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Floyd Mayweather, Donald Sterling, and TMZ

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Now that Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana is over, boxing fans can refocus their attention on the story that the sports media has fixated on for the past ten days.

On Friday, April 25, TMZ posted a tape of a 9-minute-26-second telephone conversation between Los Angeles Clippers owner, 80-year-old billionaire Donald Sterling, and a 31-year-old woman named V. Stiviano. The conversation was recorded by Stiviano, who was once Sterling’s mistress. The link to the recording is http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_wkuhmkt8/.

In the conversation, Sterling (who is battling prostate cancer) comes across as an unhappy old man. Stiviano appears to be leading, manipulating, and sometimes goading him into making racist comments. Sterling, after some initial resistance, obliges. The worst of Sterling’s comments have been widely reported.

A firestorm of media coverage and protest followed the TMZ post. Barack Obama denounced Sterling’s comments as “incredibly offensive.” On April 29, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling had been fined $2,500,000 (the maximum fine that can be levied by the league under the circumstances) and banned for life from entering the team facilities or attending any team practice or NBA game. Silver further declared that, pursuant to the league constitution and by-laws, he would ask the other NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the team.

Stiviano now says that she “never meant to hurt” Sterling, which is a little like John Wilkes Booth saying that he never meant to hurt Abraham Lincoln. It wouldn’t be surprising if her next step is to sell her story to the National Enquirer or pose for Playboy.

The media as a whole seems unconcerned with the fact that Sterling has humiliated his wife with public and private dalliances for years. It has also failed to fully explore numerous other issues.

If Sterling’s remarks had been about Jews or gays, would the national uproar and punishment have been the same? Does anyone really think that Donald Sterling is the only NBA owner who harbors racist sentiments? What about Major League Baseball owners? The National Football League? Before the sports establishment gets a sore arm from patting itself on the back as a consequence of Sterling’s punishment, let’s reflect for a moment on the Washington Redskins, who are owned by Daniel Snyder (the other DS).

Unlike “Blackhawks” and “Braves,” Redskins is a derogatory term. Want proof? Use the term “Redskins” in a sentence that doesn’t carry a negative connotation and is unrelated to the National Football League. Or phrased differently, what would happen if James Dolan suggested changing the name of the New York Knicks to the New York Colored People?

And what about Charles Barkley’s comment on national television that the NBA is “a black league”? I love Charles Barkley as a commentator. But didn’t he step over the line here? Suppose Barkey had called the NBA a “Christian league” or a “straight league”?

Perhaps the most thoughtful public commentary on the Sterling affair came from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who addressed it in an essay for Time Magazine with characteristic dignity and grace.

“The poor guy’s girlfriend is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “What a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing with glee.”

“Racists,” Abdul-Jabbar continued, “deserve to be paraded around the modern town square of the television screen so that the rest of us who believe in the American ideal of equality can be reminded that racism is a disease that we haven’t yet licked. What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. [Sterling’s racist conduct] has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun? And shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime.”

“Sterling,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “is the villain of this story. But he’s just another jerk with more money than brains.”

That makes for a nice segue to Floyd Mayweather.

On April 29, Mayweather said of Donald Sterling, “I don’t have nothing negative to say about the guy. He’s always treated me with the utmost respect. He has always invited me to games, always. And he always says, ‘Floyd, I want you to sit right next to me and my wife.’”

Malcolm X had a term for people of color who thought like that. And it wasn’t pretty.

Then Mayweather inserted himself further into the Sterling dialogue by saying that he was interested in being part of a group that would buy the Clippers. But he cautioned, “I can’t come in talking about Mayweather only gonna get three percent, four percent. I got to get a solid percentage. Do we want to buy the Clippers? Yes, we do. We are very very interested in buying the Clippers.”

That’s just the ownership the NBA needs after censuring Donald Sterling for racist comments.

Lest one forget; Mayweather was seen worldwide on UStream.com calling Manny Pacquiao a “little yellow chump,” a “whore,” and a “f—-t.” He also said, “Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that m——–r make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.” For good measure, Floyd then added, “M——-r Pacquiao, he can’t speak no English.”

