I'm still uncomfortable with the situation I've described before regarding amateur boxing, though in all fairness I hold USA Boxing primarily accountable for that, not necessarily Steward. But I'd have to say that I completely missed my assessment with what he might say during the hearing.
Not only was Steward a thoroughly worthwhile contributor to the overall dialogue, but he made what I felt were four of the most important points in the entire proceeding - points we'll be exploring much more in depth as we continue along with "Operation Cleanup".
Here they are:
* SOMETIMES PROMOTERS GET SCREWED BY FIGHTERS ALSO
-- It was SO important to point that out. And only someone who has really been exposed to the whole promoter-manager-fighter dynamic would have the insight to recognize it. One theme that has been characteristic in the discussion of reform in boxing has been that the fighter is perpetually the victim - getting hurt, misled, robbed, exploited by the promoter. Sure enough, that happens - it would be foolish to deny it. But it happens the other way around much more than the public has ever been led to believe by any politician. Why have people been misinformed? Well, I would imagine it's just more politically useful for a politician to paint a stereotyped picture of the promoter as the greedy, opportunistic villian and the young and naive - or aging and punched-out - fighter as the victim than to create ambiguity by distributing blame equally. But since it's not done that way, you wind up with the kind of legislation that leaves a big "hole" in terms of its real effectiveness. I think it's important to look at the other side of the problem, in order to get to the heart of the matter. We will.
* WE'VE GOT TO TAKE CARE OF THE FANS
-- You know, there's so much talk at these proceedings about how fighters need to be assured of better safety; how fighters need to be protected against "evil" promoters; how they need a pension fund; how commissioners need to be better enabled to carry out their duties with the help of a little Federal "juice". But not many people seem to be addressing what I call the "lost constituency" here - the fans. I know this may be an unpopular statement in the boxing reform "movement", if there indeed is such a thing, but I feel the consideration of the fans may just be more important than anything. Without them, could the business exist? Could any sports-related business? I'm going to repeat something I've said on these pages before - it has been a rare occasion when I have sat down with promoters I have worked with, and they have ever given their utmost consideration to WHAT THE FANS WANT. It's usually THEIR agenda first, customer satisfaction second. And that's one of the reasons boxing is not nearly as popular now as it has been in the distant past (yes, that's a statement by Steward that I disagree with).
* MANAGERS SHOULD MEET SOME SORT OF QUALIFICATIONS
-- I really don't think this is too much to ask. After all, a manager, if he's doing his job, has a lot of responsibilities regarding the career he's "stewarding", if you pardon the pun. And if the manager ISN'T doing his job, it could be because he doesn't know enough to do the correct and prudent thing. You don't want to prevent guys (or gals) from entering the business out of hand, but you want to make sure they're not dangerously naive, or stupid, when they do. This is a subject we'll definitely spend some more time on.
* WE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON IN THESE GYMS
-- No doubt about it. Steward relayed a story about walking into a gym in Las Vegas, where he saw that a trainer had put a heavyweight behemoth in with a 120-pound WOMAN, and the woman was taking a pounding. Steward said it was so frightful that he saw no choice but to intercede, and he very nearly wound up in a fistfight by doing so. "She needs to learn how to take a beating", or words to that effect, were said by the trainer. Uh, huh. Well, a suspension would have been too lenient for a guy like that. Maybe some jail time would have done the trick. We're going to be dealing with this subject in the next couple of days, because this is something I warned the ABC about quite a while ago.
But you want to know the sad part about all of these points? They were made, and then they were just glossed over, if even acknowledged, by Senators McCain and Dorgan. They didn't seem to even want to discuss them. I don't know if they were not "briefed" on them, or if they weren't a part of the overall "agenda". But they could have been a critical part of the discussion, even during the limited time, yet the senators seemed more concerned with discussing Bruce "The Mouse" Strauss going from state to state and getting knocked out week after week - a problem that has more or less been rectified because of the Federal ID system.
But I do thank Emanuel Steward for bringing them up.
And to boot, he took the time to travel from the Pennsylvania training camp of Lennox Lewis, preparing for one of the biggest fights in history, to do it.
As far as I'm told, no one from the D.C. Boxing Commission even bothered to travel across the street to be there.
I guess that tells you a little something, doesn't it?
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
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:
You see, I'm not there to be "programmed"; I'm not going to sit there and spew out a bunch of happy horseshit so I can be "politically correct". If you're going to represent yourself as someone who is going affect change, then by all means, AFFECT CHANGE.
But - if I was sitting at that table, and was not too intimidated by the surroundings, maybe this is what your humble reporter would tell those politicos:
My name is Charles Jay, and I have been editor/publisher of TotalAction.com, an internet site, for the past three years. TotalAction contains THE FIGHT PAGE, a boxing section that is a preferred stop for many boxing fans, and essential for those in the boxing industry and boxing media.
Prior to my involvement in electronic publishing, I was a part of the boxing industry and had been since 1981, literally before I got out of college. Over the course of the next 16 years or so, I operated in many capacities - that of a manager, a booking agent, a matchmaker, a promoter, a publicist. I have also worked behind the scenes with TV networks, ratings organizations, and casinos which have presented boxing. I have been a broadcaster for several television outlets, serving as a blow-by-blow or color commentator for 15 world championship fights.
I was never what you would call a major mover or shaker, but nonetheless have observed what has gone on at ALL levels of boxing, from the grass roots level all the way up to the top. Now, as a member of the media, I see myself in a unique position to offer some insight as to what the industry is and does.
