But it was a letdown. Instead of getting a heated rematch between the two premiere 135-pounders in the world, we got a track meet that was won by 'the Pretty Boy'. And Klitschko, thought to be the immediate heir apparent to Lennox Lewis on top of the heavyweight throne, proved that the future is not now - and may not be for a little while.
Mayweather will tell anyone who will listen that he is the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound. On this night all he proved is that he is the most elusive and fastest in retreat. Guys like this were the type of guys that the great Julio Cesar Chavez would have chased down, engulfed and swallowed up in the late rounds. Castillo, a former sparring partner for the legendary Mexican, is no JC Superstar. But at least he tried to press on and make a fight. In fact, there's no fight without him. While Castillo may be no Chavez, it's unfortunate that Mayweather isn't anything like his Uncle Roger either. 'The Black Mamba' never stunk out a joint quite like this- especially against a Mexican fighter.
It's apparent that Mayweather simply isn't a dominating 135-pounder. Gone are the days when he'd step up to another level to thrash the likes of Genaro Hernandez, Angel Manfredy and Diego Corrales. In 24 rounds with the game Castillo, he proved that while he might be the premiere lightweight in the game, he isn't lapping the field anymore; he's only a few steps ahead of it.
The main event from the Mandalay Bay on this night was the heavyweight title between Klitschko and McCline. The hulking Ukranian has been ordained by HBO as the heavyweight of the future and the push is already on to make him the game's new star. He was matched on this night against 'Big Time' McCline, who was a relative novice to the sport and was considered a fledgling journeyman as late as a year-and-a-half ago. After dispatching the likes of Michael Grant, Lance Whitaker and Shannon Briggs- ironically, three other past HBO creations that flamed out- he was being hailed by Jim Lampley as the best current American heavyweight.
But I had my doubts (as I pointed out in my last column), I mean c'mon, anyone that freezes up against Briggs simply couldn't be counted on to show up big against Klitschko. And that's exactly what happened this past weekend, as McCline was reluctant to mount any kind of consistent offensive attack against Klitschko. For his part, Klitschko wasn't overly impressive himself. He seemed awfully content to fight at the slow pace by McCline and as one person said to me," One guy was afraid of the other, and the other guy was happy about it".
But in the few times that McCline did throw punches in anger, Klitschko didn't seem to respond all that well. He seemed reluctant to hang in the pocket, slip or parry punches and then counter. Instead, he went on some full out retreats that would have done France proud. It's clear that when someone gets inside his reach and backs him up, he could be in some trouble. But that wouldn't be a problem on this night as he faced a guy, that in the words of Larry Merchant," punched from the backseat."
Larry, it looked like he was punching from the trunk.
Mayweather and Klitschko had their hands raised in victory, but really nobody won on this night.
SHANE, SHANE, SHANE
A good source tells me that Shane Mosley is demanding $8 million for a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya and Top Rank Boxing aren't going to give him much more than $4 million.
Somebody needs to tell 'Sugar' Shane that he's currently on a two fight losing streak and that Oscar can pick and choose whoever he fights and still make a great payday. Unfortunately, Mosley may be stuck fighting a Winky Wright for substantially less money in the end because of his hard-line stance.
At the post-fight press conference for Mayweather-McCline, Bob Arum basically told me that they were moving on without Mosley and that 'the Golden Boy' might be embarking on a world tour that includes Germany and Japan, where De La Hoya can literally fight anybody and get paid at least $10 million per fight. People hated to hear it then and they'll hate to hear it now, but Oscar was right when he said that he really did dictate to the others about when big fights take place against him and for how much.
But the sad part for Mosley is that regardless of what he'd get paid to fight De La Hoya again, that's a very winnable fight for him because his hand speed will always trouble Oscar. Perhaps Arum went into negotiations with Mosley hoping for him to negotiate himself out of the bout and was more than willing to go in a different direction when that occurred.
Ironically, the guy who's looking good for another De La Hoya payday is Fernando Vargas. Yes, the same guy who Oscar swore up and down that he'd never give a payday to- may give him two. Why? Because the numbers were so huge for their first bout in September (over 900,000 buys) that a rematch is a given. The first Mosley bout on the other hand did right around 600,000 buys - something that Oscar can do boxing against a mannequin.
Yes, boxing is a business.
After months of speculation, it was made official by HBO that they have re-signed Larry Merchant to a four-year contract.
I for one applaud this move. While others on the HBO team can be shills and lose their perspective, Merchant is often the voice of reason and the conscious of the broadcast.
I'm just guessing here, but I think this is most likely his last contract before riding off into the sunset and I have a feeling that he's going out with a blaze of glory.
He said about Mayweather, something to the effect that Mayweather was reluctant to fight in Los Angeles or New York and that based on what he was watching, Los Angeles and New York should consider themselves lucky.
Classic Merchant. For better or worse, there will never be another one like him.
John Ruiz is the WBA heavyweight champion of the world, though he gets about as much respect as the runner-up in the frat-house Ping-Pong tournament. Outside of the Boston area and the Latino community, it’s not John Ruiz, it’s John Who?
He goes 36 tough rounds with Evander Holyfield and all he gets is his name mispronounced.
And now he’s going to fight light-heavyweight champ Roy Jones Jr., a smaller guy with fast hands and a faster mouth who thinks he’s the best thing to come along since remote control and chip dip.
Ruiz and Jones are supposed to fight March 1 in Las Vegas, though I wouldn’t bet the wife’s fine China on it happening. So far, their fight has been nothing but rumor, innuendo, posturing, denial and back peddling. And that‘s just Roy Jones’ side of it. On a teleconference call Tuesday, Jones said the reason it took him a dog’s life to finally agree to the fight was promoter Don King, who apparently had a few issues to settle. Deals had to be cut, promises had to be made and broken. Palms had to be greased.
“Don’t make it seem like I was the one who was holding out, because that is not me and those are not my points (what size ring and gloves will be used),.’’ Jones said. “My points are little things that are going to matter 10 years from now. It was not Ruiz, it was dealing with Don King. If it had just been between me and Ruiz, the deal would have been done a long time ago.’’
As easy as it is to take shots at King, you have to figure the pouting party in this month-long soap opera was Jones. Like he said three times during the teleconference, “Roy makes the final decision.’’
Later, Jones said nothing was going to get in the way of the fight because “Roy Jones and John Ruiz want this fight to happen, and they’ll come together and make it happen.’’
Obviously, Jones gets a kick out of referring to himself in the third person. Let me give it a try.
The writer thinks Roy Jones is a superbly gifted fighter but an arrogant SOB and the writer hopes Roy gets his Pensacola butt kicked, though the writer also thinks Jones will be too quick for Ruiz and that’s why Roy decided to fight him in the first place.
“I don’t know if I’ll continue to fight as a heavyweight (after the Ruiz fight),’’Jones went on. “It depends on how I feel.’’
Asked how he might react to getting hit by a heavyweight - someone 40 or 50 pounds heavier than the fighters he’s used to facing - Jones sounded like a carnival barker trying to sell tickets.
“That’s what everyone wants to see,’’ he said. “That’s why you’re just going to have to watch it.’’
Gee, thanks for the insight, Roy.
Suddenly, Jones decided he was done with the questions and the teleconference.
He said it was nice talking to everybody and he hung up .Click.
You have to hand it to Jones. He makes it easy to cheer for Ruiz.
“This is a big challenge for me,” Ruiz said when it was his turn to chat with the press. “I get a chance to show the world I can also box (instead of just slugging it out like he did with Holyfield). It’s going to be a great fight. His quickness against my strength.’’
The big question? Aside from a hefty payday, what does Ruiz gain by fighting Jones? If he loses, he lost to a light-heavy. If he wins, he beat a light-heavy. “The only thing I have to gain is a win,’’ Ruiz said. “And I want to look good doing it.’’
Will they respect him then?
