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LET THE SIDESHOW BEGIN - HERE'S TODAY PANEL

BY Charles Jay ON May 21, 2002
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Today is the day that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, through its Consumer Affairs Sub-Committee, holds a hearing concerning boxing legislation.

In case you're interested, here is a page with the basic info -

http://commerce.senate.gov/~commerce/press/02/2002517C17.html

The proceedings will also be televised live on C-SPAN3, beginning at 1 PM Eastern time, and will go on for about an hour and a half. You can also listen to the hearing through

http://www.capitolhearings.org/

This basically how it goes: each of the panelists will have a five-minute statement to read - something which has been submitted to the committee in advance. After everyone has read his statement, the panelists will be open for questions from the members of the committee who will be present.

It's all a big show - the objective is to generate enough publicity so that a bill can be directed for a Senate vote, then passed onto the House. The legislation concerns a Federal commission-type structure for boxing, most likely another ineffective bill unless these people get some real input. For the most part, that won't happen today. And if it does, from the guy who may be the biggest truth-teller on today's panel (see below), history has demonstrated that not much in the way of action will be taken very soon.

You can tell most of these players without a scorecard. But just for your enlightenment, I thought I might just run down today's list for you, which I suppose is subject to some change, along with what you might expect - a little editorial comment:

* MUHAMMAD ALI

-- Of course, the appearance of Ali should give you an idea of what the real purpose of this hearing is. Yes, Ali is that rare athlete who transcends his sport, and he'll bring attention to these hearings. And the major piece of legislation that this committee has been concerned with bears his name. But with all due respect to the champ, who will be in the building earlier in the day to testify at another committee's hearing on Parkinson's, has he ever really concerned himself that much with the issues that are at hand? Will he actually speak at the hearing? Or is this just an exploitative way for the Senators to get some cheap publicity out of their hearing today?

* ROY JONES JR

. -- Well, he came last time they had hearings - this time I think he may be a late substitute for somebody else. Jones didn't really have very much in the way of substance to offer last time, and I don't know if that situation will change. But no doubt the Committee would get a lot more if they just took a look behind Jones and chose to sit his "advisor" down for a little "Q&A" session. Brad Jacobs, who is working for Jones now, was notorious in his previous boxing life for the many dirty, conflict-of-interest-infected deals he executed while Director of Boxing Programming for USA Network, kicking off FBI and Grand Jury investigations and eventually (unofficially, of course) leading to the banishment of "Tuesday Night Fights" by the network's new, Barry Diller-led management. I think it's fair to say these episodes will be the subject of stories in subsequent editions of "Operation Cleanup".

* TIM LUECKENHOFF

-- Lueckenhoff is the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Tim's overall agenda is the seamless conversion of the ABC into a national commission, replete with powers vested in it by Federal law. Originally I was in favor of this, but I have come to distrust the organization to some degree. My principal reason for this has been well-documented before, and will be documented again in future editions of "Operation Cleanup". Most of the ABC's leadership is suspect at best (I don't necessarily include Tim in there). But for a organization that wants to be a Federally-mandated "watchdog", the ABC needs a watchdog itself. As far as I am concerned, the ABC will never be viable as long as it has people like Jack Kerns serving on its board, and as long as it has a mechanism that allows someone like him to serve. Kerns, in case you haven't read any of our stories before, is perhaps the most dangerous person in the United States from the perspective of fighter safety. Just read "Horse Manure isn't The Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky" in our Special Reports section. Of course, a few of the ABC board members have ring deaths under their belts over the past couple of years - deaths that may have been avoidable. I wonder if any Senator will have the insight to ask about this? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

One of Lueckenhoff's other major concerns is getting an insurance situation straightened out - something that will be the subject of another "Operation Cleanup" piece. It seems that in states without boxing commissions, the Professional Boxer Safety Act requires that a commissioner from another state, approved by the ABC, must travel to that state to supervise. The only problem is, none of the commissioners are covered by the current insurance policy the ABC has in place - oh, except for those who are sitting on the ABC board. That means Jack Kerns can spread his virus to any state in the country without a boxing commission. Interesting.

* EMANUEL STEWARD

-- Steward will probably say whatever the Committee wants him to say. After all, there is a "pre-interview" that is conducted between a staffer and a potential panelist before the invitations are actually extended. Steward, besides being the trainer for Lennox Lewis, also is the national director of the coaching program for USA Boxing, which is the governing entity for amateur boxing in the United States. he also has top amateur prospects, who will presumably be competing for spots on the next Olympic team, living in one of his houses. Since Steward is an official with USA Boxing, it is mandated that he have unique access to top prospects coming out of the amateur program, which by definition gives him an advantage in the process of recruiting them as pros. We have brought up the potential conflict of interest this represents in a previous column and will go steps further as the "Operation Cleanup" series continues. Surely this subject will not be touched upon to any degree by the Senate Committee.

* BERT SUGAR

-- With all due respect to Bert, who has always produced quality books and magazines, I don't know what he's doing on this panel, unless he's arranged to get on a couple of talk shows as a result. I don't know what particular knowledge he may have about the inner workings of the boxing industry that would make him invaluable as an information source. Sure, he's railed about boxing corruption, but it's mostly been of the cliche variety. Everyone knows the "surface" issues - the kind of boxing reform that is needed in America today is the kind where one has to look BENEATH the surface, way past the obvious, to the kind of things that go on that NO ONE who is not connected intimately with the game is aware of. Congress will never learn. Maybe they want to hear a few one-liners.

* LOU DiBELLA

-- If there is a guy who might bring a few curveballs with him today, it's DiBella, especially if the Senators want to engage him in a question-and-answer session. DiBella, the former HBO executive, is the guy on this panel who has the most intimate knowledge of what goes on in the boxing industry on the highest levels. And at the same time, he's anti-establishment to a degree. Yes, he's got a current position in boxing, but he's already indicated to me that if they ask him, he'll tell them the truth. Some of his views on the current roles of manager and promoter in boxing are controversial, and they will serve as subject matter as we continue this series. They certainly deserve discussion, and if the Senators are wide awake they'll no doubt find themselves thinking about things. Maybe some of them should set their alarm clock for 1 PM.

* TEDDY ATLAS

-- Teddy is actually going to be a no-show for these proceedings. That's surprising, since he is constantly screaming about a national commission, and, at least in the opinion of some, wants to be the national boxing "czar" himself. I don't really know if it's because ESPN didn't want him to go, or there was a scheduling conflict, or whether the people with the Committee couldn't "pre-program" what he had to say. But his thoughts are going to show up, perhaps on these pages, perhaps on another boxing page. We'll keep you "posted", as it were.

At any rate, I hope you watch, and I hope you chime in with your thoughts, so that I can get them passed on to Ken Nahigian, the minority counsel for the committee, who doesn't really want to hear what you have to say, but may have to. Here's my address:

fightpage@totalaction.com

Copyright 2002 Total Action Inc.

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