Closer to home insofar as the NBA is concerned, Mayweather reacted to the outpouring of media attention that Jeremy Lin received two years ago by tweeting, “All the hype is because he’s Asian.”

Mayweather owning an NBA franchise would also do wonders for the league’s outreach to women.

Over the years, Floyd has had significant issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he pled guilty to two counts of domestic violence. In 2004, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas night club. In 2012, he served two months in prison after pleading guilty to charges relating to another indictment for domestic violence.

Nor are women likely to look fondly on Mayweather’s recent decision to excoriate his former fiancee, Shantel Jackson, by informing the world via social media that she’d had an abortion and posting ultrasound images of “our twin babies” on his Facebook page and Instagram.

Mayweather, of course, had his own TMZ “Oops!” moment on March 12 of this year, when TMZ reported, “Floyd Mayweather allegedly orchestrated a savage attack on two of his employees he suspected of stealing his jewelry. Sources familiar with the situation tell TMZ Sports the two men had been hired to work on Floyd’s Vegas homes. But when jewelry went missing, Floyd pointed the finger at them. We’re told the men claim they were instructed to meet Floyd at an off-site location. When the men arrived, they claim Floyd was waiting for them – along with a number of his ‘people’ who proceeded to beat the living crap out of them with various weapons, including clubs. Our sources say the attack was so brutal the men could have easily died. Both men had broken arms and legs and were hospitalized for several days. We’re told the men are adamant they never took anything from Floyd, and it appears Floyd realizes that now.”

Two days later, TMZ posted a follow-up report that included X-rays purporting to show “a broken arm . . . a snapped pinkie . . . multiple fractures in the left hand that required pins to reset the bones . . . We’re told the left arm was so badly broken, doctors drilled into the bone to attach a titanium plate so it would reset . . . Just a few of the injuries suffered by one of the men allegedly beaten by Floyd Mayweather’s crew.”

Here, it should be noted that TMZ’s Mayweather report was undocumented beyond the unsourced allegations and anonymous X-rays. Unlike the matter of Donald Sterling, there was no tape of the beating. And unlike V. Stiviano, Mayweather’s alleged victims chose to remain anonymous.

On March 24, Laura Meltzer (a public information officer for the Las Vegas Police Department) told the New York Daily News, “We’ve had a variety of reports that have come out stating this event occurred. We have not had a victim come forward to the police to make an official complaint. As of right now, the bureau commander is not aware of any complaint that has been officially filed. If this is a victim who is choosing not to come forward and make a report; then that’s up to the victim. We don’t have any say in that. There is no criminal complaint on file, so there is no reason to go and contact Mr. Mayweather.”

That said; TMZ has a pretty good track record on reports of this nature. And there appears to be a culture of this sort of incident around Mayweather. His Rolls Royce was spotted on the scene after an August 23, 2009, shooting outside a Las Vegas skating rink. One of his associates, Ocie Harris, was indicted on attempted murder charges for shooting at two passengers in another car, one of who had reportedly insulted Mayweather. After the shooting, police searched Mayweather’s house, looking for evidence, and seized handguns, ammunition, and bulletproof vests, none of which were used in the shooting. Harris’ lawyer has said that his client was used as a pawn by police and prosecutors in an effort to link the shooting to Mayweather. Harris subsequently pled guilty to three felony charges and was sentenced to two-to-five years in prison.

Quite possibly, the TMZ report about the beating allegedly administered at Mayweather’s command is unfounded. And Floyd is under no obligation to respond to every rumor about him that surfaces in the media. But the silence of Team Mayweather on the issue so far has been deafening.

It’s also worth noting how little attention the story has received in the mainstream media. If this had been LeBron James, Payton Manning, or David Ortiz (or Mike Tyson), it would have been the lead story on ESPN SportsCenter and on the front or back page of every tabloid in America.

The fact that boxing’s flagship fighter is at the center of these allegations is a problem. The fact that the mainstream media doesn’t seem to care might be a bigger problem. It shows how little Mayweather (and boxing) now matter to the wider audience.

