REID SAYS SPORT OF BOXING TO SUFFER "BLACK EYE" IF TYSON PERMITTED TO FIGHT
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Washington, D.C. - Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Assistant Democratic Leader of the U.S. Senate, today warned that the sport of boxing will suffer a severe blow if the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne fight is permitted to go forward. Less than 24 hours after Mike Tyson issued a statement saying that Saturday's fight was off due to serious medical ailments and an inability to train, Tyson changed his mind and declared that he is now ready to fight.
"The announcement that the Tyson-Etienne fight is back on is yet another example of wide-ranging problems with the sport of boxing that are beyond the scope of the current system of state regulation," Reid said. "Any decision allowing this fight to go forward as scheduled will likely result in a devastating 'left hook' to the sport of boxing."
Tim Lueckenhoff, President of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), conceded there is a problem with the current law, stating "the ABC has no authority to do anything in this situation other than to beg Tennessee to do the right thing and be very thorough."
"Lueckenhoff's statement reveals the shocking truth about the lack of power the ABC possesses to protect the health of boxers," said Reid. "Based on the recent reports of Tyson's poor health and the inherent risk of his newly obtained facial tattoo, I urge the state of Tennessee to refuse to allow this fight to go forward."
Marc Ratner, Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, agreed with Reid's concerns. "With all the rumors about Tyson's health, he should be thoroughly checked out medically before fighting."
Reid plans to push for passage of his legislation to provide uniform regulations for professional boxing, in order to protect the health and safety of boxers and ensure fairness in the sport. Reid is a former boxer and the senior Senator from Nevada -- which hosts many of the premier boxing matches in the world.
"This is exactly the reason we need federal oversight of the sport of boxing," said Reid, the author of the National Boxing Commission Act of 2001. "Who is the watchdog for the integrity of this great sport? It is clearly not the trainers. Tyson's trainer, Freddie Roach, said he would stand behind Tyson's decision despite the fact that he is worried about Tyson's health and readiness to fight. A National Boxing Commission is needed for exactly this reason - to establish greater standards to protect the health of boxers."
I guess I can buy a little bit of that, though truthfully, not a whole lot.
I certainly don't think anyone is, or was, overly concerned with the health of Mike Tyson. I think what people are most concerned with is what they perceive to be buffoonery on Tyson's part, and the criticism boxing receives from the mainstream press because of it.
Not that those concerns aren't legitimate. Boxing has a public relations problem, which prevents it from being taken seriously by a lot of people in the media, especially those who don't know very much the game but are happy to crawl out from under a rock when there's a juicy Tyson story to exploit.
Those people may not be particularly knowledgeable, but they represent a constituency that needs to be "converted" if boxing is to move to a more prominent place on the public's radar screen.
But the Tyson "problem" will take care of itself in time. After all, he won't fight forever, will he?
Actually, I think there's too much focus on Tyson from that perspective; too many "good samaritans" popping out of the woodwork when he fights, as if preventing Iron Mike from fighting is going to represent a real step forward in restoring integrity to the sport. They've been led in that direction by some of the state regulators who areleast aren't too dumb not to recognize a "hot button" issue. But we've seen promoters who have admitted to bribing sanctioning bodies, and receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. So who's kidding who when it comes to sending a message about "integrity"?
If you really want to talk about safety concerns, I'd rather see them channeled in other directions. For example, using the quote from Ratner in Reid's press release as a reference, I don't see why EVERY fighter shouldn't be checked out thoroughly. If history has taught us anything, it's that the tragedies we see in this sport have a way of coming out of nowhere. In many states, there's nothing in the way of a true pre-fight physical. Who is putting any real pressure on these states?
And I wonder how we're doing when it comes to safe-guarding against very dangerous mismatches - not necessarily those where a kid gets knocked out right away, but where a circuit loser with no discernible skill at all, except for the ability to absorb a succession of clean, sharp, gratuitous punches, round after round, looking respectable perhaps on paper but in reality cooking up a genuine recipe for disaster. I see it going on in state after state. THAT'S a safety issue worth addressing, isn't it?
And needless to say, following safety procedures at ringside - not only those that comply with the law, but those that represent plain old common sense - should be on the front burner for every boxing commission, but unfortunately, they aren't. Somehow it still hasn't resonated that it makes the most sense to have not one, but two doctors at a fight, so that if a fighter gets knocked out, one doctor can examine him in the dressing room while the other doctor attends to the rest of the fights as they are happening.
And it simply astounds me that through much of the ABC, there is still this mentality that ambulances are somehow too expensive or troublesome to have on-site at a professional boxing card. In upcoming chapters you'll see where this problem comes squarely into focus.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to work on that have absolutely nothing to do with Mike Tyson. And I'm hoping that folks like Senator Reid will someday understand that it's just as important to issue press releases about the critical, real-life concerns as it is for those semi-cosmetic issues that are, to an extent, contrived for publicity's sake.
For a little while there, it looked like they weren't.
During that period of time, Tommy Patrick, who heads up what passes for a commission inthe state of Tennessee, was hot as a firecracker.
It was his intention, if Tyson don't through with his scheduled bout, to place the formerheavyweight champion on an "administrative suspension" for breaching anagreement to fight, with the objective of having that suspension honored by all overcommissions in the country.
Administrative suspensions are a little dicey, because they are not issued for medicalreasons. If a commission wishes to allow a fighter under this type of suspension tocompete within their jurisdiction, it is required to notify the suspending commission, butit has absolutely no obligation to honor the suspension.
So, to get the other commissions behind him, Patrick would probably have had to receivethe support of the Association of Boxing Commissions, to which nearly all boxingcommissions in the United States belong.
