“More like Team Mayweather doth protest too much, methinks,” said Bob Arum, chairman of Top Rank, the promoter of seven-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.
In response to the release sent out Tuesday by Mayweather Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions which stated that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was “in jeopardy,” Arum had the following to say:
“Let’s be very clear on the real issues we differ on. It’s not about being tested. Manny is onboard with that since it’s such a major concern of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. It’s about who does the testing and the scheduling of the procedures. Manny will submit to as many random urine tests requested. Regarding the blood tests, he will subject himself to three tests; one given in January during the week the fight is formally announced, one thirty days from the fight, no later than February 13, and the final one immediately following the fight, in Manny’s locker room. The major issue related to the testing rests with which independent agency will administer these tests. The United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) cannot do it because they will not amend its procedures to accommodate the blood testing schedule we have outlined. USADA, under its guidelines, would have the right to administer random blood tests as many times as they want up to weigh-in day and that is ludicrous.
“Our suggestion is to utilize any of the independent agencies that work with the National Football League, the National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball, since they administer drug testing for their professional athletes.”
New York-based athletic physician, Dr. Keith Pyne, a private injury consultant for NFL athletes and those who participate in running and combat sports, told AOL Fanhouse, "I have more than 800 guys who are special athletes who are all drug-tested. And the urine testing is sufficient that you won't miss anything, especially with performance-enhancing drugs. So, yes, I believe that the urine testing is more than sufficient for boxing. If you're using steroids, it's going to come up for sure in urine. There's no way it's going to get through the liver and the kidney without being detected."
“If Mayweather Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions are sincere in creating “a level playing field,” as they stated in their release, our recommendations should put their minds at ease,” said Arum. “If not, one has to wonder if their motives are more about leveling the fight.”
It is with that image I leave in your head that I segue into the Mayweather-Pacquiao drug testing skirmish.
Lord, what a tiresome, moronic topic. But, since it is news, since our devoted fandom seems to be curious about the matter, and devotes time and energy to it, I reached out to boxing's poet laureate, Larry Merchant, for his insight on the whole dreadful deal.
"It has the ring of being gamesmanship," said Merchant via telephone on Wednesday afternoon. "I would think that the last thing a fighter like Mayweather who stands to make 30, 40, 50 million wants is for a fight to be postponed or cancelled."
So, the question begs, why is Team Mayweather so intent on making an issue of pre and post-fight drug testing? Why are they and we wasting time, energy and effort heading into the most meaningful, transcendent, buzzworthy fight in a decade or two, on this whole non-issue?
Because correct me if I'm wrong, and you can't, because I'm not, there isn't a shred of evidence that Manny Pacquiao has ever used any banned performance enhancer, be it steroid, human growth hormone or what have you, in order to gain a competitive edge in a boxing match. He's been tested, and re-tested, and re-tested again by the Las Vegas commission, and nothing untoward has ever been detected.
So...what evidence do these folks who lob these cowardly accusations have? Please, furnish them, OR SHUT THE HELL UP. Man, if I'm Team Pacquiao, and my conscience is clean, I'm talking to an attorney about libel/slander law, just to clarify it in my head if nothing else. You cannot, or should I say, you should not be able to widely disseminate the allegation that a person cheats, and uses banned PEDs, based merely on your gut instinct. You should not be able to hijack the spotlight during negotiations for a fight that will stand to benefit you and the sport many times over. Because unprecedented focus--in recent times anyway--will be on the sweet science should the two top pound for pounders get it on March, or whenever, and you are tarnishing the sport when you when you fire in the crowded room, without smelling, apparently, a wisp of smoke.
Floyd Mayweather Sr. brought up the "Manny uses PED" issue, accusing Pacquiao of being dirty to the Grand Rapids Press' David Mayo on Sept. 15, when he said, "I don't think he can beat Lil' Floyd with steroids in him or not."