Mayweather-Maidana was a much better fight than it was expected to be. Floyd is still technically brilliant. He still knows all the tricks. Against Maidana, he sat down more on his punches than in the past and showed a fighting heart.

But at age 37, Mayweather is losing his legs. That was evident early in the fight. And his box office appeal appears to be dwindling.

Floyd is a big draw, but he has always needed a dance partner to generate stratospheric numbers. He was only half of the equation for the dollars that flowed from fights against Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez. Best estimates are that Mayweather-Maidana (like Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero) engendered under 900,000 pay-per-view buys. That means Showtime could lose millions of dollars on the event. And one day before Mayweather-Maidana, thousands of tickets were selling on secondary market sites such as TiqIQ.com for as much as 45 percent off list price.

Want more on where Mayweather ranks in contemporary culture?

Two days before Mayweather-Maidana, a Google search for “Floyd Mayweather” brought up 4,310,000 “results.” That’s an impressive number. But that same day, a Google search for “Game of Thrones” brought up 548,000,000 results. In other words, interest in Mayweather ran at less than eight-tenths of one percent of the interest in Game of Thrones.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Reflections: Conversations, Essays, and Other Writings) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 230: Haney and Lomachenko Hit Hollywood and More Fight News

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.-Smack in the middle of glitzy Hollywood, two champions, Vasyl Lomachenko and Devin Haney, arrived to meet the press on Thursday despite another unusual California storm.

Also unusual was the low intensity press conference void of the now cliché verbal cursing and shoving performed to entice fans to buy tickets or pay-per-views.

This prizefight will be for the boxing scientists, the fans that appreciate the subtleties of the sweet science.

Undisputed lightweight world champion Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) will face challenger Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs) at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas on May 20. ESPN pay-per-view will televise the Top Rank event.

At the Dolby Theater, the same location where Oscar winner Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock live in person without sanctioning, two actual prizefighters showed up to meet the media. Nobody slapped anyone.

There will be punches fired when they meet in two months.

Haney grabbed all the titles at once when he defeated Australia’s George Kambosos twice in that fighter’s home country. And Kambosos defeated Teofimo Lopez to win those same belts.

“This is a real fight. This is not an influencer fight. This is really for the belts. This is for the gold. This is possibly to determine the best in the world as well,” said Haney.

Despite Haney holding all the belts some in the boxing world claim he does not deserve recognition.

Lomachenko, held three versions of the lightweight title after defeating Luke Campbell for the WBO, WBC and WBA lightweight titles, but lost to Teofimo Lopez who held the IBF version and became undisputed by beating Lomachenko. But Lopez lost to Kambosos and Haney beat the Aussie twice to show his superiority.

Both Haney and Lomachenko have elite fighting skills.

“We never know what will happen. We can prepare for one strategy, but in the ring it can all change. Right now, I don’t know. I just train hard and prepare. I believe in God and in my team,” Lomachenko said.

At age 24 Haney has demanded tough fights and took his team across the border for a couple of years to toughen up against Mexican sluggers who cared not about his impressive amateur career.

He excelled.

Lomachenko was an amateur boxing legend with countless fights and accolades including Olympic gold medals in the 2012 London Games and 2008 Beijing Games.

Lomachenko has always excelled.

Meeting face to face, the American Haney and Ukrainian Lomachenko realize they have no need to slap each other or unleash flammable comments at each other.

It’s skill versus skill.

“I’ve seen hundreds of great matches over the years. But when I see a match like this, it stirs my blood because it is such an interesting fight to watch,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum.

Absolutely.

London calling

Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua returns to the prize ring to re-establish his claims to the heavyweight title. Standing in the way is American Jermaine Franklin who predicts a knockout win over the British pugilist.

Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) meets Michigan’s Franklin (21-1, 11 KOs) at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday, April 1. DAZN will show the Matchroom Boxing card beginning at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Also on the card will be another American fighter, Ammo Williams (13-0, 9 KOs), who signed with Matchroom a few years ago and is ready to step up in class. He meets River Wilson-Bent (14-2-1, 6 KOs) in a middleweight bout.