Of course, there was a fat chance of that happening. If you recall, the guys who usuallydo the speaking for the ABC - people like Tim Lueckenhoff and Greg Sirb - were very vocalabout not wanting Tyson to fight ANYWHERE, for reasons that they didn't really know, butwhich sounded good to some sportswriters, in the wake of the Nevada State AthleticCommission refusing to license Tyson for his fight against Lennox Lewis.
Many states went along with them, but Tennessee, and Patrick, most decidedly did not. Iwould doubt whether the ABC members, en masse, would have volunteered support for theVolunteer State, if it were based solely on its request for reciprocity, although it maybe a consolation to Patrick that the ABC guys could probably drum up enough hatred forTyson without any external prompting.
What Patrick would have based this suspension on, I imagine, is breach of contract. ButWHICH contract?
You see, they have a problem down there in Tennessee - a problem that, I trust, exists atmany commissions in this country. The regulations in Tennessee simply require thecommission to have bout contracts registered with them. And they certainly don't requirethat ALL the contracts related to a fight be on file on them.
This situation came into focus during the buildup leading to the Lewis-Tyson fight, whichwas also held in Tennessee. A few writers, including Thomas Hauser of SecondsOut,illustrated that there were so many contracts connected to the fight that one would behard-pressed to keep up with all of them, and no commission the caliber of Tennessee'scould possibly know enough to have all those contracts on file.
Indeed, in the process of researching a story for "Operation Cleanup", Iendeavored to find out some details of a fight on the Lewis-Tyson undercard. Thecommission representative I spoke with not only could not tell me what the purses were forthe fight in question, she told me the commission did not even have a copy of the boutcontracts on file.
Really, is that any way to run a boxing commission? What would happen if a fighter gotstiffed, or shorted on his money? What recourse would any fighter have? And on what basiswould the commission take any disciplinary action at all against a promoter if thatsituation arose? I couldn't imagine how Tommy Patrick's attempts at an"administrative suspension" could be met with anything but laughter from his ABC"brethren".
I could actually argue that it's not only advisable, but MANDATORY for the commission tohave all the available documentation. I just have to point to Section 13 of the Ali Act:
"SEC. 13. REQUIRED DISCLOSURES FOR PROMOTERS.
`(a) DISCLOSURES TO THE BOXING COMMISSIONS- A promoter shall not be entitled to receiveany compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until itprovides to the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in a State astatement of--
`(1) a copy of any agreement in writing to which the promoter is a party with any boxerparticipating in the match;
`(2) a statement made under penalty of perjury that there are no other agreements, writtenor oral, between the promoter and the boxer with respect to that match; and
`(3)(A) all fees, charges, and expenses that will be assessed by or through the promoteron the boxer pertaining to the event, including any portion of the boxer's purse that thepromoter will receive, and training expenses"
Funny thing is, what I found out, not from anyone in Tennessee but from another, morereliable source, is that the contracts from June 8 - whichever contracts Tennessee knewenough to get - didn't go into their file (Xerox machines apparently don't exist inKnoxville), but were sent directly to the ABC, which brings them under the protection ofSection 15 of the Ali Act, regarding "Confidentiality", meaning they don't haveto be shown to anyone at all "except to the extent required in a legal,administrative, or judicial proceeding".
When are these commissions going to learn anything?
Alamo Jr., who we've covered extensively in previous chapters of "Operation Cleanup2" may launch a run to become president of the ABC, according to reliable sourcesboth within the organization and in Nevada.
If this is true (and Alamo hasn't confirmed this himself), it could lead to an interestingstate of affairs indeed. Inasmuch as we will have a piece of legislation on the tablewhich could establish a "United States Boxing Administration", it would benatural for the president of an organization such as the Association of Boxing Commissionsto become a candidate for that position.
If Alamo wished to establish a power base for the purposes of becoming the boxing"czar", or being a "power broker" who would have a great deal ofinfluence over the eventual selection, you could take a lot worse track than go move intothe second-highest position in the most prominent boxing state (Nevada), then to a postheading up a trade organization (ABC) that will invariably be involved in shaping policy,establishing criteria for ratings, disclosures and the like, and designating differententities to do different things, such as the national "boxing registry", whichis currently Fight Fax.
When that person is someone who is, besides the networks, quite possibly the biggestfinancial "backer" of fights in the United States, not to mention a licensedpromoter in its own particular jurisdiction, there are a lot of questions that have to beasked. We've been trying to ask them all along.
I'm not saying Alamo Jr. is doing anything overtly wrong, or will be in the future. If heis, that is something we'll find out, because it becomes pretty tough to hide from peoplelike us. What I'm worried about are the COVERT things, which involve the "quid proquos", vote brokering, deals that could be made among people who are clearlypolitical animals, not just in the ABC, which is comprised mostly of political hacks, butalso Senator John McCain's committee, which as we pointed out includes Senator JohnEnsign, who is the son of Michael Ensign, chairman of Mandalay Resort Group and thus notonly the ultimate superior of Tony Alamo Sr., but also the ultimate "financier"of all this boxing activity.
If all these connections are so close, it represents a good reason why we ask questionsabout the motivations of the individuals involved. It's called the APPEARANCE of conflictof interest, and it's completely legitimate to bring up.
In fact, I'd venture to say that in a sport which is constantly striving to achieve someform of credibility in the public's consciousness, circumstances where the son is theregulator of the father, and regulator of other competing entities at the same time, aremore detrimental to the game than any antics Mike Tyson could possibly perform. That'sbecause Tyson will disappear from the radar screen soon enough, and he'll take hisreputation with him, whereas when you have persons in positions that would seem to producepossible conflict, and it goes unchecked, it will beget MORE possible conflict. When youtake that kind of thing to the national level, it just gets magnified.