“I don’t think I will receive (respect) until 10 years down the line when I’m still the heavyweight champion,’’ Ruiz said.
Sometimes that opportunity comes from a very unlikely place; so unlikely, in fact, that if it ever were to materialize, it would initiate a genuine change in the landscape of what we now know as world championship boxing.
It all started with a conversation that took place between myself and Guy Jutras about a week before the WBA was to hold its October 16 "public hearing" to discuss irregularities in the heavyweight ratings it had compiled as it came out of its September convention.
In those ratings, as you know, Larry Donald had been moved up to #3 in the world, without fighting. Fres Oquendo had been moved ahead of David Tua, despite being knocked out by Tua a matter of months ago. And Kirk Johnson, who had just filed an unsuccessful protest with the WBA over his disqualification loss to heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz, was moved from #5 to #10, despite not having fought in the interim.
I was explaining to Jutras that the behavior of his organization was highly suspect, and cautioned him that his people left themselves open to some stories that could be very damaging.
Jutras, an honorable guy, was concerned with the series of events that had made the hearing in New York necessary; concerned enough that he made a suggestion to me.
"Why don't you come onto the WBA Ratings Committee?", he said. Well, I really didn't want to do that, because even though it would have afforded the opportunity to see the system from the "inside", I wasn't convinced my presence would make that much of a difference. And how could I be assured it wouldn't turn out to be some form of subterfuge?
But then a thought occurred to me. I said to him, "There's something else we can do. And if you're amenable to it, I think we can talk."
What I proceeded to outline to him was a plan which had been in the works for a few months.
Nearly two years ago, I had taken over the administrative function of something called the Independent Boxing Writers' Rankings, a media poll that had been more or less abandoned by its originators. That poll doesn't exist anymore, but not long ago I embarked upon creating a new, improved poll that would include a number of worthy media people who weren't invited to take part in the IBWR poll.
I am calling this, at least for the time being, the "World Experts Poll". The plan is to bring together people from across the globe, involved with covering boxing in a variety of media, and let them exercise their judgment, within certain guidelines that can easily be followed.
The proposal is that this "World Experts Poll" become the major component in the formulation of the WBA ratings.
It would be implemented according to a pre-determined formula in which the aggregate vote of the "Experts Poll" and the results of the WBA Ratings Committee would each count for a certain percentage. My original proposal was that the poll count for 75%, although I would concede that we'll probably have a negotiation on that issue.
The intention is for our poll to begin in January, with the "affiliation" with the WBA being simultaneous with that, if at all possible.
What it amounts to is an effort to provide the most open and democratic process ever created to rank professional fighters. And undoubtedly it will be. It would be unprecedented and revolutionary for a sanctioning body to devise ratings in this manner. Whether or not it will change the way sanctioning bodies operate, or how they are perceived, might be largely dependent upon the success of this venture.
Through this process there will be no more "closed-door" procedures for ranking fighters. All ballots in the poll would be available for review upon request, as would the results from the WBA ratings committee. The procedure should easily fall within any acceptable guidelines set forth in the future by the ABC, simply because we would probably ask our voters to follow the criteria the ABC has established. The changes would be easily explainable - they'd be the result of the open voting process.
Another component which is on the table would mandate that yours truly, as a "representative of the press", so to speak, monitor the results from the WBA Ratings Committee, in order to ensure that the WBA has followed its own "Norms and Procedures for Ratings" which is available for viewing on its website, in accordance with the Ali Act. Whether anyone agrees with the formula by which the ratings are compiled by the WBA, it is important that the organization be consistent in the way it adheres to its criteria, and that is one thing that would be scrutinized.
There's no escaping the fact that there would be some public relations advantages for the WBA in going along with my plan, namely:
* It would offer an aura of credibility to the process that may not currently exist in the public's perception.
* It would demonstrate that the WBA was interested in remedying the problems that exist in its organization.
* It would silence certain critics like the ESPN hypocrites, because their arguments would no longer be valid.
* It would offer an alternative that is, on balance, more credible than the "Ring Magazine bandwagon" that some ill-informed people seem to have jumped on.
Naturally, in order to get involved with a sanctioning body on this level, some soul-searching was necessary first.
You know, there were ways in which I suppose I could have exploited the WBA situation to where it could have advantaged "Operation Cleanup". After all, I'm quite sure I was the first member of the press who knew about the movements in the WBA's heavyweight ratings, and in fact, I was the one who informed Kirk Johnson's management that he had been dropped from #5 to #10 by the WBA.
Yes, in the wake of recent developments, it was clear that the WBA was in a position where it had to do SOMETHING. The timing was right, and I took advantage of that.
At the same time though, here was a unique opportunity - a way to accomplish a greater goal - to REFORM a certain component of the system. A chance to become part of a solution, rather than to further exacerbate a problem.
Under those circumstances, it doesn't seem out of place to give people the benefit of the doubt when they seem willing to cooperate.
Of course, speaking about this poll is not just a hypothetical matter. One thing that must be understood, and has been explained to the WBA, is that the World Experts Poll is going to exist - and I mean as an independent organization - whether the WBA is involved or not. It will not be an extension of the WBA. That is critical to the credibility quotient, both on our end and that of the sanctioning body.
We're not particularly interested in interfering with the championship rules and policies of a sanctioning organization. However, because we are going to be in a position where we must do whatever we can to preserve our membership, I have made it crystal clear to the WBA that the tolerance threshold for any kind of malfeasance will be very low. If somewhere along the way, the members decide there is a strong reason to not want to be involved, we will have no choice but to accede to their wishes. The major concern of our participants will be executing genuine reform of the ratings process. We are about creating integrity, not creating QUESTIONS of integrity.
Those are the parameters by which we will operate. Reaching an accord within these parameters is an issue that has not been completely resolved as of this date.
Will it come to fruition? Are we being duped? Right now, I don't know those answers. The major determinant will be the level of sincerity with which the WBA chooses to deal with what is in front of it. I am perfectly agreeable to keeping an open mind as we move through each step.
We'll have many more details on this plan as we move into the next phase of "Operation Cleanup".
I’ll settle for the first two fights and hope they weren’t already too much. Why? Because I’d like to see Mickey Ward walk away from the fight game with a small fortune in his pocket and a good share of his memory still intact. I want to see him hit the guest-speaker circuit, do some commercials, try talk radio. I don’t want to hear him stumbling over his words when he’s 50 or forgetting where he lives or how to drive a car. For Ward, there’s a lot more bad that could come out of a third fight than good. You have to remember that fighting isn’t like building houses or selling cars or adding numbers. Carpenters, salesmen and accountants don’t go to war when they go to work. They don’t bleed or feel their bones crack or get hit with wild right hands that can knock you silly and keep you there. The best fighters - guys like Gatti and Ward - leave it all out there for the world to see and sometimes, they don’t get it all back. You’ve only got so much fight in you and nothing steals it away quicker than a ring war. Eventually, you’ve got nothing left to give. That’s the problem with Ward. He’s too tough for his own good. It’s not that he doesn’t know when to quit. It’s that he doesn’t know how to quit, doesn’t understand the concept. You can admire that in him all you want - and I do - but if he was your son or your brother or your best friend, would you want him fighting Gatti a third time? Would you want to see him go to war again? As for Gatti, he came out of the second fight looking fine, if you don’t mind the inconvenience of a broken right hand. He did something special Saturday night, something most of us had never seen him do before. He actually boxed instead of brawled. For one of the few times in his career, he was the matador instead of the bull. He planted himself, threw combinations and then got the hell out of the way. He was rocked a few times, but you don’t go 10 rounds with Mickey Ward and get away without spilling some coffee on yourself. Though he didn’t know it at the time, Gatti broke his right hand in the third round when he caught Ward with “one of the greatest right hands I’ve ever thrown.’’ No kidding. After he was hit, Ward looked like a guy staggering away from a car wreck. The punch didn’t land on Mickey Ward’s left ear as much as it crashed there. Suddenly, Ward was looking at three Arturo Gattis instead of one and that had to be a little intimidating. Still, Ward fought a hard fight and never backed off. “Whatever street he was born on, they should name it after Mickey Ward,’’ George Foreman said late in the fight with Ward losing big but still swinging. “That’s a man.’’ And Gatti knew it. “There are not too many guys like Mickey Ward around,’’ he said after the fight. It all goes back to the big right hand. Ward was never the same after that. Let’s hope his career doesn’t end up landing a right hand of its own.