There was a time when boxing was a major sport in the United States - unfortunately, the effect of a number of factors - namely, the nature of corruption within the industry and the rise in popularity of sports like professional football, basketball, and others, due to the increased media coverage and the explosion of television - have left boxing in a position where, because of its lack of marketing expertise, and lack of general order, it has now joined horse racing among the list of dying American sports - a state of affairs where the participants are perhaps too self-absorbed to even be aware of it.
Over the years I have seen commissioners come and go. I have seen congressional hearing after congressional hearing purportedly aimed at remedying problems that have served to shuffle boxing toward the back of the pack among so-called "major" sports. I have seen the legislation passed in an attempt to address these problems. And I can tell you without equivocation that this effort has missed the boat, so to speak, on a continual basis.
Along the way I have begun to question whether this effort is well-meaning or whether it is just another exercise in political masturbation. Surely there is no excuse for not taking a more practical approach to the important issues - it's not as if the outlets are not available, especially now - where representatives of this Committee, if they have any concern at all for the subject matter of these proceedings, would not have access to some of the pertinent information.
Yet this information has been completely and conspicuously ignored. Recent attempts on my part to share - rather selflessly, I might add - some of the possible, and indeed, practical solutions to real-world problem areas in this industry have been met by your minority counsel with a reaction I would characterize as disdainful. As far as I'm concerned, since he is the legislative person who is most closely connected with the subject of boxing, this offers a barometer as to the real level of sincerity contained in this campaign.
The task of any responsible reform effort should be three-fold - to create an atmosphere whereby parties on all levels of the boxing industry can benefit from fair and equitable business practices; to ensure that the competitors, who take the physical risks, will be afforded all the medical protections and safety precautions possible; and, perhaps most importantly, to restore public confidence in a sport that is taken somewhat less than seriously by the majority of sports fans, not to mention the lion's share of the media that covers professional sports. If you'll pardon the pun, boxing has become a "punchline".
But could anyone blame the skeptic?
How can anything that has been done at the legislative level thus far be taken seriously when some promoters are using the power of their contracts to grab much more than 50% of the money their fighters are supposed to earning for their sweat and toil, and no mechanism is in place, or has even been considered, to expressly forbid it from happening?
How can anyone still be content with legislation that allows a television executive to double as a boxing promoter, and, with the full acquiescence of the network, is permitted to exercise a strong influence over the success or failure of his direct competitors, at the same time using his position to extract contractual agreements and purse money directly from fighters - all in conflict with the laws governing restraint of trade?
As a so-called "agent of change", why shouldn't an organization like the Association of Boxing Commissions be summarily dismissed when it has placed, without objection, on its executive board, a Kentucky commissioner who, with its complete knowledge, has openly flouted the Federal boxing safety laws in place, creating a set of circumstances that very well may have left a former heavyweight champion paralyzed and brain-damaged for life?
Why should anyone pay attention when the laws by which these alleged "reform advocates" propose to regulate boxing have a completely archaic view of the dynamic that currently exists in the REAL boxing world between fighters, promoters, managers and networks?
Why are "phony reformers" continuously coddled by your committee, while those who may have unconventional ideas are ignored?
Why hasn't there been an intelligent discourse on the subject of promotional contracts - the documents that have the most enduring effect on the boxing business today - aside from that discussion that concern "coercive" clauses, which in most cases are completely irrelevant?
Why isn't anyone discussing the fact that fighters spar in gyms across this country while on medical suspension, without proper supervision, under which circumstances they can get hurt from the accumulation of head blows far easier than they can in an actual fight?
Why isn't Jack Kerns, the nefarious commissioner from Kentucky, on hand to answer for himself in front of this committee?
Why aren't members of ABC, who nominated, seconded, then cast their votes in favor of Kerns' candidacy for the ABC board, here to explain their decision? Don't you think that would be important information, if you're even considering handing over the responsibility of national boxing regulation to them?
You've had people getting up here for the past couple of years and telling you there are problems with enforcement of the Ali Act, problems with uniform rules and regulations, problems with establishing a standard for contracts, but is it even recognized that those very same people are the ones who have been in a position to do something about it, yet never have?
Just last year, Greg Sirb, who was then president of the ABC, said before this committee, and I quote, "There needs to be sanctions put on those state and tribal boxing commissions that do not hold uphold the federal laws or that have antiquated rules/regulations that put the boxer in either physical or financial danger." He went on to refer to "Such things as requiring that an ambulance along with paramedics and proper equipment be at ringside at all times, that the promoter is bonded in a certain amount to ensure all boxer and other bills including insurance coverage are paid in a timely fashion......."
Jack Kerns, the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, required none of these things - which incidentally are mandated by the Professional Boxer Safety Act - as a general practice on the shows within his jurisdiction. On the night Greg Page slipped into a coma in a Kentucky ring, Kerns had neither an ambulance, nor oxygen equipment at ringside. He failed to have a licensed doctor present, and even the doctor he had there had long since departed the ringside area. The promoter also did not have insurance.
That's tragic. And Greg Sirb was well aware of it too, as he appeared on an ESPN "Outside the Lines" program last Easter Sunday. Approximately a month after that program, he made the statement before this Committee. Two months after that, he presided over the ABC annual convention in New Orleans. I have the complete minutes from that meeting. At no point during the entire process, from Kerns' nomination right on through to his election to the board, did Sirb raise his voice to object, or even question, the potential presence of a very dangerous commissioner on this national board. No word about "sanctions". Nothing about "antiquated rules and regulations" that put a fighter in "physical danger", then later, "financial danger" due to the lack of insurance. Wouldn't that have been an opportune time to bring it up?
Now, is anyone on this committee going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that this is the kind of individual you want implementing "sweeping reforms" as a national boxing "czar"?
