Loyalty is defined as being faithful, especially to a cause or ideal.
On December 18th, two of the best Light Heavyweights will be battling at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, one of which will be anointed as Top Gun of that Division. The combatants are Antonio Tarver, (22-2-0-18ko’s) of Tampa, Florida against Glen Johnson, (41-9-2-28ko’s) another Floridian, based in Miami.
Tarver has had four Title fights, both regional as well as World for a total of nine (9) Championship belts, (WBC-3, WBA-1, IBF-1, IBO-2, NABF-1, USBA-1).
Johnson has engaged in eleven (11) Title fights for a total of eleven (11) Championship belts (IBF-5, IBF I/C-1, USBA-1, WBU-1, WBO I/C-1, WBC C/A –2.
This would sound as if both fighters were staunch organization men, but here’s where we reflect back on the word – LOYALTY - faithful especially to a cause or ideal. Along came an offer from the premier TV Network for the large dollars, all that was required was for both Champion’s to give up the Titles they had recently succeeded in attaining, the dream of any aspiring boxer and say a curt “Adios “ to the sanctioning organizations that gave them the opportunity to attain fame and fortune.
Keep in mind that when the network cuts a deal with the fighters they steadfastly maintain that they are not in the promotion business, and therefore should not have to be licensed. Well friend, if you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, in my way of thinking, you are a promoter.
Both Tarver and Johnson have worked long and hard to reach their status as champions and are regarded as good guys by most people in the business, but it remains that by letting the dollar rule their actions they have collectively hurt many people. Both have skirted their mandatory defenses, leaving those in line for their opportunity high and dry. As for the sanctioning organizations, they are sure to survive and will get new champion’s hopefully looking for tenure.
After Tarver lost his bout with Roy Jones in what some thought a controversial decision, the WBC based on the competitiveness of the fight granted an immediate rematch. Tarver then did the unthinkable by knocking Roy Jones out in the second round. Paul Briggs of Australia, the then mandatory challenger to Tarver, had to go to purse bids to secure his title opportunity. The bid was held at the WBC convention in Phuket, Thailand with a winning bid posted by Don King Productions. Needless to say with the Tarver/Briggs bout being cancelled not only Briggs, but King as well as Jose Sulaiman, were among the betrayed. The same applies to IBF President, Marian Muhammad who must now deal with a vacant title.
There are many avenues to be visited should a National Boxing Commission come to fruition, among which are not only protecting boxers from unscrupulous managers and promoters, but also holding fighters to the same standards of conduct in their obligations to those managers/promoters. The positions taken by the television networks must also receive oversight so as to ferret out their true status in the boxing industry.
They denounce at every given opportunity the position of all of the recognized sanctioning organizations, yet extol the virtues of the “Ring Belt”, which represents an outdated boxing publication battling for survival in this electronic age .In addition it was “Ring” that was involved in one of the most notable corruption cases in the history of boxing. Undisputed Middleweight Champion, Bernard Hopkins once said when asked about the value of having a championship belt, “If they don’t think this belt has any value, how much do you think they would pay me, if I didn’t have it”.
Fighters of the past, however, knew the meaning of loyalty. It was a two-way street. Marciano, Robinson, Basilio, Graziano, LaMotta stayed the course with their management teams. They did the fighting, while management handled the business affairs. Today we see some who would not be rated as “club fighters” in years past, getting TV exposure. These are some of the same people claiming that their Promoter’s are not doing right by them.
It is nice to see that today’s boxer’s have greater opportunities to better themselves financially than had been the case in years past. However, the huge purses paid by HBO and SHOWTIME may be the reason that loyalty no longer prevails.
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