And then of course, Thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to expose those who our just flat out turkeys. And this being boxing, there is no shortage of those.
First, we'll start out with WBC dictator Jose Sulaiman. Ok, now where do we start? There's so much to choose from and this guy and his organization are such big turkeys that they could feed several third world countries. Well, in the interest of fairness (and space) we'll just focus in on his most recent transgressions against boxing and common sense.
There was his $60 million lawsuit against the likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Showtime, HBO and anyone else involved in the Lewis-Tyson promotion because of the melee that broke out during their January press conference to announce what was supposed to be their April date. Instead, Tyson would approach Lewis unannounced and a riot would occur on stage. During this mayhem, Sulaiman, who was behind the curtain where all this took place, would be trampled on and knocked unconscious. (Now, I could be insensitive and say that both Tyson and Lewis should be given medals of honors for what they did, but I absolutely refuse to say such a heartless thing). In the following months, Sulaiman would slap everyone and his mother with this frivolous lawsuit for what he said were psychological damages and mental anguish.
What's ironic about all this is that it was his organization that helped put this fight in motion by ranking Tyson as it's top ranked heavyweight despite having faced a collection of "has beens and never weres" the past few years. You could say that Sulaiman caused himself to be knocked out.
Then there was the case of Graciano Rocchigiani who was mysteriously robbed of his title after winning the vacant title against Michael Nunn in early 1998. The title was vacant because Roy Jones had decided to vacate the crown to supposedly take on heavyweight Buster Douglas. Well, we all know Jones never took that fight and the WBC just conveniently gave back Jones his green belt. And for Rocchigiani? Well, despite stating in several of their newsletters that Rocchigiani was their new champion, it turned out ( according to them) it was a typographical error- one that was made for three months straight until Jones decided he was a light heavyweight after all.
Rocchigiani sued for about $30 million in damages and won his case several months ago. It's doubtful if 'Rocky' will ever see any of his money, but the perception of the WBC is irreparably damaged forever.
Next we go to Bernard Hopkins. Wasn't it just over a year ago that this guy was putting on a transcendent performance in knocking out the highly regarded Felix Trinidad to capture the undisputed middleweight title of the world- the first to do so since the great Marvin Hagler? Yup.
It was the climax to what was a Cinderella story. A former ex-con turned family man who had made it to the pinnacle of boxing. A pugilistic Horatio Alger. Well, for this Cinderella, midnight came early. Because since that time he has turned on and severed ties with his long-time trainer Bouie Fisher and his advisor Lou DiBella.
DiBella was just recently awarded over $600,000 in damages in his defamation lawsuit against Hopkins, who had claimed that DiBella had extorted money from him while at HBO. Fisher, will be next to be in litigation with Hopkins as he is suing over, what else, money and breach of a lifetime contract.
And in that time, he's had one meaningless fight against Carl Daniels and has squandered chances to have rematches with Trinidad and Roy Jones. He is currently a man without any big fights on the horizon and no network contract. All this for a guy who's one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound and one of the few undisputed champions this sport has.
All the things that got him to the top: feistiness, stubbornness, out-spokenness, hubris, and paranoia…all helped lead to his eventual downfall.
Now, we move to the Tyson-ites. No, not Mike Tyson himself, but his fanatical following who still don't understand that it's no longer 1988. You remember 1988, right? The days of the Gumby high-top fade haircuts, New Kids on the Block and Cavaricci pants. Well, those things are now passe and done with. And you know what? So is 'Iron' Mike Tyson for that matter. Around that time Tyson was still rolling through opposition like hot butter through a knife, now his edge is so dull it wouldn't cut into cheesecake. His last good days occurred in 1991 when he had two hellacious fights with Razor Ruddock. But quick, can you name the last decent guy he's defeated since then?
Didn't think so.
Only the Tyson-ites don't see it that way. They have a litany of excuses as to why their guy got whipped by Evander Holyfield twice or hasn't regained any portion of the heavyweight title since 1997. Oh, they'll tell you it was his jail time, he needed a new trainer, he wasn't focused, or that he was bored with boxing. And that when all the pieces were in place, the REAL Tyson would be back, better than ever.
And of course, this was supposed to occur this past June when he finally met Lewis. He was motivated, he was happy, and he was facing a champion who didn't exactly possess the whiskers of George Chuvalo. He was exactly the kind of opposition that Tyson had once defeated by just stepping out of the dressing room and intimidating. And all his band of followers - those in his camp, his sycophants and his fans who put the 'fan' in fanatical, would tell you all about it.
Which of course is understandable; hey, they want their guy to win. It wasn't nearly as sickening to hear from these same folks about what a great guy he was and how misunderstood he was- hey, you can believe that if you want, just don't try and shove that down my throat. I ain't hearing it.
But it was a grand day when Lewis would toy with Tyson over eight rounds before finishing the job of totally debunking the myth of Tyson. Tyson is, and always will be, the consummate front-runner who has never defeated another highly regarded heavyweight in his prime. It was pathetic to see him almost grovel to Lewis about a rematch after all the months of bluster and boasting he had done. Once again, the big bully got exposed.
And after all this, you still hear Tyson-ites try and explain to you that it wasn't the REAL Tyson that night in Memphis, that he was drugged or that he had problems with Lewis' size. Sorry, but you guys need to stuff it- like a Thanksgiving turkey.
In the wake of Fernando Vargas' positive test results for steroids following his loss to Oscar De La Hoya in September, there was a lot of finger pointing as to who was responsible for Vargas' infraction. I n reality it was Vargas, since he is the one accountable for what goes into his system. But in his camp were two men responsible for his physical conditioning. John Philbin, a former strength and conditioning coach of the Washington Redskins and the former bobsled coach for the USOC; and a nutritionist by the name of Mazen Ali, who was brought in the last month by Vargas. Ali came in with a background in bodybuilding, which is suspicious, and those suspicions grew this past week. And he was arrested this Monday in New Jersey on the kidnapping and aggravated assault on a Hector Perez. Police raided his Body Worx Hardcore gym and found a small quantity of steroids and $4,000 in cash. I'll let you do the math.
We all knew Micky Ward had a great chin, we now know that his head is pretty tough too. As it's been found out that Arturo Gatti suffered a fractured right hand during their action-packed third round this past weekend. Gatti would send Ward down to the canvas in round three with a counter over-hand right and hit Ward repeatedly throughout the round and the fight with that same right hand. Pat Lynch, Gatti's long-time manager, tells me that his man will undergo surgery next Thursday in New York and will not return to the gym for about two months. In the meantime, he and Main Events will look to get an HBO date sometime around March or April.
You don't dilly-dally. You don't blink hard. You hand it to him with a polite bow and your best wishes, preferably on a silver platter.
But the IBF decided that maybe they don't really need to bow down in front of Roy Boy. They don't have to pick their words, make excuses or stall for time. If Jones doesn't want to defend his title against mandatory challenger Antonio Tarver - and he had until late Monday to decide - fine. He can join the land of the heavies and take his title belt or belts with him.
In case you haven't been listening, Jones asked the IBF if he could skip the mandatory against Tarver and go directly to the heavyweight fight with Ruiz. More money for a Ruiz fight.
After scratching its head and consulting a higher power - the legal department - the IBF replied, "Sure, Roy, do what you want. You always do. But if you don't fight Tarver, you will no longer be the IBF champ.''