"He don't have that kind of talent. He don't have that kind of skill, whatever he has in him," he said two days later, during a press conference for the Mayweather-Marquez undercard. He said he thought Manny was dirty when Manny fought his guy, Ricky Hatton, on May 2. (Not coincidentally, setting up a plausible reason for his man's submission at the hands of the Filipino Fury.) Then, right after Manny smashed Miguel Cotto, Senior started smearing again. "I know Floyd is the best," says Mayweather Sr said on Nov. 14. "But when [your opponent] uses something illegal, even the best can get hurt."
Enough, Senior! Let's take this out of the gutter, away from the realm of TMZ, and keep it clean! If you know something, beyond what your intuition tells you, then produce it. Otherwise, zip it. I am surprised that some of the people that are standing by this are getting themselves dirty in this slanderous muck, this cynical whisper campaign that seems like something that amoral character assassination artist Karl Rove might dream up, aren't distancing themselves from it.
All involved can, and must do better, because new eyeballs are on us. People that stepped off the bus when Tyson quit against Kevin McBride are tuning in again, or will, if they aren't turned off by the drug-testing dreck.
I'm not sure why Team Manny hasn't swung back more aggressively, because there are plenty of cards for them to play. I won't mention them, because I don't want to contribute to the poisoned atmosphere, but it's like when you get clanged in the cup by your foe--you got to come back with a harder blow to the groin, ASAP. I realize that countering might only elongate this silly flap, but you recall what happened to Swiftboated John Kerry? He figured all the hints and allegations would blow over, but in the internet age, they hang around the net like dirty bits of toilet paper.
I'm bewildered--Team Manny seems to be bending over backward, offering to get themselves tested more than any other boxer EVER HAS, in order to prove they are clean. They are allowing themselves to get pushed around here, and maybe the time has come for them to take a stand and tell Floyd Sr. to produce something beyond innuendo, or hold his tongue.
Anyway, back to Merchant....Merchant counsels me and others getting irked to chill.
"To me, all the testing talk is gamesmanship. The back side may be an alibi if Floyd loses. The front side is maybe that he agitates the other guy, or makes a lot of noise, because he has a clever intuition on these kinds of issues. It's like when he brought up Diego Corrales' issues (he was headed to prison for physically abusing his then wife). Whatever he can find to try and upset his opponent. Is it a psychological ploy, or to build the fight, who knows? It's noise. It's part of the noise machine."
Insiders tell TSS that Floyd is quite confident that he'll beat Pacquaio, so we guess that he isn't looking for a way to weasel out, and that this is a psych operation meant to cast doubt on Manny's achievement, keep him distracted by having to answer this question.
It's masterful, I suppose, if you are a Machiavelli fan. I'm not.
"Maybe Floyd's father is really concerned," Merchant said. "But I think Floyd's confident that he can win. And if not, for 30, 40, 50 million, that's a pretty good payday to risk losing."
Normally the issue is the spilling of blood. Spill too much and you lose. Don’t spill enough of the other guy’s and you lose. Get it in your eye, you may lose. Get it in the other guy’s eye – sneak attack! It’s bloody important the matter of blood in boxing, but Tuesday the issue became bloody awful when Mayweather’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, was informed by Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, that the pound-for-pound champion was refusing to agree to a blood test 30 days before what is expected to be a March 13 showdown between the two fighters that could produce the largest live gate and biggest pay-per-view audience in boxing history.
According to Golden Boy Promotions, who have represented Mayweather throughout the lengthy and on-going negotiations with Arum’s company, Pacquiao is refusing to submit to Olympic style drug testing as mandated by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Mayweather’s representatives want to be assured Pacquiao, who began his career as a 106-pound fighter but now is overwhelming men as big as 147-pound champion Miguel Cotto and former middleweight belt holder De La Hoya, is not using performance enhancing drugs.
Frankly, it’s not an unreasonable request but then again neither was Pacquiao’s alleged counter proposal that he have his blood tested only before the first press conference that begins the promotion and again after the fight. Doping experts might argue that Pacquiao could be able to have a masking agent in his system by then that would hide any possible use of performance enhancing drugs but unless the two were going to agree to random testing at any time leading up to the fight, which neither are likely to do, what’s the difference because if he knows roughly when the “random’’ test is coming would he not be just as prepared to mask anything he was taking?
Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy’s CEO, said Pacquiao’s refusal has put in jeopardy a fight that is being looked upon as likely to break the live gate record of $18,419,200 and the all-time pay-per-view sales record of 2.44 million, both set two years ago when Mayweather defeated De La Hoya at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. If you truly believe a dispute over when a blood test will be taken is going to keep that kind of money out of the bank accounts of Mayweather and Pacquiao well, you are a very naïve person.
Mayweather has been playing psychological warfare with Pacquiao from the outset, constantly mentioning that while he doesn’t know what the bitter taste of defeat is, Pacquiao does. That is a regularly reminder to Pacquiao that while to this point Mayweather has been unbeatable, the pound-for-pound champion has not.
This latest insistence on blood testing for performance enhancing drugs 30 days before the fight seems only another way to rub Pacquiao the wrong way and try to win the fight before the fight – the psychological one that is often as important as the boxing match itself.
Although nothing is signed or finalized, Schaefer claimed Tuesday that most major points had been agreed to until he was informed by Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank, that Pacquiao was not willing to be tested so close to the fight. This led to a blitz of press releases designed, frankly, to call Pacquiao’s willingness to fight or competitive honesty into question.
“Team Mayweather is certainly surprised that an elite athlete like Manny Pacquiao would refuse drug testing procedures which Floyd has already agreed to and have been agreed to by many other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Olympians Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant,’’ Schaefer said in a prepared statement.
Mayweather then ramped up the pressure on Pacquiao in a companion statement saying, “I understand Pacquiao not liking his blood taken, because frankly I don’t know anyone who really does but in a fight of this magnitude I think it is our responsibility to subject ourselves to sportsmanship at the highest level.
“I’ve already agreed to the testing and it is a shame that he is not willing to do the same. It leaves me with great doubt as to the level of fairness I would be facing in the ring that night.’’
Mayweather went on to say he “hoped’’ Pacquiao would change his mind and his long-time advisor and confidante, Leonard Ellerbee, hinted that a continued refusal could jeopardize the most lucrative fight in boxing history.
“…it is an egregious act to deny the testing and hence, deny the millions of fans the right to see this amazing fight,’’ Ellerbee said. “We just want to make sure there is a level playing field in a sport that is a man-to-man contest that relies on strength and ability.’’
Fair enough and far from unreasonable, but if Pacquiao agrees to pre-and-post fight blood testing for PEDs, which it seems he already has, the likelihood that this bout will not happen because of a 30-day blood test not being in effect is well, RIDICULOUS. By their own admittance, Pacquiao has already agreed to having blood drawn before and after the fight, which is more than the Nevada State Athletic Commission demands. The NSAC only tests urine and does not do more sophisticated tests for human growth hormone.
A week ago Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said his fighter would take any blood test they wanted. He feels Mayweather is fearful of Pacquiao’s power and the insistence on drawing blood so close to the fight indicates their concern. Perhaps so or perhaps this is just another mind game designed to create drama where no additional tension is needed, but regardless, if this fight were stopped before anyone is bleeding it will make boxing the biggest laughingstock in sports.
It would also be another in a long line of signs that the people who run it are hellbent on marginalizing it even more than it already is. The fact of the matter is these two fighters need each other because they’d have to fight three or four times to earn what each will be paid in one night. If the sport really wants to get back into the consciousness of the general sports fan boxing needs them to fight too and that’s the bloody truth.
