beau wasn't bringing them up to New England to lose to McNeeley, he was bringing McNeeley to places like Louisville and Raleigh and Fort Smith to beat them.

Boxing audiences can be notoriously gullible, but sometimes Vinnie seemed to be underestimating even their collective intelligence. I'd look up the record of the latest bum he'd lined up for the Hurricane and ask him “Vinnie, are you sure this guy even has a f—— pulse?”

“Shhh.” He'd whisper, holding a finger to his lips, and slyly wink.

The relationship with King even brought the promoter to New England for a nationally televised card. Julian Jackson vs. Augusto Cardamone and Orlin Norris-Adolpho Washington were the fights Showtime was willing to put on television. On the undercard, Francois Botha fought Brian Sargent, while Williford had disinterred Danny Wofford for McNeeley. The corpulent Wofford was 15-41-2 when he faced McNeeley at the Worcester Auditorium, and he didn't last a round. Beginning with the McNeeley fight, he would lose 61 of his last 63 fights.

The high point of the Worcester card occurred not in the ring but at the weigh-in the day before, when Botha made some disparaging remark about McNeeley, the Hurricane bitch-slapped the White Buffalo in front of a room full of people, and many were thinking “even if he can't fight, the kid's got some stones.”

#    #    #

The Tyson fight let the rest of the world in on Vecchione's dirty little secret, which is that the WBC's third-ranked heavyweight could barely fight at all, but Vinnie even managed to turn that to his advantage, negotiating a lucrative deal for a nationally-televised commercial in which McNeeley got knocked out by a slice of pizza. There were periodic comeback attempts, whenever Vinnie could get McNeeley back into the gym for a few weeks, and there were also a few side trips to jail and to rehab. (In the most famous of these latter, somebody at Hazelden assigned the comedian Chris Farley to be McNeeley's roommate.) In 1999 the Hurricane was knocked out in back-to-back fights by Brian Nielsen and Butterbean Esch. Vinnie could only sigh.

A year after the Tyson fight Vinnie had another chance to cash in. Cliff Phippen's brother Danny had been built, on the McNeeley pattern, into an 18-0 junior middleweight. An undefeated fighter can be like a company ripe for a hostile takeover. In this case, Sugar Ray Leonard, who hadn't fought since losing to Terry Norris four years earlier, was plotting another comeback and looking for a tuneup against a soft touch with a deceptively good record. Danny Phippen seemed to fit that description, and in the summer of 1996 Leonard dispatched his matchmaker and boxing advisor, J.D. Brown, to Boston to have a look for himself. If the fight came off, Danny stood to make more for one fight against Leonard than he had in his other 18 put together, and Vinnie's end for brokering the deal would have been his biggest payday in the year since Tyson-McNeeley.

J.D. and I spent the early evening at my son's Little League game before driving down to the Whitman Armory for that night's card, where Phippen was fighting the main event. By the time we got there Vinnie and Cliff Phippen were a pair of nervous wrecks. Danny had gone AWOL and was nowhere to be found. His fight was eventually scrapped. He turned up, days later, in a local crack house, and was packed off to rehab. He didn't fight for another year. J.D. Brown flew back to Washington, and Leonard decided to go straight to the Hector Camacho fight without a tuneup. Fighting on a bum leg, he was stopped in five.

“Christ,” said Vinnie. “Danny coulda beat Leonard in that one.”

Vinnie didn't completely lose interest in boxing after that, but the Leonard-Phippin flirtation was his last dalliance with the big time. He periodically rang up to excitedly tell me about his latest club show. Invariably they sounded as if they had been calculated to lose money.

When he heard I was ill, Vinnie was one of the first to ring up, and called periodically to ask about my health. Every time he called he unfailingly asked about my son, whom he'd known since he was a small boy attending McNeeley fights in Foxboro and Whitman. Vinnie had a soft spot for kids, and that was in part because his own son, Vinnie Boy, was handicapped and had been institutionalized for virtually his entire life. It was an enormous emotional burden as well as a financial one for his father.

Our last conversation was a couple of months ago. After the usual pleasantries he cut straight to the chase. Judy, his lady of many years, was suffering from cancer. The medical bills were piling up and neither of them had insurance. He was looking to make some quick but substantial cash, and it had dawned on him: “Why don't I write a book?”

I carefully explained the realities of the publishing world, circa 2009, particularly when it came to boxing books, and provided a reasonably accurate representation of what he might realistically expect as an advance in the unlikely event he actually did manage to interest a publisher. Even in the best case it would have represented a small fraction of what he was hoping to get, and as far as I know that was the end of the book idea.

Even in his anguish I don't think it had ever occurred to him that Judy might outlive him, but this past Thursday he suffered a heart attack and now he's gone.  Tomorrow evening his friends will gather at a funeral home in Braintree to say goodbye, and I'll be there too. He was an original, a boxing character, but most of all, Vinnie was my friend.

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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