That's because the IBF, in order to determine who the light-heavyweight champion of the world is, has the crazy idea that certain criteria must be met. Most important among those stipulations is that - get this - to win the light heavyweight title, you have to be a light-heavyweight and you have to BEAT a light-heavyweight. And John Ruiz kissed the light-heavyweight division good-bye when he was 14.
Can you believe these guys at the IBF? Where do they come up with this stuff? Pretty soon, they're going to insist that fighters defending their world title actually weigh-in at that specific weight. In other words, if you're fighting for the junior-welterweight championship, at some point in the days leading up to your fight, you actually have to weigh 140 pounds. If you weigh, say, 145 pounds at the weigh-in, you can't really defend the 140-pound title.
So why Roy will apparently move up to fight the heavyweights for more money - and I don't think anyone here can blame him - Tarver is probably throwing a party right about now. He gets to fight another top contender - probably light-heavyweight Montell Griffin - for the vacant title Jones no longer seems too worried about.
"I was surprised,'' Griffin told Boxingtalk.com after the ruling by the IBF. "But I'm happy.''
I would think so. Unless Jones changes his mind about fighting Tarver, Montell has moved to the front of the line leading to the light-heavyweight championship. The only guy blocking the door is Tarver It would have been easy for the IBF to give Jones the exemption, but it also would have been unfair to both Griffin and Tarver. Tarver would have been shut out from fighting Jones for the IBF title until the last half of next year Same with Griffin. He was looking at 2004 before he'd get a shot at winning the IBF title.
"If Jones had received the exemption, the (IBF) title would have been stagnant for probably 11 months,'' said Dan Goossen, Griffin's promoter. "And if Roy Jones is successful against Ruiz, what direction is he going to take? Is he going to stay in the lucrative heavyweight division?
"The IBF did not make their decision based on money. They made their decision based on the best interest of boxing.''
For one thing, I hadn't really thought about it in those terms before, though I don't know exactly why. For another, my opinion has changed, I guess, about a lot of things.
You can probably glean the answer by reading one story after another throughout this series. There is no question that I have demonstrated a reversal of field on some topics. And that's happened for no other reason than that when one writes as many chapters as I have, one has to do a certain amount of research along the way. As a result of such a process, a certain transformation naturally takes place; you're definitely going to learn something you didn't know before.
When I started all this - and I don't mean Operation Cleanup specifically, but most of the serious investigative writing I did online - I considered the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), for the most part, to be an ally that was focused primarily in the same direction I was. You'll see that reflected in some of the early stuff.
The truth is, I hadn't paid a lot of attention to it before.
So I suppose they're as good a place as anywhere to start.
THE ASSOCIATION OF BOXING COMMISSIONS
-- I always knew that in addition to the outstanding administrators, there were a number of inept, uncaring, ever corrupt people in the category of state boxing commissions, but until I started to look more closely at it, I have to admit didn't realize how widespread the problem was, or how bad some of the people could be. And I was just a bit naive as to some of the political motivations of the people involved.
Still, I was willing to give the ABC every benefit of the doubt. I lined up with them when the WBC was meddling without justification in the selection and appointment of officials for the July 20 fight between Vernon Forrest and Shane Mosley, something you can find documented in
. But along the way they completely lost me. A couple of incidents contributed to it.
One was when the ABC took the extreme position that they - and ONLY they - would take charge of the appointment of championship officials, without any input from ANY sanctioning body, and with absolutely no oversight as to what they were doing.
While I agreed that the WBC incident gave them sufficient justification to be concerned, the only way this process could really be done in a way that was equitable and satisfactory for all parties involved was to have some degree of cooperation; some collaboration, so as to produce a system of checks and balances that would make everyone act responsibily.
What I didn't expect was that the ABC would use the incident to do something which is just as potentially dengerous as what the WBC did - attempt to seize control of the entire process by itself, without responsibility to ANYONE.
Another thing, of course, was that Jack Kerns, someone who had done boxing irreperable harm by completely ignoring minimum safety standards that were set forth by federal law, would remain on the ABC's board of directors despite an opportunity to take him off. The ABC would have been completely justified in taking such action, and Kerns wasn't going to be suing anybody. In fact, ironically, the ABC was protecting Kerns as he was BEING sued by Greg Page for his shameful neglect.
As I wrote in
of this series:
"Making Kerns look more credible for the sake of his lawsuit should not be the ABC's responsibility. By allowing him to stay on in a position that is supposed to mean something in the organization, the ABC is, in effect, contributing to the facade of respectability Kerns is trying to create. Therefore, they are aiding in his defense, and giving tacit approval of his actions, which have been demonstrated to be dangerous for fighters and contrary to the best interests of the sport. So maybe these guys just don't care..................Until such time as they are prepared to do the RIGHT thing and get rid of the albatross that continues to eat away at any credibility it may have, I can't fully support, believe, or trust the ABC."
SENATOR JOHN McCAIN AND HIS BAND OF MERRY MEN
-- At first, I thought McCain was a well-meaning guy whose "campaign" for boxing reform was sincere, if a little misguided. Then it became apparent that he was not really interested in receiving quality advice in order to put together a realisitic piece of legislation that could actually DO something, but had more of an interest in escaping from the process with a minimum of effort and a few cheap hadlines, some of which could be used to get him on talk shows so he could sell his new book.
Now I suspect there are other motivations at work, all political in nature and having nothing to do with sheer ignorance, that have caused him to shape his bill the way he has. It's something that deserves further exploration, and you can count on that being done.
BOXING COMMISSION POLITICS
-- More than I had even imagined. The poster boy for this, and one guy about whom I developed an opinion about early on and felt consistently throughout, is Greg Sirb, the former president of the ABC. In Sirb, we have a guy who is ALL about politics. It's no secret to anybody that his life's ambition is to be named the national "czar" of boxing, and has lapsed into that pattern where everything he says and does that concerns business outside his own justification seems connected to a political motive. It's not that I think he's a bad guy or a bad commissioner. Not at all. But he's too transparent, too programmed, too idealogically unsound, and too much of a political animal to provide the kind of vision boxing needs to make a real transformation. He's done nothing to dissuade me since. And in a scary development, I also discovered that he is more or less dictating what has gone into McCain's bill, which may explain in part not only why it is ineffective, but why it treats various interests with "kid gloves".
-- I wish I could sit here and tell you that a whole bunch of boxing fans have rallied around the cause of boxing reform. But honestly, I don't think the average boxing fan really cares very much about it. Yes, they'll complain about the usual targets like Don King and the sanctioning bodies, but it's with the same level of perspective with which many people in the media have attacked them. In general, I think that they're only really concerned with what goes on inside the ring, which to an extent is the way it should be. But what has to be understood is that perhaps more than any other sport, what happens OFF the "playing field" has an awful lot to do with what happens ON it. That message has gotten through to some people, but not most. That's unfortunate.
-- What I have found intriguing is that many of the mainstream boxing writers have shown complete indifference in the substantive issues that would shape any boxing reform effort. Oh, I understand that they reflect what their readers are interested in, and the readers, for the most part, are not interested in boxing reform. And their editors would rather pass a kidney stone than devote space to any reporting that was investigative in nature. Therefore, you're not going to see much material in the newspaper.
When something IS written it's usually an item about what a terrible human being Don King is, what thieves and crooks the sanctioning bodies are, and how altruistic a human being John McCain is for being so "concerned" about boxing. Generally, it's the product of cliche, and fails to look below the surface. I would be lying if I said I wasn't disheartened by this spirit of "non-examination". In compiling this series, I couldn't afford to look at things with a myopic point of view.
That having been said, I wish the level of curiosity has been a little higher on the part of what you might refer to as the major print media. Perhaps that's because there are very few writers in this country who spend most of their time covering boxing; however, one would think that if you were writing about boxing and getting paid for it, you'd want to know as much as you could about the industry. I still have faith in them, though.