If Alamo were to run for the ABC presidency, which would have to happen at theorganization's annual convention in July (being held in Missouri, the jurisdiction ofcurrent president Tim Lueckenhoff), it would be interesting to see what kind of supporthe'd receive. That's because it would offer a statement as to how the ABC members feelabout the APPEARANCE of conflict of interest in terms of the regulation of boxing. Some ofthem may indeed be beneficiaries of some kind of conflict of interest in their own homestate, which would make things perhaps a bit more intriguing.
We'll be conducting a little "straw poll" to this effect, but as a preliminaryinquiry, we asked a couple of commission operatives, who have votes in the process, whatthey thought of the possibility that Alamo Jr. might seek the ABC presidency. Theycommented on conditions of anonymity, of course.
"I'd be willing to give him every opportunity to speak his peace, if he wanted to atthe convention," said one of the commission people, "but I would really want tohear his rationalization as to why he thinks people shouldn't bring all this (theconflicts) into question. If he could do that to my satisfaction, I'm sure I wouldconsider supporting him."
One commissioner, however, was not so liberal about it.
"I've been in boxing for over twenty years, and all this politicizing and nepotism isa bit too much," he said. "You just can't continue to send this message out tothe public - that this 'father-son' thing is okay because there's a lot of money behindit. I think if Alamo were to get elected, I would recommend that my state drop out of theABC. Somewhere along the line this whole thing has to stop."
It's our understanding that Lueckenhoff might be brought onto ESPN2's "Friday NightFights" to speak with "ace reporter" Teddy Atlas about the Nevadacommission. Let's hope someone reads this story and has the initiative to ask Tim how hefeels about his possible successor being a product of that very situation.
Just do this; put Moore, Foster, Spinks, Qawi or Saad in with every single opponent Roy Jones has fought. Not only would everyone of them be undefeated but, they'd have scored more convincing wins and KO's! I only went back to Moore however I'm sure their are others who I could make the same claim. I have absolutely no doubt that the above Light Heavyweight's wouldn't lose to one of the opponents that Jones fought if they fought them the night he did! Could you picture Fat James Toney going 12 with Archie Moore? How about Eric Lucas going 10 with Bob Foster ? David Telesco taking Michael Spinks to a decision? Reggie Johnson taking Dwight Muhammad Qawi the full route? Would Matthew Saad Muhammad and Rick Frazier even get sanctioned? If you agree that the fighters listed go through the fighters Jones has fought, then what's all the fuss over Roy Jones? His perception and flash?
AND YES HE'S OVERRATED AS A BOXER: I'm so sick and tired of hearing what a great "boxer" Jones is. Like Muhammad Ali, he is very flawed fundamentally. Neither one of them bothered to learn basics. They always relied on their speed and ability to cover and out run the mistakes. THE DIFFERENCE........Ali fought in the greatest era in HW history and was effected by a forced exile during his prime. When his speed started to erode Ali's shortcomings as a "boxer" became apparent. Unfortunately Jones has skated in a brutally awful division.
FOOLED BY MOVEMENT: Also, many boxing writers, historians and fans confuse movement and boxing. This is wrong. Just because a guy uses his legs doesn't mean he's a good boxer. In fact most of the time it's wasted movement. Circling and lateral movement doesn't equate to boxing all the time. Jones has a push jab and a pot-shot right hand. He jumps in and out with lunging left-rights and lead rights. I would love to see him attempt those moves versus any of the above? He has a very good and fast left hook and he is a good body puncher. The problem is most of the time when he cuts loose he's looking to get out, thus nullifying his punch. Ali also did this at times. And please, the body punch he caught Virgil Hill with was lighting in a bottle. You could watch fights for the next 10 years and not see that kind of shot again.
WHAT KILLS ME: That he gets so much praise. When I hear people talk about Roy Jones, I picture Sugar Ray Leonard at Welterweight. Leonard at welterweight was superior to Jones. All that Jones can do better than Leonard is run, something Leonard never did. Sugar Ray Leonard was a better boxer than Jones, I believe he is tougher, (although I can't prove it) and a much better puncher at 147 than Jones was anywhere from 160-175. I even think Leonard was faster because he committed to his punches and followed through, Jones in my opinion slaps most of his punches.
LASTLY: I know I'm in the minority regarding Roy Jones, but that's just what I see. He can KO all the Glen Kelly's in the world, it proves nothing to me. I don't even enjoy watching his fights (I'm usually bored after the third round) . I'm also sick of hearing the broadcasters gushing and trying to tell me what I'm watching is something so spectacular that I may never see it again.
If I want to see spectacular I'll put in a tape of Sugar Ray Leonard at welterweight. In my humble opinion Leonard at 147 is head an shoulders above Roy Jones at any weight! Yes Jones is a great talent/fighter but, don't even mention him as a top 7 or 8 all-time great Light Heavyweight! And don't give me the crap he's not a true Light Heavyweight because he is. Go back and check the weights that Michael Spinks and Saad Muhammad weighed in at... How bout 172-174 just as Jones. I musta forgot ! What did I miss to forget?
When Atlas was more or less taking his major ideas from Rounds 21 and 22 of"Operation Cleanup 2" - concerning appearances of conflict of interest betweenthe Mandalay Bay Casino and the Nevada Commission - and conveying them to his ESPN2audience a couple of Fridays ago, he sounded cogent, prepared, even sometimesprofessional.
But when left to his own devices on last week's program, when he was to come forward with"evidence" he had promised some unsuspecting reporters, he pretty much wound upwith the same thing he might have found if there were a REAL tropical bay named Mandalay.
Which is to say, a handful of sand.
In an attempt, I suppose, to "nail" NSAC chairman Luther Mack, Atlas introduceda piece of evidence - a hotel bill from the Mandalay Bay, dated December 29, whichdemonstrated that Mack had received a "special rate" of $115 at the hotel for asuite that, in the estimation of Teddy or one of his ESPN producers, would have gone for"about $400".