If it is, I would sincerely question whether your intent is to accomplish ANYTHING through this particular process.
I will tell you this much - if you did nothing more through your legislation than create an atmosphere whereby at least one promoter in every major city in America could sustain a local fight club and make money WITHOUT having to have television, you would have done far more than an all of your previous collective efforts combined.
Somehow, though, I just don't see that happening. No one here recognizes that what happens on the grass roots level of the boxing industry, over the course of time, has a tremendous residual effect on what happens at ALL levels. Of course, you'd have to know something about the mechanics of the industry to realize that.
Unfortunately, you have gotten a "dearth" of intelligence in that regard, and when it is put before you, you don't want to listen to it.
Perhaps it's an aspect of this industry that is not "sexy" enough for you. Maybe the whole focus of this thing is to "get Don King".
If that's the case - if this is all a big "show", I would suggest you get yourselves re-focused in a hurry. There's a lot more happening than meets your eyes, and if you're going to pass judgment on any of it, it would behoove you to develop an awareness of it.
The point is, as long as we have a situation where, time after time, we continue to meet on Capitol Hill and time after time issues that are truly material and relevant are suppressed or cast aside, why in the world should anyone take YOU seriously?
I would invite your questions, although with all due respect, I think perhaps I deserve answers to mine first.
On the promotional front, I'm not sure there's a more important issue for regulators than assuring that there is as fair and equitable a business atmosphere out there as possible.
Anyone who follows boxing knows that the television networks wield an awful lot of power, and that's it's not an easy thing to make a living in this business.
One thing you can be certain of - it's difficult enough for a promoter to gain a foothold in the boxing industry without having to get the seal of approval from one of his (or her) own competitors for the right to do so.
Should networks, or their representatives, be allowed to compete for talent with the vendors who would solicit them? Does that not present a conflict of interest that is, at best, alarming?
Yet that is the situation we are faced with here.
J. Russell Peltz, a long-time promoter from Philadelphia, was brought aboard at the outset of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" series as a "boxing coordinator". According to Bob Yalen, ESPN's director of brand management, "When we took on the Bill Cayton library (which incidentally, is the subject of a current lawsuit between Cayton and Peltz), my duties at ESPN were expanded to include a number of other sports categories, and they thought it might be helpful to bring in a consultant to lighten my load. So we brought in Russell."
Peltz, together with Yalen, had the responsibility for fielding proposals from various promoters who sought to sell fight cards to the network.
While Peltz did not have sole responsibility for this, he had more than his share of it, and the way the position evolved, he and Yalen each had their own group of promoters they did business with on behalf of ESPN. In an earlier interview with us, Yalen said, a promoter "could call Russell or myself, depending on who he normally deal with, and we'll weed it out and see who's got the best show for the date." Peltz told one reporter, when trying to explain why Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing was allowed to use Keith McKnight as an opponent for Joe Mesi on one of its April shows, "Bob has his guys, and I have my guys."
To those of us in the business who were expecting that Peltz might step out of his role of promoter, at least for the time being, when he took the ESPN job, we were somewhat surprised. Not only did Peltz NOT recuse himself from promoting, he actually, as part of his deal, received up to seven TV dates per year of the 45 available on ESPN!
Those dates alone, plus anything else he could put together by his own devices, would afford Peltz a healthy schedule by which to keep any of his signed fighters busy.
Most people in boxing acknowledged that there was an inherent conflict of interest just by virtue of Peltz' dual role, but it was generally concluded that his own credibility in boxing would overcome any suspicions, and that he wouldn't jeopardize a good reputation in the business by abusing his position. And after all, at least the package of promotional dates he garnered as part of his contract was a fact that was known up front.
But circumstances have changed - considerably.
And we're left wondering whether the old adage should be amended - whether it doesn't take absolute power to corrupt absolutely, but if indeed, partial power is enough.
Perhaps it was just wishful thinking to believe that the conflict that everyone thought was just a possibility would never come to fruition, and have a far-reaching effect.
But results have demonstrated that the fears of some observers may have justified.
One illustrative example involved a promoter/matchmaker named Rick Glaser, whose fighter, Billy Irwin, had been used on Peltz' shows at the Blue Horizon, and televised on ESPN2. Glaser had a promotional contract with the Canadian lightweight, and through his efforts, got Irwin rated the #1 contender by the IBF.
According to Glaser, Peltz was under the impression that he would be included as part of the promotional deal with Irwin, by virtue of the fact that he had put him into action on his own shows and featured him on the network.
Toward that end, Peltz sent a short memorandum to Glaser on December 27, 1999, in which Peltz sought a 50% piece of Glaser's promotional interests. Glaser turned Peltz down, reasoning that "I don't make deals like that. There was nothing to gain."
Indeed, because Irwin was the mandatory challenger for IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora, Glaser didn't need the help or influence of ANY promoter to secure a championship opportunity for his man. But Peltz knew exactly what he was doing.
Glaser eventually endeavored to promote a show of his own on ESPN2, featuring Irwin in the main event. He was turned down flat - first by Peltz, then by Yalen. He was given a number of different reasons - that he was inexperienced and unlicensed as a promoter, that Irwin was not enough of a name to be in the main event, that he would not "go in tough enough", because Glaser would be protecting Irwin's mandatory status. In an interview with Yalen shortly after our initial story broke, he expressed those same concerns to me as well.
"He (Glaser) isn't a promoter per se," Yalen said. "That's not to say he couldn't become one. We absolutely listened to what he wanted to talk about. Evidently he and Russell couldn't come to terms on a match - about Irwin's opponent, and the method to handle it, that's where the problems were."