Now let me tell you about some things that have been pleasantly surprising. Those print writers who ARE genuinely concerned about the future of boxing reform have been more than just a little helpful - in fact, they have offered substantial insight and information.
And a lot of the better internet writers, who take a lot of criticism and don't get much respect from their print "brethren", have shown much more interest. I've developed rewarding alliances out of the feedback I've received through "Operation Cleanup", in large part from those who cover boxing simply for the love of the sport.
-- When I embarked on "Operation Cleanup", a friend of mine told me that I would probably burn many bridges in the boxing industry. I left myself wide open for that possibility. But the opposite has actually been true. I must say, even after spending over two decades in and around boxing, I was not prepared for the groundswell of support from within the industry itself. I simply did not realize that there were so many people working in boxing who, when confronted with the introduction of brutal honesty to the discourse for a change, were sincerely behind any efforts to make the sport, and the business, better.
Of course, when I thought about it, it's perfectly logical - the axiom in boxing is that less than 1% of the people in it make over 99% of the money. That means the vast majority of people are going to feel unfairly disadvantaged by the system, and would like to see the field of play evened out to some extent.
Maybe the best way to put it is that I probably haven't burned any bridges that were worth building in the first place.
THE SANCTIONING BODIES
-- I have never been a great lover of them. I think for a while, I probably had some of the same cliche-ridden thoughts that most fans and writers have about them. Once again though, if you look below the surface you can see some things that surprise you.
First of all, every one of the sanctioning bodies is different in some regard. So it doesn't make sense to make blanket statements about them. And within the sanctioning organizations you can actually find some people who genuinely care about the sport. That just stands to reason - hey, if a promoter is going to pay off a sanctioning body with $100,000, it's not as if that money is going to be divided twenty different ways. Not everybody is on the "pad". So I guess the lesson to be learned is that there are some good things and some bad things about each sanctioning bodies, and this whole culture of sanctioning fights in general.
You can look at it from various perspectives - for example, no matter what you say about the alphabet groups, I haven't seen any specific evidence that they've destroyed boxing in an entire area, like the New York commission has done in that state, or the way the commission has polluted things in Kentucky.
On balance, I've found that the sanctioning bodies have been a lot more willing to listen to ideas than most people from commissions or the ABC are. And they recognize more readily that they need certain changes to save them from extinction. For that reason, I've become a lot more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
In fact, the conclusion that I've developed along the way is that between the ABC faction (commissions and its directors, like Kerns) and the sanctioning organizations, I'd say the alphabets are probably the lesser of two evils. Of course, there are glaring exceptions to that rule - they've been explored in the past and will continue to be explored in the future.
We've still got a ways to go in this mission. And unlike the John McCains of the world, I'm always willing to learn a little more. Feel free to contact me at your convenience.
* Paulie Ayala will beat Erik Morales this Saturday night in a thriller. Yup, I'm tabbing Ayala, a three-to-one dog over 'El Terrible'. Why? Well, that's a good question. First, Ayala, is better than people think. I know, I know, he's been on the fortunate end of some Bob Arum-influenced decisions but this is a guy who for the last two or three years has always given respectable performances against world class opposition. Secondly, while Morales is the bigger fighter, tell me the last time that he really starched someone as a featherweight. If you recall, most of his notable knockouts have come as a 122-pounder. Third, guys like the limited In Jin Chi, the ordinary Guty Espadas, the light hitting Wayne McCullough and the ancient Daniel Zaragoza have all been competitive with Morales. And it says right here, that the 2002 version of Ayala is better than any of those above mentioned names. And finally from a stylistic standpoint, Ayala has what it takes to disrupt Morales. Because for all his height and reach advantages that he has, Morales oftentimes does a poor job of establishing distance and lets himself be smothered on the inside. Ayala, is a technically sound fighter, who has a strong set of legs that can close the gap and is a very busy, active fighter who offsets his lack of true punching power with a volume of shots. These are the types of guys that have given Morales trouble in the past. Ayala, may not be the most naturally gifted fighter out there and he seems somewhat limited, but at the end of the day all he does is win. He is the classic overachiever that gets every last ounce out of his talent. And it's those guys, much like a Rocky Marciano, that you find out are the toughest guys to face.
* Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah need to fight immediately. Yes, everyone wants a crack at the undisputed jr. welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu and both Mitchell and Judah would love rematches with the pony-tailed Russian who now makes Australia his home. But based on the hatred and animosity that these two east coast southpaws have for each other, this is the fight I want to see. And these emotions exist with these guys having never faced each other in actual competition. This actually goes back to when the process of unifying this division was taking place. Back in early 2001, Judah was holding the IBF title and Mitchell the WBA version of the crown. During that time both fighters would take turns taking verbal pot shots at each other. At that time it was nothing more than some good, clean, fun posturing from both fighters. But things got taken to another level when Mitchell would have to quit on his stool against Tszyu with a knee injury.
Mitchell, who was despondent over losing his title would begin to get emotional and Judah, who was doing some ringside commentary for Showtime stated, " C'mon, there's no crying in the ghetto!!!" What's ironic is that when Judah was stopped by Tszyu later in the year, it was Judah who threw a child-like temper tantrum in the ring. Last week on a national conference call to promote his fight against Vince Phillips, Mitchell mocked Judah's reaction. Then after his win over Phillips this past weekend, he had a few choice words for the Brooklyn native. Judah, on various websites would comeback with his response- which included promising to send Mitchell to the grave. In other words what we have here is a great prelude to a promotion that has to be made. And think about it, neither guy is going to get Tszyu in the near future anyway, so why not face each other? In wrestling for years they have had 'loser leaves town' matches where the vanquished grapplers can never set foot in certain regions( or at least until they come up with a new storyline), here we can have the 'loser leaves ghetto' stipulation. The loser of this bout would never be able to set foot in the inner city and must have his personal belongings packed and ready to go to the nearest suburbs where they must live the life of the Huxtables. Hmm, now that I think about it, who would be the loser in that case?
* Who's the game's best pound-for-pound? Think about it, Bernard Hopkins has been on ice, Roy Jones has gone through one mis-mandatory after another, Oscar De La Hoya can make a claim but he hasn't been that active, Tszyu could also make one because of the quality of his recent wins, Vernon Forrest has two big wins over Shane Mosley, but what else? And Mosley is currently on a two fight losing skid. So who makes the strongest claim? How 'bout Marco Antonio Barrera? Think about it, in the last few years he's has wins over Morales, Naseem Hamed, Enrique Sanchez and most recently a systematic win over Johnny Tapia. He's fought regularly against world-class competition and his continued to hone his style as he matures. No, he's not as exciting as he once was but in making some adjustments to his new, more calculating approach he most likely is extending his career.
* Juan Manuel Marquez is the best fighter in the world never to hold a major title. Have you ever seen this guy? Call me crazy, but I think if he fights Barrera, he is no worse than a 7-5 underdog and that's it. Yeah, he's that good and that dangerous and that's exactly why he's had problems getting some of the other blue-chip 126-pounders in there with him. It seems that his promoter Bob Arum signed him up for the sole reason of keeping him away from the likes of Morales and some of his other Top Rank stable. But this can guy really box- I think he's the games best counter-puncher in the biz, who possesses great hand-speed, reflexes and timing. All he needs is the opportunity. He dropped the ball a bit when he fought Freddy Norwood in 1999 for the WBA crown but I have a feeling that he won't let that happen again when he takes on the crafty vet Manny Medina in March for the vacant IBF title.
* What can we expect out of Ward-Gatti II? Now, as far as I'm concerned if these two blue collar brawlers can give us half the fight they gave us the first time, I won't complain. But is there any chance they duplicate what they did in April? Probably not, but you've got to figure that neither guy is really a 'cutie' and that their basic styles never really change from one fight to another. Also, neither guy could get into a bad or boring fight if they tried. I think both guys will go in with gameplans designed to box a bit more and to control the flow of the fight but once they each get hit I think the leather will begin to fly freely. Remember, in life, you are what you are. And both of these warriors are fighters who fight. They don't know any better and we should be thankful for that.