Let me clarify a few things about this bill that Atlas DIDN'T tell you. One is that Mackactually ran up quite a substantial tab at the hotel. For example, $93 in room servicecharges; $65 in the Raffles Cafe, $22 for in-room movies (perhaps some Vivid Video?), andthe customary inflated rate on phone calls, ranging from a buck for a local call to $39for a 20-minute call to Los Angeles. At the end of his stay, which lasted only two days,the bill came to $569 and change, which was charged to his Visa card.
Now, he might have had some comped meals, but I simply don't see very much room for it,judging from how many times meals were served and he was charged. And if he were gamblingin the casino, I don't think he'd have received anything in the way of free drinks thatwouldn't be offered to any other player at the table.
Let me relay something else to you - I'm not sure Mack got a much lower rate that anyoneelse could have gotten at that time, either. You must remember - Mack's stay lastedthrough December 27th and 28th, and the week between Christmas and New Year's istraditionally one of the slowest, if not THE slowest week of the year in Las Vegas. Itfollows that most hotel/casinos would be virtually giving away rooms in order to getpeople into the building. I know I am pelted with plenty of e-mails from Las Vegasestablishments advertising ridiculously low rates during that period.
Right now, during what may be considered a somewhat slow time, I could walk into theMandalay Bay (wearing a disguise and using an assumed name, I suppose) and get a"Deluxe" room for $99. Double that figure, then tell me how much more could asuite have been during the slowest week of the year, with the understanding that no one intheir right mind would want to accept anything higher than a "special rate" ifit were at all possible?
Given those facts, you'd have to wonder if (a) getting a discounted room, and not a"comp" at a hotel like this, would constitute a form of compensation as intendedin the Professional Boxer Safety Act; or (b) if it indeed did, whether it could possiblybe enough to make anyone on the state or national level do anything about it.
I don't want to make it sound as if I'm defending Luther Mack. Indeed, if there's somekind of evidence that comes to the surface proving he's dirty, so be it. And believe me, Iunderstand the concept of technicalities. But let's put it this way - I wouldn't want toapproach the U.S. Attorney in Las Vegas waving that piece of paper, in and of itself,demanding that he prosecute. It's simply not strong enough, and in fact may not amount toanything at all.
You don't want to swing and miss on something like this, because you're taken lessseriously next time. And you run the risk of making your target start to look like avictim. That's exactly what's happening, judging from the reactions of some of the boxingpeople I've talked with. One of them, an attorney, even suggested Mack could sue ESPN andAtlas for defamation.
As we've seen, it's also the kind of thing that invites letters like the one ESPN got fromthe Mandalay Bay's attorneys, because it has them thinking, "Gee, if this is the bestthing you can produce, what other agenda can you possibly have on your mind?" That'sa legitimate question, under the circumstances.
Indeed, it leaves me wondering whether this was just a retaliatory move on the part of thenetwork because, and only because, Mandalay Bay had revoked its hotel rooms andcredentials away for the Mosley-Marquez fight.
Of course, the motivation of Atlas himself is anyone's guess. Certainly it's differentthan mine. I don't recall making specific allegations or strong insinuations as Atlas did.My arguments are more abstract; more academic in nature. But it seems that for Teddy, orwhoever is behind him, to use this as a stepping stone to achieve a certain greaterobjective, he had to "get somebody". Well, that doesn't work if you're not anygood at it, or if you have an unusual degree of vulnerability on your own part.
Hey - I love publicity as much as anyone, but I'm not going to ride someone else's back,or use their work, to get it.
After Atlas first went on the air to discuss the issue of the Alamos - back on January 31- he immediately sprung into public relations mode, feeding people like Phil Mushnick ofthe New York Post and Larry Merchant of HBO with the "news" that he had"uncovered" these findings and conclusions, and that "hard evidence"could be expected on the February 7 telecast. Of course, they just went ahead and repeatedwhat he said, which tells me a little something about the quality of journalism in thiscountry.
Look, the purpose of what I'm doing is to create discussion - to make people take a lookat these issues, and take them further. And if ESPN came up with some additional,meaningful evidence that supplied a fresh angle, that certainly would be welcome. But I'mnot in the business of providing a service by which people can appropriate material forpurposes of enhancing their own image, whether that's for political purposes or not. Andwhatever thoughtless embellishments people want to inject are entirely their ownresponsibility.
Atlas told Mushnick, in a February 7 story, "I love boxing, it's how I make myliving. That's why I can't just quietly watch it be corrupted, over and over."
He told Royce Feour of the Las Vegas Review-Journal two days ago, "I think anybodywould see the obvious conflict. I have never accused them of any wrongdoing. All I havesaid is that the conflicts are obvious."
Fair enough - perhaps down the road we'll examine his standards in that regard.
Anyway, the aforementioned hotel bill constitutes the full extent of information Atlas hasbeen able to find on his own, pursuant to this story, although I know he didn't exactlyhave to dig for it. Well, obviously I know what is on that bill, and it's not something Iwould have done very much with, except within the context I'm discussing it now.
Did Teddy even seriously examine this document when it was fed to him, or did he just goon the air "blind" with it? Is THIS what he is trying to build a reputationwith? I hope not.
If I was out to "get someone", what I'd be trying to establish - not just aboutMack specifically, but any member or employee of the commission - would be things likewhy, with all the hotel/casinos in Las Vegas, would a member of the commission choose tostay, at a discount rate, comp, or whatever, at an establishment that also held apromoter's license?
Or whether there were some actual comps for people on the commission, as opposed todiscount rates that any number of people may have been able to take advantage of.
Or whether people associated with the commission were gambling on credit in a casino thatheld a license from the boxing commission, and if they were signing markers, whether thosemarkers were being shoved in a drawer and forgotten about. If that happened, THAT would benews.