To the savvy observer, however, the rationale seemed a bit transparent. For one thing, ESPN has, in fact, used more than one promoter without experience, including Larry McCartney, who is closely affiliated with Dean Chance's International Boxing Association, Bjorn Rebney of Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing, and Jeff Fried, who had previously been the attorney for Mat Tinley and America Presents. Obtaining a license to promote is generally not problematic in most jurisdictions, and it is not unusual for a first-timer to wait until a show is at least in the serious talking stages before applying for the license.
As for Irwin's status - how many #1 contenders did ESPN have an opportunity to show?
Glaser obviously smelled a rat, as did we. He went public with his grievance, revealing that he had been contacted by representatives of the FBI in connection with Peltz' business practices, and investigated filing lawsuits against Peltz and ESPN.
Glaser's claim was that Peltz, in effect, wanted to "freeze him" out of any involvement with Irwin, by creating the situation where Glaser couldn't get any TV fights for him, thus paving the way for Peltz to sign Irwin himself and profit from the eventual fight with Spadafora. In point of fact, that's exactly what wound up happening.
At the time of our original story about the Glaser/Peltz incident, I wrote:
"Peltz, in the process of being a promoter who pro-actively endeavors to invest in and guide careers, is engaged in the business of signing fighters to promotional contracts. As such, he is, in effect, in competition with other promoters in that pursuit - not necessarily the upper echelon promoters like Don King, Bob Arum, and Cedric Kushner, but certainly other mid-level promoters.
Essentially, in his current role with ESPN, Peltz finds himself in a position where he can exercise a certain level of control over whether the status of his competitors becomes stronger or weaker.
That's a conflict of interest. And if Peltz has actively used his position to strengthen himself as a promoter relative to the industry, or weaken others, he's in a possible restraint of trade situation.
It deserves some looking into."
The only part I would change is the last line. It doesn't "deserve some looking into". It deserves immediate action.
Any extraneous circumstances that might have existed should be of no consequence at all. Maybe it would have ultimately made financial sense for Glaser to hand over 50% of his fighter to Peltz. Maybe it would have made moral sense as well, if Peltz had used Irwin on his Blue Horizon fight cards in the hope that he would be involved in the fighter's career. Maybe cooperation with Peltz was absolutely necessary to advancing Irwin's career at that point in time.
Still, it's irrelevant.
Peltz was completely out of line approaching Glaser with such a proposal, so any explanations he may offer for his actions are completely moot.
Of course, he's never offered any explanations to us. Peltz refused to comment to TOTAL ACTION regarding this particular story, other than to tell us at the time of our original story almost two years ago, "Nothing Rick Glaser said was the truth."
Ironically, that, in and of itself, was a lie. I've seen a copy of the 50% agreement Peltz sent along for Glazer's signature. It is timestamped for December 27, 1999 and has Peltz' fax number stamped across the top as well.
What really matters, beyond all else, is that while he is an employee, contractor, or in any way represents the interests of ESPN, Russell Peltz has ABSOLUTELY no business making pitch for ANYONE'S fighters, particularly those he has done business with, either directly or indirectly, while acting in his capacity as a representative of ESPN, regardless of the circumstances.
If the people in the United States Congress are truly concerned about the welfare of the boxing industry, they'll take steps to prevent these kind of situations from persisting.
Hey - I'm the first one to admit that we may have gone a little overboard. I mean, it's hard to argue that having four separate weight divisions within ten pounds (as it is between, say, the junior flyweight and bantamweight divisions) isn't somewhat superfluous. And I don't think I'm alone when I question the necessity of the "mini-flyweight" or "minimumweight" division (105 pounds).
But even so, I'm not sure that any "reform advocate" who uses a "back-to-eight" philosophy as part of his argument really knows what the hell he is talking about.
Nonetheless, there are members of boxing media who advocate this position. Do they really understand the history of this sport? Do they think some of the "junior" weight classes, for example, were added only recently, or solely for the purposes of television? Or that they're strictly the product of some governing body's attempt to squeeze out some gratuitous sanctioning fees?
I don't want anyone to think I'm singling out Dan Rafael of the USA Today, who puts out a version of world rankings every month, in a format that only recognizes eight divisions. That's really more a reflection of a limit in space than it is an overriding philosophy about the state of the game. In point of fact, I find it rather remarkable that his newspaper devotes as much space as it does to covering any ratings at all, considering boxing's general popularity vis-a-vis other sports.
No, this is directed at those who feel that a move back to eight weight divisions could possibly serve as a remedy to boxing's ills, in any way, shape, or form. Four major reasons why I think any ratings system or "authority" with eight divisions can't - and won't - work:
1) THEY SIMPLY DON'T HAVE ANY BASIS IN REALITY. If they can't change the way world championships are pursued, what's the use? If the world's governing bodies are not going to abolish their junior divisions, it's not likely any apparatus that does not recognize them will have any relevance. Junior lightweights don't have to fight lightweights, for example, to move up the ladder in their chosen profession, and they simply DON'T fight them, as a general rule. Period.
2) IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO ATTAIN RATINGS ACCURACY. How can you possibly attempt to rate DeMarcus Corley among the world's welterweights, or Winky Wright among middleweights, and do so with any authority at all? There is no frame of reference, and simply no criteria established for determining where their place should be, since they obviously fight at their natural weight, which is lighter, and have not had to venture into the divisions in which one would attempt to rank them. To attempt to place Joel Casamayor or Jesus Chavez in a top ten of lightweights, for example, would be based not on results or accomplishments, but chiefly on speculation, and that, in and of itself, weakens the ratings process.