* Has Roy Jones signed the contract to fight John Ruiz yet? Seriously, I keep hearing about how they're still waiting to sign the 'long form contract' for this bout. Guys, this is a boxing contract that is pretty standard for a fight like this, not War and Peace, it can't be THAT long for pete's sake. I mean they're treating this as if they're chiseling out the Ten Commandments on stone tablets or something. Just sign the contract already. That's of course if Roy really wants this fight. And with the IBF denying his request for an exception, he can always back out of the Ruiz fight by saying that he simply cannot let himself be stripped of his hard-earned belts and fight his mandatory challenger Antonio Tarver.
* Holyfield will lose to Byrd. I'm saying it right now, Chris Byrd will box circles around Evander Holyfield and Byrd will make it look easy. I know, I know, like everyone else I've made the mistake of counting out the 'Real Deal' before but I think Byrd has the type of style that will give Holyfield fits. Holyfield is most effective with guy who will stand in front of him and give him counter-punching openings. Byrd, is the antithesis of that, he will circle and jab his way around Holyfield all night and Holyfield at this stage of his career isn't in any mood to chase poeple down. I like Byrd to slap his way to a 12 round decision. But I'll make another prediction, based on the way this fight goes, Evander will say that he will keep going because he really didn't get beat but that he had a guy that was running from him all night.
When you come to think of it, while some could argue with conviction that there was some moral authority for California to have taken its original action, there was really no legal authority.
The answer - if you look closely enough - is in a letter Tim Lueckenhoff sent to United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, dated October 11:
The Honorable John Ashcroft
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Re: Violation of the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996.
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
As President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, an organization that represents 46 state and 8 tribal boxing commissions across the United States it is my duty to report to you a situation involving the World Boxing Association, WBA, which I believe to be a violation of Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 (PBSA) and its subsequent amendments contained in the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
The PBSA specifically states that;
Appeals Process - "a sanctioning organization shall not be entitled to receive any compensation, directly, or indirectly, in connection with a boxing match, until it provides the boxers with notice that the sanctioning organization shall, within 7 days after receiving a request from a boxer questioning that organization's ratings of the boxer.
(1) provide to the boxer a written explanation of the organization's criteria, its rating of the boxer, and the rationale or basis for its ratings (including a response to any specific questions submitted by the boxer); and
(2) submit a copy of its explanation to the Association of Boxing Commissions."
As you will note from the attached documents heavyweight boxer Kirk Johnson appealed to the WBA for an explanation regarding his reduction in the rankings. Mr. Johnson has not received a written explanation was outlined in the above federal law. The Association of Boxing Commission also, has not received a copy of the explanation.
The federal law specifically states that:
"Whenever the Attorney General of the United States has reasonable cause to believe that a person is engaged in a violation of this chapter, the Attorney General may bring a civil action in the appropriate district court of the United States requesting such relief, including a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order or other order, against the person, as the Attorney General determines to be necessary to restrain the person from continuing to engage in, sanction, promote or otherwise participate in a professional boxing match in violation of this chapter."
Therefore, I would request that your office investigates this matter thoroughly and prosecute this matter to the full extent of the law. Violations of this law should not be allowed to continue. If your office should need any additional information, please contact me at your earliest convenience.
Timothy J. Lueckenhoff
CC: Michael Chertoff
Assistant Attorney General
I agree with Mr. Lueckenhoff - violations of the law should not be allowed to continue, including those committed, or which may have been committed, by organizations like the NABF, WBO, IBA, WBF and others. I imagine I should expect more letters will subsequently be written to Ashcroft which will cover those transgressions.
Oops, I forgot - this is Chapter 72 already. By this time, you're much too smart to believe something like that.
Regardless - notice the paragraph from Lueckenhoff's letter where he quoted directly from the Professional Boxer Safety Act -
"Whenever the Attorney General of the United States has reasonable cause to believe that a person is engaged in a violation of this chapter, the Attorney General may bring a civil action in the appropriate district court of the United States requesting such relief, including a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order or other order, against the person, as the Attorney General determines to be necessary to restrain the person from continuing to engage in, sanction, promote or otherwise participate in a professional boxing match in violation of this chapter."
Well, the truth of the matter is that the Attorney General of the United States had NOT issued a restraining order, a civil action, or any other sort of measure against the WBA. Therefore, there would seem to be no legal justification for withholding the WBA's sanctioning fee, at least at that moment, until the organization was given some sort of DUE PROCESS. Yet, action had already been taken on the part of California to withhold those fees, before the U.S. Attorney General's office was even made aware of the WBA situation.
The preceding day, Lueckenhoff had sent a letter to Gilberto Mendoza of the WBA:
Mr. Menzdoza (sic),
This shall serve as official notice that the Association of Boxing Commissions lends its entire support to the California State Athletic Commission regarding their decision to withhold the WBA's sanction fee on an upcoming WBA World Title fight, until your organization answers Mr. Kirk Johnson's appeal regarding him being lowered in your rankings. Many individuals who have followed this
situation believe your organization has violated the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996.
At the present time, I am drafting correspondence to be sent to the United States Attorney General asking that action be taken against the WBA for this alleged violations. I encourage you to provide Mr. Johnson with his well deserved explanation for his reduction in the rankings.
Tim Lueckenhoff President, ABC
He copied this letter to the entire ABC membership, with the following note attached:
"I just sent this email to Gilberto Mendoza President of the WBA and Rob Lynch. Rob deserves to be commended for his commission's actions."
Well, it was nice for "official notice" to come from the ABC that the WBA's sanctioning fees were being denied to them. Not that Lueckenhoff, who isn't a California state official, a Deputy Attorney General, a prosecutor, or a United State legislator, but merely the president of a trade association - had any official connection with the situation to begin with. And if indeed he interpreted that he was acting in an "official" capacity on this issue, was it not a clear misinterpretation of his duties, seeing as he had convicted the organization without a trial being held, or a charge officially brought?
Perhaps Lueckenhoff would have been better advised to caution California against taking premature action until a response had been received from Ashcroft's office, in accordance with federal law.
Funny thing is, the WBA was made aware of the fact that the state of California had withheld its sanctioning fee from every source imaginable - EXCEPT the state of California.
Witness this letter sent by attorney Bob Mack, representing the WBA, to Rob Lynch of the California commission:
November 6, 2002
Mr. Rob Lynch, Executive Officer
California Athletic Commission
1424 Howe Ave., Suite 33
Sacramento, CA 95825-3217
Re: World Boxing Association Sanction Fee
Dear Mr. Lynch:
This letter is written on behalf of the World Boxing Association (WBA) regarding press reports that the California State Athletic Commission has decided to withhold, or has actually withheld, a sanctioning fee due the WBA for a world title boxing match conducted in the State of California on Saturday, October 12, 2002.
First, to our knowledge no official communication has been received from the California State Athletic Commission by us in any form regarding such a decision. Our knowledge is based on press reports, and copies of e-mails sent to us by third parties.
If such a decision has been made, I would appreciate the California Athletic Commission communicating the decision, its basis, and other related information to us as soon as possible. I would also like confirmation from the Commission as to the amount of the sanctioning fee being withheld (if it is in fact being withheld), the depository in which it is being withheld, and some reference to the authority and facts on which the State Commission relied in its decision to withhold the sanctioning fee.
In an article dated October 10, 2002 on Fightnews.com, a Mr. Dean Lohuis was quoted as follows: "We are going to withhold the sanctioning fees until they respond,…" The "they" in his quotation was a reference to the WBA and the phrase "until they respond" related apparently to the WBA's response to correspondence received from Mr. Dino Duva. The article specifically stated as follows: "According to California's chief inspector, Dean Lohuis, the money will be held in escrow until the WBA either explains or changes their ratings."