Top Rank in Oklahoma

Former super bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs) opposes Robeisy Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs) for the vacant WBO featherweight title on Saturday April 1, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

Also, Joet Gonzalez (25-3, 15 KOs) meets Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11 KOs) in a featherweight scrap. Both fighters are based in Southern California.

Tank vs Kingry All Access on Showtime

This Saturday night Showtime will be presenting the “All Access: Davis vs Garcia”   following the replay of last week’s Las Vegas fight card that featured David Benavidez and Caleb Plant, plus three other fights. The programming begins at 10:35 p.m. PT.

Fights to Watch

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Anthony Joshua (24-3) vs Jermaine Franklin (21-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 4:05 p.m. Isaac Dogboe (24-2) vs Robeisy Ramirez (11-1).

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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The Latest Adventure of Glenn Azar: An Unconventional Boxing Story

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“I have never seen anything like it,” said Glenn Azar, a world traveler who at age 51 was visiting Las Vegas for the first time. “There’s great depth here and everyone has been so welcoming.”

Azar wasn’t a conventional tourist. He came here from Australia with a small stable of professional boxers. There’s nothing unusual about that. Boxers come to Las Vegas to train from all corners of the world, just as artists that paint pictures once descended on Paris to hone their craft. The main lure for foreign boxers is the city’s deep pool of useful sparring partners.

Where Azar deviates from the norm is that the fighters he mentors – Taylah Robertson, Cherneka Johnson, and Deanha “Dee Dee” Hobbs — are female. Brisbane’s Robertson, a super flyweight, fights tonight (Thursday, March 30) on a Lee Baxter promotion in Toronto.

Azar spent 17 years in the Australian Army where he specialized in helicopter evacuations and advanced to the rank of lieutenant.

Before he got involved with the trio of boxers that he trains and manages, he turned his thirst for adventure into a successful business, leading intrepid adventure-seekers on long treks across daunting terrain such as New Guinea’s Kokoda Track, a rugged 60-mile mountainous trail that can be traversed only on foot.

Azar’s daughter Alyssa, now 26, inherited her father’s thirst for adventure. At age 19 she became the youngest female to climb Mount Everest and has reached the summit from both the North and South sides.

Taylah Robertson was two fights into her pro career when she approached Azar about managing her. Thus began a new chapter in his life.

Before turning pro, Robertson was a two-time national amateur champion at 112 pounds and represented Australia in tournaments in Bulgaria, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Spain, and New Zealand. She brings a 7-1 record into tonight’s assignment in Toronto with the setback coming in her fourth pro bout when she lost a split decision to 28-fight veteran Shannon O’Connell.

taylah

Unlike her coach, Robertson had been in Las Vegas before. Her prior visit was arranged by one of her biggest fans, Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech, who arranged for her to train with Bones Adams at Adams’ gym.

Bones’ gym was on Glenn Azar’s itinerary, but he and his little ensemble worked out at multiple boxing gyms during their three-week stay. Afternoons were often spent at the DLX gym where Azar arranged for one of boxing’s hottest young trainers, Kay Koroma, to provide a helping hand. Koroma played an instrumental role in the amateur career of Claressa Shields and co-trains Mikaela Mayer alongside the venerable Al Mitchell. Taylah Robertson was familiar with Koroma from her amateur days.

Cherneka Johnson

Cherneka “Sugar Neekz” Johnson (15-1, 6 KOs) is the reigning IBF world super bantamweight champion. She makes the third defense of her title on May 20 in Dublin underneath Katie Taylor’s homecoming fight with fellow unbeaten Chantelle Cameron. Johnson’s opponent, Ellie Scotney, a 25-year-old Londoner, is 6-0 as a pro after a decorated amateur career. On paper it’s a 50/50 fight.

Cherneka spent the first 12 years of her life in her native New Zealand. She is a proud member of the Maori ethnic group and her tattoos pay homage to her culture. Last week, a robust sparring session with WBA world female bantamweight champion Jamie Mitchell attracted a crowd at the Mayweather Boxing Club.

Deanha Hobbs

At age 35, Hobbs is the senior member of Glenn Azar’s team. She took up boxing, she says, to learn to defend herself against the schoolyard bullies that picked on her because of her tomboyishness. It’s a fairly common thread in the life story of many female athletes in the combat sports communities.