Or whether any commission members serve on the board of directors for any company thatowns or controls a casino that has a promoter's license.
I mean, those kinds of things are CONCRETE - they're not just, well, sand.
And if you want to talk about Mack in particular, I'd be somewhat concerned with onestatement he made which found its way onto last Friday's ESPN telecast:
"In all honesty, a lot of judges and referees get their rooms for free."
If that's the case (and let's forget about casino discounts for a second); if Mack can betaken completely at his word, I'd want to know precisely what he was talking about. If Iwere part of the state attorney general's office or the U.S. Attorney's office, I'd bewanting to question him, if for no other reason than to determine what he would consider areasonable standard in that area. I'd be questioning ring officials in the state of Nevadato ascertain whether there is any truth to Mack's statement. And if some finger-pointingstarts to happen, I'd act accordingly.
This is all important because any irregularity might bring us into territory where theProfessional Boxer Safety Act was being violated, making it a matter very much within thejurisdiction of the United States Attorney. That's federal, not state. That means theconsiderations of the governor, the senator(s), and the state attorney general don'tnecessarily have to mean anything, because they have no authority whatsoever over the U.S.Department of Justice.
Take a look again at the Professional Boxer Safety Act as it would theoretically apply tothis:
"§ 6308. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
No member or employee of a boxing commission, no person who administers or enforces Stateboxing laws, and no member of the Association of Boxing Commissions may belong to,contract with, or receive any compensation from, any person who sanctions, arranges, orpromotes professional boxing matches or who otherwise has a financial interest in anactive boxer currently registered with a boxer registry. For purposes of this section, theterm "compensation" does not include funds held in escrow for payment to anotherperson in connection with a professional boxing match. The prohibition set forth in thissection shall not apply to any contract entered into, or any reasonable compensationreceived, by a boxing commission to supervise a professional boxing match in another Stateas described in Section 6303 of title."
Well, DOES it apply?
From what you'd have us believe, YOU'RE the investigator, Teddy. So get to work.
Last weekend was just another chapter in the crazy life of Johnny Tapia, who is appropriately nicknamed 'Mi Vida Loca' ('My Crazy Life'). He was engaged in a standoff with police, with two other men who were wanted on drug charges. Tapia was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. The following morning he suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed in his Las Vegas home. His wife Teresa frantically called 911. Tapia was in intensive care and hooked up to a life support system throughout the weekend. At that point Tapia was hanging onto life by a thread. The man who had been pronounced clinically dead three times prior, seemingly had cheated the grim reaper for the last time.
Well, hold on with the obits. By early this week, not only had Johnny regained consciousness, he was able to walk out of the hospital and yes, there was talk of him resuming his career. The fact he made it out of the weekend in itself, was a huge upset.
" I was there for five hours that first night," said his trainer Freddie Roach, who's in Las Vegas training Mike Tyson." And I thought he was dead. I didn't think he was coming back. He was in a complete coma and didn't move a muscle. But in the sixth hour when I was there, I told Teresa to just take a break and get something to eat. He opened his eyes, he had no idea where he was, and he didn't know who I was either. But at least he opened his eyes, I was happy about that. And the following day he asked for a cheeseburger, so I got him a cheeseburger."
" It seems he doesn't know what happened because he tells me he was in a car accident and I said,' Johnny, there was no car accident' I asked him if he took something and so forth and the doctors haven't got the blood work back in when I was talking to him."
Tapia has battled substance abuse problems his whole adult life. His career was put on hiatus in the early 90's when he tested positive for cocaine. His addiction is something he fights everyday like any other addict. But the fact that he had drug paraphernalia the night before his sudden collapse is suspicious. It's obvious that drugs need to be eliminated from his life but according to Roach, boxing is badly needed.
" I'm glad he's ok," says Roach." And if it's drug related, which I think it is - he needs help. The thing is, if he gets suspended three years - then his careers over. And you know what will happen," asked Roach rhetorically. He'll kill himself.
Because he still loves boxing and he can still fight a little bit. There's probably a couple of fights out there for him but if he doesn't get help, he's gonna end up dead."
There has been no word on if drugs were in Tapia's system. But according to Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, all boxing licenses expired on December 31st and Tapia had not reapplied for a new license. But he notes that if and when he does, he, like any other fighter will be subject to drug tests and perhaps even a mental evaluation.
While Roach may be correct in his theory that boxing is a positive diversion for his fighter, the bottom line is that he is approaching the sunset of a very distinguished career and pretty soon he will be living life without boxing. It's a tough adjustment for any athlete that retires from the glory of their playing fields to a regular private civilian life. For Tapia, you figure it will be that much more difficult.
" The thing is, after Johnny's last fight, it was probably the first fight where he took a lot of shots and maybe took a beating because Barrera was too big for him," Roach says." I wouldn't like to see that happen to him again with some of the bigger featherweights. They were talking about him and Hamed fighting and y'know what? I was thinking in my mind that if he fights Hamed, win or lose, maybe he should retire."
" Because maybe it's just time, but I know as a fighter, no fighter's going to retire until there ready to retire because I did the same thing. Eddie Futch told me to retire, I made the comeback and maybe if I didn't, I wouldn't have the problems I have today," he says of his battle with Parkinsons syndrome that he controls with medication." But I'm a grown person and I chose it but Johnny's getting towards the end of his career and he needs boxing to occupy his time and that's when he gets in trouble when he's not boxing. So I'd rather see him in the ring than laid out on a stretcher like he was the other night."
In theory I agree with Roach, but to me this is like putting a band-aid on a fractured leg. Unless he gets help with his addictions- and even more importantly psychologically- the minute he moves on with the rest of his life- he may not have that much of a life to live.
It was a successful debut for Oscar De La Hoya's 'Boxeo De Oro' series on HBO Latino at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles this past Thursday night.