Furthermore, in an e-mail sent to the WBA executive director on October 9, Mr. Tim Lueckenhoff stated that the California Commission had made a "decision to withhold the WBA's sanction fee…until your organization answers Mr. Kirk Johnson's appeal regarding him being lowered in your ranking."
To my knowledge, at no time did any officer or employee of the California State Athletic Commission request any information from the WBA regarding this matter. Apparently, all of its knowledge of this matter was obtained secondhand by officers or employees of the Association of Boxing Commissions, who also made no contact with the WBA to determine the accuracy of any of the information upon which your apparent decision was based.
Please be informed that the ratings committee of the WBA met in New York City on October 15, 2002 to discuss the rating of Mr. Kirk Johnson in the number 10 position of the heavyweight division for the August ratings, which had been announced in early September. After that rating had been announced, the WBA received an unsigned communication from Mr. Dino Duva, a copy of which is attached. The communication did not specifically request any of the information set out in 15 U.S.C.S. §6307c(b), or that such information be transmitted by copy to the Association of Boxing Commissions. The attached letter, on the other hand, stated as follows: "Please advise immediately regarding this situation. I would appreciate it if you can contact or call me immediately to discuss." In response, the executive director of the WBA e-mailed Mr. Duva, informing him that the WBA had "decided to hold a public hearing on October 16 at New York City in a venue to be announced." The e-mail further stated that the ranking movements would be explained at the meeting and that all affected boxers would be allowed "the opportunity to appeal" at that hearing.
In response to the October 3 e-mail of Mr. Mendoza, Mr. Duva, rather than stating that an explanation at the October 16 meeting would be unsatisfactory and that, instead, his letter had intended to request the sort of information set out in 15 U.S.C.S. §6307c(b), asked for the specific place and time of the meeting. The WBA promptly responded.
At the October 16 meeting in New York City, the WBA announced that, for various reasons, it had granted what had been referred to as an "appeal" of Mr. Duva on behalf of Mr. Kirk Johnson, and was vacating the ratings that had been announced earlier in September. The executive director of the WBA, at the same meeting, explained the reasons for the ratings, which were now vacated, and also announced new ratings. At the same meeting, Mr. Duva stated that his unsigned letter of September 24, 2002 was a request for information, but was not an "appeal", even though a specific and clear request for information, if it follows the requirements of 15 U.S.C.S. §6307c(b), is described by the federal act itself under the subsection entitled "Appeals Process."
Regardless, the WBA responded to Mr. Duva's "appeal" by granting it and vacating the rating to which it had objected. The WBA also provided an explanation of the vacated rating, even though it had not received, in proper form, a request for such information. Not only did the California State Athletic Commission and the Association of Boxing Commissions not request from the WBA any information regarding this matter before the October 16 meeting, but, to my knowledge, neither the Commission nor the Association has requested any information from the WBA regarding its handling of the matter.
It is unfortunate when a government agency engages in a "rush to judgment." It is even more unfortunate when that rush to judgment is based on incorrect information, and where there has been no attempt whatever to obtain the correct information from those who have it.
I have examined the federal statute, the state statutes under which your Commission operates, and your own rules and regulations, and can find no authority for the withholding of a sanction fee by your Commission under these facts. The federal statute does not authorize you to withhold such a fee under these facts. Mr. Kirk Johnson was not a participant in the boxing match for which you withheld the fees, nor was Mr. Kirk Johnson ever re-rated so as to be removed from "the top 10 boxers" in his division, and therefore no provision of 15 U.S.C.S. §6307c was violated in this matter. Furthermore, the WBA has not violated any of the provisions of 15 U.S.C.S. §6307d, and therefore is "entitled to receive" its fees related to the match held in California on October 12, 2002. The WBA intends to act in compliance with all applicable federal and state statutes and regulations. We ask that you also do so.
I would appreciate a prompt response.
SMITH ALLING LANE, P.S.
Robert E. Mack
cc: Mr. Tim Lueckenhoff
Hon. John McCain
World Boxing Association
On the same day, there was this letter that was sent directly to Lueckenhoff:
November 6, 2002
VIA FACSIMILE - 573-751-5649
Mr. Tim Lueckenhoff, President
Association of Boxing Commissions
Missouri Office of Athletics
P.O. Box 1335
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Dear Mr. Lueckenhoff:
On October 9, 2002, you sent an e-mail to Mr. Gilberto Mendoza of the World Boxing Association stating that it was an "official notice that the Association of Boxing Commissions lends its entire support to the California State Athletic Commission regarding their decision to withhold the WBA's sanction fee on an upcoming WBA World Title fight, until your organization answers Mr. Kirk Johnson's appeal regarding him being lowered in your rankings."
At a public hearing on Wednesday, October 16, 2002, in New York City, the WBA announced that it had granted what you referred to as Mr. Johnson's "appeal" and had vacated his earlier announced lowered rating. Furthermore, at the same hearing, the WBA stated its reasons for the now vacated rating, and announced new rankings for the heavyweight division. I have attached a copy of a letter sent to the California State Athletic Commission, setting out in greater detail the precise facts of this matter. In what appears to be a hasty and ill-informed rush to judgment on the part of the "Many individuals" referred to in your letter, apparently the California officials have acted on incomplete or incorrect information, without any serious attempt to determine the accuracy or validity of their opinions.
Your e-mail also stated that "I am drafting correspondence to be sent to the United States Attorney General asking that action be taken against the WBA for this alleged violations." As set out in my letter to the California Commission, there were no violations of the federal act, and your assumptions that there were are totally incorrect and mistaken.
I have also reviewed a copy of a letter from Senator John McCain, the Attorney General, dated October 11, 2002. Senator McCain's letter apparently has relied on information provided by you or your organization to him, and is also mistaken in important and material respects. The WBA would hope that you and your organization would act responsibly and then only after attempting to obtain and receiving all the necessary information that would assist you if a similar situation were to arise.
Not only did the WBA do what you requested in your e-mail, that is, "provide Mr. Johnson with…[an] explanation for his reduction in the rankings", the WBA also granted what you described as his "appeal," and vacated the ratings to which he had objected. Its disposition of the Kirk Johnson matter therefore has resolved the "appeal" regarding rating. Your request that Mr. Johnson be provided an "explanation for his reduction in the rankings" also has been satisfied.
Federal and state government officials should be expected to exercise their authority and considerable influence responsibly and prudently. In any situation that may arise in the future regarding appeals of ratings, we respectfully request that you make every reasonable attempt to obtain reliable information before accusing this organization of violations of federal statute and exhorting the United States Attorney General to bring legal action against this organization.
SMITH ALLING LANE, P.S.
Robert E. Mack
cc: World Boxing Association
Hon. John McCain
What's my evaluation of all this?
We have nothing against the Ali Act being enforced. But, the Act itself is nebulous, and open to wide interpretation.
As it says in Section 11 of the Ali Act -
"A sanctioning organization shall not be entitled to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, in connection with a boxing match, until, with respect to a change in the rating of a boxer previously rated by such organization in the top 10 boxers, the organization -
(1) posts a copy, WITHIN 7 DAYS OF SUCH CHANGE, on its Internet website or home page, if any, including an explanation of such change, for a period of not less than 30 days."
Of course, as was discussed in
, you could take this rule to mean that if an organization DIDN'T take someone out of its top ten, it wouldn't apply. I preferred to look at what the SPIRIT of the law was. Still, the NABF example was different, in that it had actually stripped a champion of a title, which creates a definitive line of demarcation in terms of the earning ability of a fighter - relatively speaking, a sizeable difference, I'm guessing, between being the NABF champ and an NABF challenger.
Even so, you really can't blame Lueckenhoff, Jack "Minister of Main" Kerns, and the rest of the ABC hierarchy if they are upset. It's not a bad thing that they are angered when they see an injustice. And there was no real plausible explanation for the arbitrary movement of some of the fighters in the WBA's September heavyweight ratings (although, as Mack mentioned, those ratings were later "vacated"). But the problem is that the ABC's attempt at enforcement here was an arbitrary act in and of itself. It was also "selective" in nature. If you're going to call people out on the Ali Act or the Professional Boxer Safety Act, you've got to do so with the same resolve across the board - not just in those circumstances where it will bring the most headlines.