3) THERE IS A NEED FOR THE JUNIOR DIVISIONS. Can you imagine a 149-pounder competing against a 160-pounder in this day and age, even in a matchup of world-class fighters? There are some commissions who wouldn't even approve a fight like that, based on the weight difference, and I can't say I would blame them. But that's what you'd wind up with in an so-called "improved", streamlined system. Sure, I know all-time greats like Emile Griffith and Henry Armstrong have given up weight and beaten bigger men for world titles, but they are an exception to the rule, to say the least.
4) THE JUNIOR DIVISIONS ARE TOO FIRMLY ESTABLISHED TO IGNORE. Although some may try to create the impression that the junior divisions are something new and manufactured for television, they only need to refer to a record book to trace back the history of some of the weight classes. For example, the junior middleweight division has been around since 1962; the junior welters since 1923. The first junior featherweight title fight was held in 1922, and the junior lightweight division first appeared way back in 1921, with Johnny Dundee as champion! Not only was there no television then, but radio was not even fully developed! Other fighters who have held junior division titles before 1990 include the likes of Barney Ross, Tony Canzoneri, Nicolino Loche, Antonio Cervantes, Wilfred Benitez, Nino Benvenuti, Kid Chocolate, Aaron Pryor, Thomas Hearns, Sandy Saddler, Flash Elorde, Alfredo Escalera, Alexis Arguello, Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Gomez, Roberto Duran, and Sugar Ray Leonard. But I guess their titles meant nothing in the course of boxing history, right?
Again, if you're talking about an atmosphere that for nearly 80 years has existed with more than the so-called "original" eight divisions, then any contention that chopping out junior lightweights, junior welterweights, and junior middleweights, among others, somehow represents a return to normalcy would have to be considered "revisionist history", would it not?
I'm going to take things even a step further. I feel, rather than being something that is considered completely unnecessary and artificial, that the super middleweight (168-pound) division should have been established in boxing a long time ago. I just don't know how we could craft an argument for boxer safety if we tacitly approve, for example, that theoretically, fighters who weigh 161 or 162 pounds could, or should, possibly step into the ring against 175-pound champions on a regular basis, unless that fighter's skills are so overwhelming (Sugar Ray Robinson?) that he could compensate for it enough to be competitive.
Likewise, can you possibly argue that with athletes in general, and heavyweights in particular, being much bigger these days, the cruiserweight division isn't warranted? It has long since been plausible that a fighter who can't reasonably get his weight below, say, 185 pounds, can compete with the best in a division where the top contenders generally weigh between 225-270.
In this particular case, it is not a step back that serves to improve boxing, but rather a step forward.
Some positives, I suppose, have resulted from this - the Professional Boxer Safety Act of 1996 set up certain Federal guidelines by which promoters, commissions, sanctioning organizations, etc. must comply with.
Then the Ali Act, spearheaded by McCain, served to amend the existing Federal law and add more guidelines, including those that relate to "coercive" (i.e., option) contracts.
A wonderful start for legislation aimed at bringing some order to a sport that is fundamentally chaotic, right?
Well, as the people at Hertz are famous for saying - not exactly.
That's because even if a law had been put together that "covered all the bases", it is useless because it is not enforced, certainly not by most of the regulators across the country who have the responsibility to "police" boxing in their individual jurisdictions. There is no effective direction given to them by the national trade organization (the Association of Boxing Commissions), and of course, there is really no apparatus of enforcement set forth by any of the politicians involved with constructing the Ali Act, who must have been too busy posing for pictures and issuing press releases to consider the most important point about ANY bill that is passed into law - IT'S NOT THE QUALITY OF THE LAW THAT MATTERS, IT'S THE QUALITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CHARGED TO ENFORCE IT.
This coming week, the United States government's sideshow continues. On Wednesday, May 22, the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation's subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Commerce, and Tourism will once again bring forward several more boxing-related people to offer five-minute statements about all the horrible ills of the sport - statements that will be benign for the most part - and once again, they're likely to miss the mark entirely (with the possible exception of one panelist, which we'll discuss later).
And once again, we'll have legislation that, as a result, misses the mark as well.
The most fundamental thing you must understand about all of this, right from the outset, is that, quite simply, THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T REALLY CARE.
Don't get me wrong - I'm sure the people in Congress would love for things to fall perfectly into place for them, so they can record their "slam dunk", take the credit, and send everybody home. Boxing reform, however, is a complex issue that going to take a lot more work than has been done, and I'm not quite sure anyone in Washington is inclined to put forth that effort.
When push comes to shove, they don't really care about the welfare of boxers, or that of the industry. I mean, when you look at the big picture, why would they, when this very committee, chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan, has bigger items on its plate, like investigating the massive scandal at Enron?
Reforming boxing, by any measure, certainly takes a back seat to accounting reform, in terms of the public interest.
Let me tell you what the government DOES care about, vis-a-vis the boxing issue:
* A photo opportunity with someone like Muhammad Ali, who is being brought in just for that purpose.
* The opportunity for a few senators to tell people they were amateur boxers.
* An opportunity to score cheap points against an "opponent" that is defenseless. Unlike virtually any other issue Congress could possibly debate, whether it be health care reform, foreign policy, school vouchers, even campaign finance reform, there really isn't another side to the boxing issue. Oh sure, you could have the "state vs. Federal" argument, but essentially, there's no convincing argument AGAINST regulation, is there? I mean, how could the "institution" of boxing actually stand up, with a straight face, and contend that it is better NOT to be regulated? In that way, boxing reform and regulation is a SAFE issue for the politicians to hitch their wagon to.