Top to bottom, the card put together by Golden Boy Promotions was action packed, highlighted by Oscar Larios' hard-fought ten round decision over Marcos Lincona and Jose Navarro's impressive second round blowout of Carlos Madrigal. But what was really impressive was that over 4,500 people actually bought tickets to the event. No, it's not a huge number and it does pale in comparison to some of the crowds that used to regularly flock to the Olympic back in it's heydays, but considering that the event was televised (always a killer for the gate), the relatively early start time of 5:30 (and trust me, LA traffic is no treat at that hour off the adjacent freeways) and that the Olympic hadn't had a boxing event in over four years because of diminishing crowds-this night can be considered a huge success.
And I tell you what, there's not a bad seat in the house. And when you get a few fannies in the seats, it does provide quite an atmosphere for the fighters.
It's doubtful that this arena can ever have a regular schedule of boxing again, but if you have a well- promoted event once in a while, it can work.
If Lennox Lewis bypasses an April date on pay-per-view against Vitaly Klitschko, that pay-per-view slot will be taken by Marco Antonio Barrera.
Now, here's the funny part in all this, it seems Barrera and his people are somewhat reluctant to face another Mexican national. Guys, I hate to break it to you, but in that division, you really don't have that much of a choice. That would be like a heavyweight saying he doesn't want to face an African-American.
Now, names like Kevin Kelley are being mentioned. A Barrera-Kelley fight would be HBO's reply to Showtime's mismatch featuring Acelino Freitas and Gabe Ruelas.
Kerns is off the ABC board because if someone does not sit on, or work for, a boxingcommission, he/she can not maintain a position on that board.
Many are sorry to see him go, including, I'm sure, Greg Sirb, the Pennsylvaniacommission's executive director who has allowed underage fighters to enter the ring inviolation of his state's laws, who has lent support to Kentucky's "Minister ofMaim" in the past, and who has come to count on Kerns' support as well.
Many people I have talked to refer to Kerns as a "personable guy", although whenyou look at his deeds, which include scheming his way onto the ABC board as a cheap publicrelations ploy after what may well have been criminal negligence on his part in almostkilling Greg Page, how can he be described as anything other than a low-life?
Someone told me there was an official press release about Kerns' firing from the governor,though I haven't seen it. As I'm typing this, only today has his name been removed fromthe commission's official website, with Michael Cunningham (ironically, the referee forthe Greg Page-Dale Crowe fight) listed as the new chair. And frankly, I haven't exactlybeen motivated to flood the governor's office looking for an explanation about the wholething - not that I would get the whole truth anyway.
But I can have theories, can't I?
On Friday morning, Patricia Page, the wife of Greg Page, was at the Civic Center in thestate capital of Frankfurt for a "legislative breakfast", attending with a groupthat advocates for benefits on behalf of disability patients (of which the formerheavyweight champ is included). At the conclusion, she grabbed Ben Chandler, the state'sattorney general and son of the former governor, and pulled him over to the side.
Holding back as much anger as she could, she recounted the whole incident surrounding herhusband, detailing the malfeasance of a state appointee (Kerns) in it. She stressed thatthere was absolute knowledge on Kerns' part as to the absence of a stretcher, anambulance, or a licensed physician, before allowing Page, and all the other fighters, toget into the ring on March 9, 2001 in Erlanger - in effect skirting standards set forth infederal law.
Chandler looked puzzled. "That was the first he'd heard about what happened to GregPage", says Patricia. Perhaps that shouldn't be so surprising, considering that theattorney general's office also didn't know very much about the alleged internal"investigation" that was going on within the Kentucky Athletic Commission, aninvestigation that in fact went on virtually without witnesses.
Of course, that's interesting, because Kentucky is one of those states where the attorneygeneral supplies dedicated counsel to the boxing commission. Greg Page is in the processof suing the commission members individually, where Chandler's office may or may notbecome directly involved.
Anyway, Chandler, who agreed that federal laws should have superseded his own state's law,and who has designs on winning Kentucky's next gubernatorial election, promised Mrs. Pagehe was going to look into it. "I'll make it a major priority", is what he toldher. Just to make sure, Patricia went over to Chandler's office at the state capitolbuilding and reminded someone over there that she'd be following up. All this happened atabout 9 o'clock in the morning. By the afternoon, Kerns had been fired.
Coincidence? Maybe. I'm not sure I really care. What matters is that Kerns is gone.
Of course, the job isn't over yet.
The next person who needs to be flushed down the toilet is Nancy Black, the commission'sexecutive director, who should have been fired but wasn't, and who is emblematic of what Iregret to report is a frightening trend among state-level boxing regulators - people whoare completely clueless about the business they are overseeing, and similarly apatheticABOUT that cluelessness. That became crystal clear when it was revealed after the Pageincident that despite her appointed position, she had never attended a fight card in herlife. And as you'll realize by reading subsequent installments of "Operation Cleanup2", the very fact that she has been in charge of this state agency is both dangerousand absurd.
Meanwhile, Patricia Page has gotten herself involved in formulating a boxing reform billthat was introduced by her state representative, Reginald Meeks, and which will hopefullyreceive passage in the state assembly sometime during this session.
The bill will establish certain minimum standards for medical testing, insurance, physicalexaminations, qualifications for doctors, drug testing, HIV testing, and various in-ringsafety measures, which may in some cases exceed even those that are required by theProfessional Boxer Safety Act ("Operation Cleanup" has been helpful whereverpossible). Of course, it might also be worthwhile to explore having minimum requirementsfor the people who are going to ENFORCE this law as well.
In nothing else, the bill, should it become law, will create some awareness that eventhough the sport of boxing may be an afterthought in the state of Kentucky, the safety ofthose who participate in it shouldn't be.
In a good fight, you never know anything until it’s over, and even then, you’re not sure.