Hobbs sports an 11-2 record and has knocked out six of her opponents. She has won three straight since suffering an eighth-round stoppage in a failed bid for Mary McGee’s IBF 140-pound world title. To secure that assignment, which paid peanuts, Hobbs had to move up two weight classes and travel halfway around the world. She fought McGee, a Hoosier, in the Greater Chicago city of Hammond, Indiana.

When Taylah Robertson turned pro, one of her listed goals was to become the first female fighter to earn a million dollar purse. Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano beat her to the punch, but she may yet reach that lofty sphere.

“Women train just as hard as men,” says Azar, “and their fights can be just as exciting. I look forward to the day when there is purse parity. It will take time, but because she is only 24 years old, I can envision Taylah getting there before her career is finished.”

And if that day should come, Glenn Azar can take a bow.

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He Said, He Said: Who is at Fault for the Collapse of the Fury-Usyk Fight?

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The last undisputed heavyweight champion was Lennox Lewis who held the WBA, WBC, and IBF belts after outpointing Evander Holyfield in their rematch at Las Vegas in November of 1999. (The WBO was around in those days, but didn’t have their finger in the pot. The upstart organization, whose first “world heavyweight champion” was Francesco Damiani, had zero credibility among serious fight fans, many of whom still balked at ingesting the IBF.)

Lewis’s reign as the undisputed champion lasted only five months. He was stripped of his WBA diadem after bypassing John Ruiz in favor of Michael Grant for his next fight. Ergo, twenty-three years have elapsed since boxing had an undisputed heavyweight champion and a Fury-Usyk fight would have produced the first fully unified heavyweight title-holder in the four-belt era.

There was talk that Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk would meet on Dec. 17 of last year in Saudi Arabia on the day preceding the final game of the World Cup in neighboring Qatar. More recently, there was talk that they would meet at Wembley Stadium in London on April 29.

A week ago, representatives of Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk appeared close to finalizing a deal, but negotiations hit a snag and, for the moment, the fight is dead.

Yesterday (March 27), Yahoo combat sports columnist Kevin Iole posted a story that was harshly critical of the Gypsy King. “The blame for this goes squarely on the broad shoulders of Fury,” he wrote.

Iole noted that Team Usyk acquiesced to Fury’s demand for 70 percent of the purse, notwithstanding the fact that the Ukrainian held three-fourths of the meaningful belts. Referencing Ali-Frazier I, the “Fight of the Century,” Iole noted that this iconic event would have never happened if the larger-than-life Muhammad Ali had attempted to leverage his popularity with “grotesque financial demands.” (The purse split was reportedly 50/50.)

Gareth Davies, the most well-known boxing scribe in the UK and something of a celebrity himself, had a somewhat different take. In a widely-circulated television interview, Davies noted that it was actually Team Usyk that pulled the plug. The sticking point, by all accounts, was the percentage splits to be built into a rematch clause.

Davies did not reproach Usyk for walking away from the negotiation table. His remarks were seemingly meant to shelter Fury, his British countryman, from the scathing rhetoric directed at him.

Assuming that the window for rekindling negotiations is shut tight, Oleksandr Usyk is expected to fight England’s Daniel Dubois next. Dubois is first in line among Usyk’s mandatory opponents. It has also been reported that deep-pocketed investors in the Middle East are interested in pitting Usyk against Deontay Wilder; a most delicious match-up indeed.

Former U.S. college cheerleader Joe Joyce is expected to be Tyson Fury’s next opponent assuming that he gets by Zhilei Zhang on April 15. Joyce is a heavy favorite in the match at London’s Copper Box arena. However, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn still holds out hope of luring Fury into a match with Anthony Joshua. By Hearn’s reckoning, this is the biggest fight out there for the Gypsy King; bigger even than Fury-Usyk.

Anthony Joshua returns to the ring this Saturday at the O2 in London with U.S. import Jermaine Franklin in the opposite corner. It will be Joshua’s first fight under the tutelage of new head trainer Derrick James.

In the meantime, boxing continues to shoot itself in the foot by failing to produce the fights that fans are most desirous of seeing.

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