If the ABC wants to advocate holding back sanctioning fees when it suspects a violation of the Ali Act, then it should try to get the law changed to require that those fees be held in escrow, pending civil or criminal actions brought by the U.S. Attorney General's office, or a state's attorney general, within a reasonable period of time. Of course, as we know by now, what makes it problematic is that action may NEVER be taken. Therein lies another inherent difficulty.
No one enforces the Ali Act, or the Professional Boxer Safety Act. You've heard John McCain talk about it. Lueckenhoff admitted as much at the Senate "hearing" back in May. And I guess that's enough to make someone want to take action that might be considered inappropriate. It goes without saying that I myself have written at times as if I were judge, jury, and executioner.
But then again, when you're making your living off taxpayer dollars you can't be caught taking the law into your own hands.
Somewhere along the way, one has to ask the question as to why the laws aren't enforced properly.
One part of the answer is somewhat obvious - no one really cares enough. After all, Ashcroft would seem to be busy enough worrying about terrorists. Why int he world should he be worried about boxing?
Also, though, there's no AWARENESS of the law. And the blame for that has to be laid at someone's feet. Whose feet, you might ask? Well, I'll give you folks an opportunity to answer that on your own. I'd be interested in hearing your responses.
It was the sixth round. And Johnny Tapia, who was obviously behind on the scorecards, was giving the appearance of being very aggressive, and effective in doing so, as he had his opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera, covering up against the ropes.
The crowd, which was decidedly in the Tapia camp, had worked itself up to a fever pitch, as Tapia threw what seemed to be more punches than he had in all previous rounds combined.
I sat there watching his round, on the phone with a matchmaker friend of mine. And we were in agreement on one thing in particular - that even though Tapia was doing a great job of playing to the crowd, demonstrating all of that "fighting heart" that had been hyped so well in the pre-fight buildup, in reality he wasn't scoring a whole lot of points.
After an uneventful first 45 seconds, Tapia forced Barrera back toward the ropes, with what was admittedly a clean-landing right hand to the body. But a subsequent flurry produced very little, and Barrera came away from the ropes with a combination of his own, which included a left hook to the body, a straight right hand, and a right uppercut, all of which seemed to go unnoticed, except by HBO's Larry Merchant.
Another flurry from Tapia at the 1:15 mark produced several rather gratuitous body shots, and one good solid scoring blow - a right uppercut that was almost immediately countered by a left hook by Barrera. But most of Tapia's punches either landed on Barrera's elbows or were picked off by his gloves.
Shortly after that, Tapia actually knocked himself down with a right hand that grazed Barrera's left shoulder. And he later phonied up the claim of a low blow - a move that may or may not have been designed to sway a judge or two, not to mention the referee.
Tapia landed one more punch that could considered substantial in the round - another right uppercut which Barrera actually rolled with. And with about 15 seconds left, Tapia came forward, throwing bombs and missing, while Barrera countered with some more good shots that landed cleanly.
Barrera also connected with jabs. Several hard ones, in fact. Don't they count? They certainly should, considering that it was the jab that had Tapia completely under control up to that point.
One thing characteristic of this round - and in fact the entire fight - was that with every punch Tapia threw, whether it was picked off or not, the crowd reacted. Solid shots landed by Barrera brought little or no reaction, either from the crowd or from HBO announcers Jim Lampley and George Foreman.
My friend and I concurred that, in point of fact, not only did Tapia NOT get the better of Barrera in the round, it was actually a pretty good round for Barrera - one of his best of the fight.
As it turned out, though, only Chuck Giampa scored the round for Barrera. Two of the three Nevada judges - Bill Graham and Dave Moretti - gave it to Tapia.
And sure enough, when Jim Lampley asked him, Harold Lederman, who keeps a scorecard for HBO, had given the sixth round to Tapia as well.
"In Round 6, for two minutes, Johnny Tapia used his tremendous experience and didn't let Barrera get off the ropes," said Lederman. "No matter what Marco did, he couldn't get off, and Johnny Tapia beat him up on the ropes."
But had he?
To me, this illustrated a point that was detailed, to an extent, in Chapter 67 of this series - not to disparage anyone, but sometimes I'm not sure if the judges - and this includes Lederman - are scoring based on what they are seeing, or on other factors entirely.
To put it as gently as possible, there are instances where something audible can most definitely affect that which is visual. In this case, perhaps the background noise created an "optical illusion".
Interestingly enough, according to the statistics kept by Compubox, in the sixth round, Barrera landed 34 of 56 punches for a 60% accuracy mark, by far his best in the fight. And the 34 blows landed were his most with the exception of the first round and the last round. He was 23-for-30 in the "power punches" category, for an astounding 76%. By contrast, Tapia was just 41% overall in the sixth round (22 for 53), with less power punches landed (21). He was recorded to have landed just ONE jab in the entire round.
Tapia's 22 scoring punches indeed turned out to be the most he chalked up in the fight. Certainly it can be argued that the sixth was his best round of the evening.
Sentimental favorite or not, though, it doesn't provide enough reason to GIVE Tapia that round. Barrera still won it.
I'm not saying it was so obvious, so blatant. You had to watch it closely. It was subtle. But I don't think it's too much to ask that professional boxing judges be able to notice the subtleties. Otherwise, why not just get any three people off the street to judge a fight, kind of like they select a jury?
Here's a scary thought - what if Tapia had summoned up the resolve to do the posturing, exhibit the "aggressiveness", or to paraphrase the way Larry Merchant accurately described it, had been able to "sell" that he was fighting, over the course of all twelve rounds of this bout, with the crowd more and more solidly behind him as events proceeded? Would we have seen more fights scored like the sixth round was? Could he have actually come out of that fight "stealing" a decision win?
How many times, I wonder, does this happen in club fights across the country, when you have a "hometown" fighter, a "hometown" crowd, and "hometown" judges involved?
More from the Scary Thoughts Department - Chuck Giampa, who scored the round correctly, would have been classified as the "odd man out" in Greg Sirb's system for evaluating officials, in which, for some reason, the judges who vote with the majority the most are considered the most efficient.
We debunked that philosophy in Chapter 67 as well. But if Giampa stepped away from the consensus enough - if he, in fact, exercised different judgment than his colleagues on enough rounds like the sixth round of Barrera-Tapia (oddly, he had the fight CLOSER than the other two in the end, giving Barrera a four-point decision), he actually would DISQUALIFY himself from getting plum assignments, at least outside Nevada, if the ABC were ever to take control of this process and put someone like Sirb in charge of handing out judging duties for title fights.
And another thought crossed my mind - perhaps a little misplaced, but look - Barrera is from Mexico. Tapia is from the United States. All three judges and the referee were from the U.S. HBO, and some of the press, made an issue out of the fact that the "evil" sanctioning bodies were left out of this process. But at least if there were one of the alphabet groups present, someone (if they were following their rules) would have forced the issue of neutrality in officiating, and maybe -although I'm not promising anything - those officials wouldn't have been swayed by the crowd to any great extent.
And you may have had the accurate scoring of the sixth round - a round which, if Tapia had been able to put together more of an effective effort for the other eleven rounds - could have made the difference in the fight.
As it stands, he didn't make it close, and the round DIDN'T make a difference. But next time......?
Would that be a good thing for boxing?
I'd like to, just once, try a little experiment - put all the judges in a room during a fight, each in his or her own little cubicle - and have them watch the fight on television, all from the same angle, with the sound turned completely off - that means NO hyperbole from announcers, and NO crowd noise.
I'd be curious what kind of verdict they'd have come up with for that sixth round, and for a lot of other rounds.