Bad fights aren’t like that. Bad fights - one-sided fights - are like watching a cheesy horror movie. Once you’ve seen it, you don’t want to sit through it again.
Last June, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis put on a bad fight, had starring roles in a cheesy horror movie. Their fight was a one-sided affair, Lewis somehow escaping aggravated assault charges when it was finally over in the eighth round with Tyson on his back.
What Lewis did to Tyson is outlawed in most states. You can’t pound on a man like Lewis pounded on Tyson and walk away without someone calling the cops.
Unless a million people are paying to watch you do your hammering.
Now Lewis is getting ready to toy with Tyson again in June, and there are people out there actually ready to buy tickets.
Somehow, Tyson still sells.
Why would the heavyweight champion of the world agree to a rematch with the man he almost hospitalized a year earlier?
Silly question. Unconcerned with his legacy, Lewis would like another easy $40 million. Tyson? Along with the millions, he just wants another chance.
The problem here is one of honesty. After all but cramming Tyson into a back-alley trash can in their first fight, Lewis looked across the heavyweight horizon and didn’t see anyone he thought worthy of his time and skills. He then scoffed at the idea of fighting someone like Vitali Klitschko, comparing him to Michael Grant, saying Klitschko was not a worthy challenger.
Wait a minute, Mike Tyson is?
That’s like saying Eric Clapton plays a good guitar, but you’d rather jam with Billy Parker and the Prom Kings.
Klitschko and Lewis were tentatively scheduled to fight in April, but apparently, Lewis doesn’t see the point. He’d rather go for the sure thing, fight the old guy with the fading skills, the bad temper, the short arms and the strange tattoos.
These are not Tyson’s best years. You have to go back to the Regan Administration to remember when he was the scariest man on the planet. Today, he’s like an aging circus clown with a big red nose and floppy feet. He was pretty entertaining the first few times you saw him take a fall, but after tripping 10 times, you grow tired of watching him struggle to get back to his feet. You almost feel sorry for him.
And that’s a worthy challenger for Lewis?
In an earlier time, you could say Lewis was just doing the right thing, following the stipulations of their first contract that called for a possible Lewis-Tyson rematch.
But when was the last time Lewis cared about contracts or mandatory challengers or title belts? When was the last time a world champion followed the rules? Who fights by the book nowadays?
Besides, how many times do they follow the rematch clause when the fight is a mismatch? Rematches are for close fights, not muggings.
For Lewis, fighting Tyson again is an opportunity to make millions without taking a big risk.
For Tyson, a rematch would be an opportunity to show the world that the first fight was just a fluke, that he wasn’t quite ready that night.
If there’s a wild card to be played, it’s Clifford Etienne, who fights Tyson Feb. 22 on Showtime. If Tyson beats Etienne, the Lewis fight - unfortunately - will probably be on. If Etienne beats Tyson, who cares about a Lewis-Tyson rematch? On second thought, who cares anyway?
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But undoubtedly the highlight of my week was pulling up my e-mail bin, and, among all thespam ads for cheap home mortgages, low-cost merchant accounts, cable descramblers, andpenis enlargements (okay guys, I get the message), finding a piece of correspondence withthe subject line "Re: SENATE HEARINGS - BOXING", and the sender listed as"Senator McCain".
As God is my witness, it almost glowed in the dark.
Imagine my surprise, and my level of excitement, when I got an actual response from theman so prolific that he can save boxing by working four hours every six months on it! Andhow foolish was I to think that because he skipped that silly WBA meeting back in October,electing instead to promote his book on a few New York talk shows, not to mention"Saturday Night Live", that he was even the slightest bit insincere!
Anyway, what a wiseass I am - all of the criticism I may have heaped upon him over thepast nine months or so seems completely unwarranted. The senator actually turns out to bea very nice guy. Check out what he said to me:
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office. Your views and opinions are important to me.
Due to the high volume of Internet requests that I receive daily, I am unable to provide you with an immediate response. However, if you have included a current mailing address and phone number, you will receive a response by phone or via the U.S. Postal Service. If you did not include a mailing address and would like to receive a response, please feel free to 'reply' to this email, attach a copy of your original message, and be sure to include your postal address and phone number.
I regret any inconvenience that this delay in corresponding may cause.
Again, thank you for contacting my office.
Sincerely, John McCain U.S. Senator
Who says this guy doesn't put his pants on one leg at a time, like the rest of us?
I mean, this guy actually thanked ME for contacting his office. Meanwhile, I should bethanking HIM for having any avenue whatsoever by which I can reach out and touch him, evenif it's just a little bit, and only for a moment.
There are a few things I feel I have a duty, as an American, to say here today:
1) I am impressed that Senator McCain referred to me as "Dear Friend". It'sindeed nice to have friends. In fact, one can NEVER have enough friends.
2) Equally impressive is the fact that MY e-mail to HIM, which was sent on Monday morning,February 3, and designed to be read in advance of his February 5 Senate hearing on boxing,was indeed read by his software, to the extent that it took only four days to receive anautomated response. Shit, that's nearly as fast as so-called "snail mail" wouldhave taken to get there. Muy bien!
3) I take pride in the fact that my "views and opinions are important" to him.
You know, sometimes you just don't know what a person is really like until you get to knowthem. I feel now that Senator John McCain, war hero, presidential candidate, Naval Academygraduate, boxing savior, has come into my home and personally touched my life. I've toldmy brother, my mother, my girlfriend. I would have told my father, except he died twelveyears ago. To hell with it - I'll probably tell him anyway.
I told my four-year-old niece, "This is the wonderful way government works."Even SHE was impressed, although she gave me little snicker before walking away. Just whatthe hell did THAT mean?