* An opportunity to pander to McCain, with very little political cost. Let's put things squarely in perspective here. Boxing flies too low to show up on the national radar. To the VAST majority of people, it doesn't mean anything at all. It follows that it doesn't mean that much to most legislators. Therefore, there's no loss in political ground, regardless of party affiliation, to make any and all concessions to McCain with regard to what is generally considered to be one of his "pet" issues. Then, when someone else's pet issue arises down the line, McCain and those he can influence might constitute the difference in a committee or floor vote. It's nothing more than a "quid pro quo". Politics as usual.
Use your head for a moment. If the government really cared............
- You'd have heard some truth by now, not the endless parade of misinformation or non-information spewed by guest panelists that have been brought before the committee for little more than their "name value".
- You'd have already seen legislation that would have addressed the needs of the rank-and-file fighter, not just that which concerns the high-visibility star, and in turn, creates the most publicity for a politician's special interest.
- You wouldn't have a problem in a state like Kentucky, which doesn't require ambulances or portable oxygen equipment to be at ringside.
- Indeed, you'd have seen Kentucky commissioner Jack Kerns dragged before the committee, and made to answer questions as to how he could possibly have allowed for the circumstances that are primarily responsible for former heavyweight champion Greg Page being in a wheelchair today.
- The committee would be quizzing Russell Peltz about just how, in his dual role as ESPN network representative and independent promoter, could he NOT be contributing to the restraint of trade in the boxing industry.
- You would see a public forum in which anyone who had something worthwhile to say about this issue could step up and present a case, instead of restricting free speech to a select group of people through whom they feel they can control the flow of information that is put forward.
- You'd have already seen something substantive in the way of effective, airtight legislation to deal with the nationwide implementation of boxing regulation. I don't think it's too much to ask; after all, the Congress has been at it in one way or another for over 35 years (during this process, we'll actually examine a bill which was deliberated way back in 1965).
Frankly - and I'm not being arrogant about this - if the government really cared about any of this, someone would have contacted ME by now, at least as a cursory measure. After all, no one has devoted more time to the out-of-mainstream issues of boxing reform as TotalAction has, and, truth be told, there has never been a better demonstration for the need for national regulation than our series, "Horse Manure Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks in Kentucky", which exposed the deplorable and illegal behavior of the Kentucky State Athletic Commission in unnecessarily endangering the life of former heavyweight champion Page.
When I say I figured "someone" would have contacted me, I mean perhaps someone like Kenneth Nahigian, the minority counsel for the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation as it concerns the subject of boxing regulation and regulation. Nahigian, who works with McCain, is supposed to put some legal "teeth" into the Ali Act, so it can actually wind up accomplishing what it purportedly sets out to do.
Instead, in my one and only contact with Nahigian, which I initiated, and in which I offered to put forth any ideas in whichever way I could (including a lot of the stuff you'll see over the course of this special report), the message he communicated to me, in so many words, yet in no uncertain terms, was that not only is he completely uninterested in availing himself and his committee of any constructive, progressive, or imaginative methods of affecting boxing reform, but that he is even less interested in fielding any kind of feedback from interested parties who have not been hand-picked from his limited list of "sources", which, for all I know, could be manipulated by some outside influence.
I have talked with some boxing commissioners in this country who have met with the same kind of indifference out of his office.
Why would the committee be interested in stonewalling input from "outside" sources? Well, in my case in particular, part of it may be that I don't fall into his hidden "agenda". I'm not going to get up there and say what HE wants me to say, and I'm not going to be "pushing any buttons" for him.
According to insiders, Nahigian's overriding interest in this process is centered around one principal objective - to, at the behest of McCain, push through Pennsylvania administrator and former ABC president Greg Sirb as the head of a proposed Federal boxing commission; in effect, making Sirb the national boxing "czar".
We'll measure the pros and cons of that soon enough.
Meanwhile, although Nahigian would prefer not to hear from YOU - at the government e-mail address he utilizes on a taxpayer-subsidized mail system, on taxpayer-subsidized time, while he collects a taxpayer-subsidized salary pushing legislation and agendas that he hopes taxpayers will subsidize as well - that doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't change his mind, especially if he is confronted with coherent, thoughtful correspondence that demonstrates YOU care about fighter safety, regulatory control, consumer protection, and fair boxing business practices a lot more than HE apparently does.
We pretty much know where Nahigian, and people like him, stand. I would much rather know where YOU stand.
By all means, if you think what we're putting forth has any value at all, feel free to respond intelligently to any of our OPERATION CLEANUP stories, and we'd be absolutely delighted not only to pass along Mr. Nahigian's public e-mail address to you, so you can forward your comments, but to re-post your relevant feedback in a prominent way on THE FIGHT PAGE, just in case Nahigian or his colleagues choose to ignore it.
It is no one's fault in particular; legislators have political agendas in mind, and they don't have any real experience in boxing. The people they have been listening to either have agendas, or only second-hand knowledge of the boxing industry. Once again, it is not their fault - one commandment that is always used among people in the boxing business is "Don't educate writers".
The press would normally be in an ideal position to expose some of the real problems and suggest real-world remedies, but unfortunately few people in the press have had any first-hand exposure to the inner-workings of the boxing industry. And to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how many of them even care about looking into it.
What puts me in a unique situation is that I have had the fortune (whether that fortune is good or not is open to debate) of working on a day-to-day basis in the industry for over 15 years, functioning in almost every capacity, including that of a promoter, matchmaker, manager, trainer, corner man, publicist, casino consultant, TV commentator, administrator, even ratings chairman for an ersatz ratings organization. I have done most of it, seen most of it. And studied ALL of it. Hey, I was no angel. I did some of the things we'll be talking about. But the way I see it, that gives me an even BETTER perspective from which to look at this.