I took a ride over to my local Office Depot and bought the finest bubble jet printer paperavailable, simply because when I printed out Senator McCain's message for purposes ofhanging it on my wall, I simply wouldn't settle for anything of lower quality.
And I am seriously considering getting a tattoo on my arm that says, "Straight TalkExpress".
I don't care about McCain's involvement with the Keating Five. I don't care about how manyhundreds of thousands of dollars the campaign finance reform "guru" has takenfrom television companies he refuses to regulate as part of his new boxing bill. I don'tcare how ineffective his "Boxing Amendments Act" might be, or whether it's evengoing to pass.
This guy's A-OK in my book, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).
Of course, his errand boy, Ken Nahigian - now that's another matter entirely. When THISguy answered my e-mail, he was impersonal and rude. He wrote, "I don't know how yougot this e-mail address, but I would appreciate if you would never use it again."
Now THERE'S an asshole who needs to work on his people skills.
Today I'm absolutely delighted to be able to provide Mr. Atlas with more material for his editorial commentary, if he cares to use it:
I feel it's appropriate - indeed mandatory - to comment on a few passages in that story, written by Tony Batt, a reporter in the Washington Bureau of Stephens Media, which supplies the Review-Journal with reports from the nation's capital.
Listen closely, because I'm about to teach you something here. And let me apologize, in case it looks like I'm repeating some things that were written already.
Here's one of those passages:
"Guinn spokesman Greg Bortolin praised Alamo Jr.'s performance as acommissioner and said Mandalay Bay could not receive extra privileges based on therelationship between the Alamos because the commission does not determine where fightstake place."
What's a concern here is that (a) either Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn doesn't fullycomprehend what it is that his own state athletic commission - the commission he has fullauthority over - really does, or (b) he has consciously chosen to ignore that a potentialproblem even exists, because it involves a company (Mandalay Bay) which once handed him$300,000 in campaign contributions IN ONE DAY by funneling it through 15 subsidiarycompanies, back when it was known as Circus Circus Enterprises.
What the governor doesn't seem to understand, and I can only go by what his hand-picked"spokesman" said, is that insofar as the sport of boxing in the state of Nevadais concerned, the Mandalay Bay is much more than just a SITE at which fights takes place -it is, in fact, a PROMOTER.
How do I know this?
It's not necessarily because of MY basic philosophy
It's because the Nevada State Athletic Commission, comprised of people who were APPOINTEDBY THE GOVERNOR, tells me so, by virtue of the fact that they have compelled the casinosto take out promoter's licenses.
As such, when it comes to how we are going to reference the Mandalay Bay within thecontext of boxing and the commission, it must be perceived as a PROMOTER. And if theirPROMOTIONAL PARTNERS are the Bob Arums and Don Kings, for example, they are IN BUSINESSwith people who, by their words and deeds, and whether anyone likes it or not, have a veryreal interest in certain fighters winning certain fights.
Once again, BY DEFINITION as far as the state of Nevada is concerned, if you're apromoter, and are working with another promoter - hosting a promotion, putting your name on it, having the ring announcer mention your name prominently, and vested with theauthority to deny press credentials, or the accommodations for certain press personnel (asthey've done to ESPN this weekend, based on Atlas' report last Friday), you are theCO-PROMOTER.
And if you're the CO-PROMOTER, how could your SON possibly have the power to influence whothe JUDGES and REFEREE are going to be for your partner's championship fight, in whichthat PROMOTIONAL PARTNER has an interest where millions of dollars of future income couldbe at stake?
Who in their right mind would believe that the CO-PROMOTER wouldn't wish anything butsuccess for its PROMOTIONAL PARTNER, with whom it is in a business relationship, and doeverything it could to ensure that success?
If it's something not open to other promoters, that IS the extra privilege, Mr. Governor.
I'm sure Tony Alamo Jr. is a bright young man. He is a graduate of medical school, and I'msure he was a very good student.
So I find it implausible that he would not have understood or appreciated that he was presenting the appearance of a conflict of interest, or that legitimate questions mightone day be asked about the nature of his participation in the activities of thecommission.
Or are we talking about a case of pure arrogance here, where someone's sense of entitlement has gotten completely out of control?
And by the way, just in case anyone was wondering, the Nevada Administrative Code givesthe commission the full power to appoint all the inspectors, the judges and referees forALL championship fights, and to allow or disallow any fight card submitted to it by apromoter (yes, including casinos), based on an application that must include the SITEwhere the fights are going to be held. In other words, while the commission doesn'tnecessarily dictate where a fight card can take place, it can most assuredly dictate whereone CAN'T take place, which can be just as useful to someone whose motives are somewhatless than genuine.
Here's something else from the story that simply knocked me over:
"Alamo Jr. said he recuses himself when necessary and that he does notcollaborate with his father."
Let me ask a couple of questions that may or may not have been asked, depending on how thestory was eventually edited by the Review-Journal.
You recuse yourself, Mr. Alamo Jr.? WHEN?
I have asked a number of people - those who do not like Alamo, and those who support him.On no occasion have I been furnished with any recollection of a recusal on ANY matter that has ever come before the commission for a vote or discussion. And I would dare ANYBODY,including Luther Mack, who appointed Alamo Jr. to the post of Vice-Chairman of the commission, to document any instance where this has happened.
Or, let me put it another way - when have you ever considered it NECESSARY, Mr. Alamo Jr.,to recuse yourself from a commission vote?
The answer to that, apparently, is NEVER.
And here's a gem from Alamo Jr., referring to his relationship with his father, the promoter, and taken directly from the story:
"We are completely independent," he (Alamo Jr.) said. "We don'ttalk about boxing. He happens to work in the hotel industry, and I'm a physician. If people are excluded from voluntary public service because they are related to someone inthe hotel industry, that's not good for Nevada or any other state."
I'll leave your reaction to the absurdity of that statement completely up to you.