What we're about to embark upon is something that is completely unique in terms of boxing "journalism". OPERATION CLEANUP - A BLUEPRINT FOR BOXING REFORM will be by far the most cogent and far-reaching discussion that has ever been published on the subject of boxing reform in the United States.
The report will consist of up to 40 installments, published over the course of the next 10-11 weeks, which will reveal some of the inner workings of boxing that have never been discussed before in public; reform issues that are necessary, yet have never been considered; and alternative solutions for solving problems that seem to have eluded both regulators and legislators, for reasons only they can explain.
It will more or less be the first time fans, and the vast majority of the boxing media, will be exposed to the nuts and bolts of what the boxing industry is all about. As such, it will offer a unique "insider" peek into what goes on, and goes wrong, in this business.
There are probably a hundred people who could elaborate on these issues with equal or greater depth. The only problem is, they're not writers - they're engaged in the business. So they're obviously not predisposed to want to come forward. Obviously, some of our material is culled by way of "deep background", where sources wish to remain anonymous have imparted their own knowledge and experiences to us.
Some of the material you're about to read in the coming weeks was part of the substance of a report I compiled a little less than a year ago at the request of Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the ABC, which was intended to be forwarded to interested parties who were readying amendments to the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, and putting forward a bill for a national commission. Whether it ever got to its intended destination is something I'm not altogether sure about, even to this day.
Some installments will be "sexier" than others; some will be more or less anecdotal in nature, with an overriding lesson to be learned. Sometimes there will be more than one in a day. Some will be part of smaller special reports WITHIN our larger special report. But all of it will have an ultimate objective - to make you THINK.
Inasmuch as I consider the subject matter to be of a serious nature (indeed, in some cases the very well-being of fighters could be at stake), I hope it would be, in turn, seriously considered by those who have to ultimately enact law. Unfortunately, I doubt that it will. Regardless, I think it's important that the public, the media, the industry, and legislators, both on the state and national level, know the truth as to what really needs to be done, because I doubt you'll get much out of government agencies. I'm also concerned with another thing - I don't want the efforts of people who have spoken up with sincerity about boxing reform to be flushed down the toilet with a half-hearted effort.
Toward that end, each installment in the "Operation Cleanup" series will not only be posted right here on the Fight Page, but will also be sent directly to our entire mailing list of industry personnel, our media list, comprised of people both in and out of boxing, every athletic commission in North America (ABC members or associates), and to other people who may have a particular interest in future boxing legislation.
What we're going to be writing on these pages is going to piss off a lot of people - this includes those in the boxing industry who have heretofore gotten a free pass to run roughshod through the business as if it were their own private playground; those would-be "czars" of boxing who have represented themselves as something they're really not; those people I would characterize as "phony reformers", who talk all day about cleaning up boxing, as far as it meets their personal agenda, then flee like lemmings when that agenda is finally met; those regulators who will no doubt be embarrassed when their own gross inefficiency has been exposed; those members of the "working press" who have, somewhere along the line, deposited themselves in the back pocket of some promoter, and are perfectly happy with an atmosphere that lets them get away with it; and those people in Washington who have no real intention of exploring the salient issues, but would rather use the facade of "boxing reform" as an instrument by which to gain some cheap publicity for themselves, stooping so low as to trot out national icons to participate unwittingly in their charade.
Yeah, they'll be pissed alright.
But I don't particularly care how they feel.
Didn't think so.
What that in mind, I hope you read, enjoy, and speak up, if you care as much as I do.
He doesn’t have blinding speed, quieting power or Sugar Ray moves. He’s just an ordinary guy working a blue-collar job in a blue-collar life, a part-time fighter who sometimes works in the down-and-dirty business of the fight game.
Mickey’s the guy who flips you the keys to his 1987 Ford pickup when your car breaks down and you’ve got the date of a lifetime. He’s the guy you have a beer with when you’re hot and tired and you’ve put in a long, hard, eight hours and, damn, you want to stop for a cold one.
Mickey Ward is the friend you look for when you’re out-numbered four-to-one and there’s a gorilla blocking the way out.
You won’t confuse him with the great fighters of our time. He’s not one of them. He’s just a tough guy with a heart the size of North Dakota, a fighter brought up with the simple understanding that losing isn’t so bad as long as they have to carry you out of the ring.
He fights Arturo Gatti on Nov. 23 in Atlantic City on HBO in one of those rematches you can’t wait to see. Their first fight back in May lived up to all expectations, than went a little beyond them. It was the fight of the year and close to being the fight of a lifetime. It was more barroom brawl than sweet science, more give and take than slip and move.
Ward won, but only by a majority decision. That’s why you have rematches. That’s also why you don ‘t care about records or title belts. In fights like this, they’re meaningless. “I’ll be ready,’’ Ward said by phone earlier this week.. “I want to start out fast and fight hard and tough. I’m going to fight my ass off. They’re going to have to drag me out by my feet.’’ Only if he loses.
Still, it takes two to make a great fight and that tells you a little bit about Gatti, another guy who doesn’t worry too much if his clothes don’t match his shoes. “Arturo is the kind of guy I would hang around with,’’ Ward said. “He’s a little crazy, like I am. We’re the same type of people.’’
Yeah, both are prone to cutting and profuse bleeding. If Gatti grins too hard he needs a dozen stitches.
But like Ward, he’s tougher than fourth-year physics and that makes for good drama. He doesn’t quit in the ring, he just needs an occasional blood transfusion between rounds. Ward is the same way. He doesn’t lose fights as much as he occasionally runs out of time.
When he’s finally done fighting - and he says he’ll fight one or two more fights at the most - Ward, 37, plans to go back to his regular job. “I’ll still be doing construction work,’’ he said. “I’ll be back on the asphalt paver.’’
He’s 30, a southpaw, is the single parent of two kids and he lives in the quiet city of St. Petersburg, Florida, where people usually go to retire and fish, not defend titles.
His full name is Ronald “Winky” Wright and he’s the IBF junior-middleweight champion, though most of the world hasn’t caught onto it yet. Most of the world knows the two guys holding the other titles - WBC champion Oscar De La Hoya and WBA champion Fernando Vargas.
De La Hoya and Vargas will meet on Sept. 14 at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas to whittle down the number of junior-middleweight champions from three to two It’s a pay-per-view fight because the two names - De La Hoya and Vargas - are familiar to most of the people you see walking down the street.
This fight has drawn so much attention, they’ve already started settling burning issues weeks ahead of time so there won’t be too many problems or distractions when the fight gets close.
The latest agreement is that Vargas will be the first to enter the ring (usually done by the challenger) and De La Hoya will be the first one introduced (usually the challenger).
Egos are at stake here.
Here’s another little secret. De La Hoya and Vargas aren’t the only guys defending their junior-middleweight titles in September. A week before the Vargas-De La Hoya extravaganza, Winky (43-3) will be defending his title against Bronco McKart (45-3) on Sept. 7 at the Rose Garden in Portland on HBO.
The two have met twice before, Wright winning both fights by decision, one of them by split decision.
If Winky beats Bronco, he’d like a shot at unifying the title against the Vargas-De La Hoya winner. It would be the first time any of the three fighters held a unified title. In fact, it’s believed the junior-middleweight title has never had just one champion.
There’s a chance for something historical to happen here.
You’ve got to believe that if Winky had his choice, he’d like another crack at Vargas, who beat him in a controversial majority decision in 1999.
Besides, Vargas has already promised Winky a shot at unifying the title if both win in September.
“Bring a lunch and get in line, (Winky) is next,’’ Vargas said during a recent conference call, saying he’d fight Winky in a unification bout.
If De La Hoya wins, no one knows what will happen. “Fernando is a man of his word and I respect that,’’ Wright said. “He has publicly stated on several occasions that he would give me a rematch if he beats Oscar.’’
Winky, whose three losses were all close decisions, could use a fight like that. He’s spent most of his career lost in the shadows just outside the spotlight.
He’s close to being a marquee name, but he hasn’t quite made it yet.
If he gets past Bronco and goes on to beat either De La Hoya or Vargas, most of the people walking down any street will suddenly know who Winky Wright is.
Imagine that. After 12 years as a pro, Winky would become an overnight sensation.
They both talk with an accent, use strange currency, can’t vote in our elections and they live closer to the Eiffel Tower than to Madison Square Garden.
Lennox Lewis is from England and Vladimir Klitschko is from the Ukraine, now living in Germany. They are the two best heavyweights in the world, though Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield head a short list of fighters who might argue the point. But in the eyes of most of the boxing world, it’s Lewis and Klitschko. They’re No. 1 and No. 2, top dog and second banana. And over here in the New World, that just doesn’t seem right.
The heavyweight champion of the world is supposed to be from Trenton, Memphis, Detroit or East St. Louis. He’s supposed to grow up on the poor side of town, fighting his way to and from school every day. He’s supposed to grow up in hard-times, sharing a bed with his two older brothers and going to sleep hungry most nights because they can’t afford another loaf of bread. When he’s still in junior high, he steals a bike, though a friendly cop takes him under his wing and, becoming a father figure, teaches the kid the difference between right and wrong and steers him toward the gym. It isn’t long before the kid finds out that the boxing ring is the only place he feels comfortable, and after a few amateur fights and a gold medal in the Olympics, he turns pro to help his poor mother put food on the table for his seven brothers and sisters. Four years and 28 fights later, he’s heavyweight champion of the world.
Eventually, he loses his title, getting beat by a tough kid from the poor side of Phillie who grew up sharing a bed with his older brother and going to sleep hungry most nights.
Now that’s the heavyweight champion I remember. What are these two foreign guys doing here, coming over and beating Mike Tyson, then Ray Mercer? Suddenly, the division has become boxing’s answer to the World Cup. The United States gets knocked out early, England and the Ukraine left to duke it out for all the marbles. We’re forced to sit down and patiently watch, realizing we’re not in the big leagues any more.
Klitschko, who took Ukrainian target practice on Mercer on Saturday night, looked about as good as a guy could look who beats up a 41-year-old war horse. His punches were fast and sharp and, according to the telling signs on Mercer’s face, they packed some pop. And now Klitschko - a classy guy - wants a shot at the WBC and IBF titles, which Lewis holds dear to his heart.
Lewis? It seems like he’s been around forever, though it’s only been 13 long years. He’s finally nearing that retirement fight, the one where he says good-bye before making a comeback two years later.
Still, he's coming off an easy win over Tyson and he might be too much for Klitschko right now, and that’s what Vladimir’s people are telling their fighter. Though Vladimir has had 40 fights (compared to 43 by Lewis), most have been against guys who had to take time off from their job flipping burgers in order to train. He need’s a Byrd and maybe a Holyfield on his resume.
The bottom line is, a Lewis - Klitschko fight might take a year or more to happen. They might have to renew their passports before they finally get in the same ring together, still leaving us a heavyweight champ with a visa.
In the meantime, we have to sit quietly and wait, hoping some hard-luck kid from the poor side of Cleveland shows up some day and brings us back our heavyweight title.