So there may be continued discussion of this issue and other issues for some time; but in the end, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will fight, because while blood may be thicker than water, it is not thicker than cash.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13 and LIVE ON PAY-PER-VIEW!Tickets Go On Sale This Saturday at 10 A.M. PT
LAS VEGAS, NEV. (December 22, 2009) – The two entities that pioneered the marriage between professional boxing and Las Vegas casinos are reuniting to present a special edition of “Latin Fury 13 / Pinoy Power 3.” The Las Vegas Hilton, then known as The International, presented the first professional boxing card ever held at a Las Vegas casino forty years ago on December 6, 1969, with a card headlined by former world champion Sonny Liston and featuring a 20-year-old George Foreman, one year removed from winning an Olympic gold medal, on the undercard. Nine years later, Top Rank promoted the first world championship fight to ever take place in a Las Vegas casino venue, also at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Leon Spinks upset heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali on February 15, 1978. Nearly thirty-two years later to the day, Top Rank and the Las Vegas Hilton are going back to the future with a world championship doubleheader, on Saturday, February 13, featuring former world champions and current top contenders ERIC “Little Hands of Stone” MOREL and GERRY “Fearless” PEÑALOSA, battling in a World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title elimination bout; two-division world champion NONITO “The Filipino Flash” DONAIRE defending his World Boxing Association (WBA) interim super flyweight title against knockout artist GERSON “El Nene” GUERRERO; WBO bantamweight champion FERNANDO “Cochulito” MONTIEL defending his crown against wunderkind CISO “Kid Terrible” MORALES; and world title challengers MARIO SANTIAGO and BERNABE CONCEPCION battling in a 10-round featherweight rumble.
These eight gladiators boast a combined record of 254-23-6 (163 KOs) – a winning percentage of 90% and victory by knockout ratio of 64%.
Latin Fury 13 / Pinoy Power 3,” produced and distributed Live on Pay-Per-View by Top Rank, in association with PR Best Boxing, ABS-CBN and the Las Vegas Hilton, will take place Saturday, February 13, 2010, at the Las Vegas Hilton. The four-bout pay-per-view broadcast will begin at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.
Tickets, priced at $250, $150, $100 and $50, go on sale This Saturday! December 26 at 10 a.m. PT. They can be purchased at the Las Vegas Hilton box office, online at www.LVHilton.com, by calling (800) 222-5361 or (702) 732-5755, and at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Morel (41-2, 21 KOs), of San Juan Puerto Rico, captured the WBA flyweight title in 2000, winning a 12-round decision over defending champion Sornpichai Pisnurachank. His three-year reign as champion included five successful defenses. Since losing the title, Morel has won eight of his last night bouts, including two NABO junior bantamweight and one NABO bantamweight title fights, while elevating himself to become the WBO’s No. 1 bantamweight contender.
Peñalosa (54-7-2, 34 KOs), of Cebu, Philippines, first came to international prominence in 1997, capturing the World Boxing Council super flyweight by dethroning Hiroshi Kawashima via an exciting split decision. He successfully defended the title three times before losing it the following year to In-Joo Cho by decision. Nine years later, Peñalosa became the comeback story of the year, knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez in the seventh round to become the WBO bantamweight champion in 2007. After one successful title defense, Peñalosa tested the waters of a higher weight class where he unsuccessfully challenged WBO junior featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez In April. He is now back fighting in familiar territory fighting as a bantamweight.
Donaire (22-1, 14 KOs), a native of General Santos City, Philippines who resides in San Leandro, Calif., is in his second reign as world champion. Donaire burst upon the scene winning the Upset of the Year with the Knockout of the Year, at the expense of previously undefeated International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan in 2007. Leading on all scorecards through the first four rounds, Donaire uncorked his vintage punch, “The Pinoy Noir,” known for its silky smooth delivery and powerful finish. And what a finish! It was a one-punch knockout that crumbled Darchinyan into oblivion. Darchinyan had to be shown the taped replay of the knockout he never saw coming because he had no memory of it. After three title defenses, Donaire vacated the title this year to capture the WBA interim super flyweight title, winning a 12-round unanimous decision over Rafael Concepcion in August. Riding an eight-year, 20-bout winning streak, 13 by knockout, he is a consensus Top-10 pound for pound fighter. He is now trained by former IBF junior lightweight champion Robert Garcia.
Guerrero (34-8 26 KOs), of Mexico City, has won 76% of his fights by knockout. He has won NABF, FECARBOX, WBO Latino and Mexican titles in the flyweight and super flyweight divisions. Unbeaten in 2009, he enters his challenge of Donaire on the heels of winning a WBC super flyweight title elimination bout, a ninth-round TKO of Enrique Ouevedo in June. He is currently world-rated No. 3 by the WBC and No. 10 by the WBA.
Montiel (39-2-2, 29 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mexico, is a four-time, three-division world champion. He captured his first world title, knocking out Isidro Garcia in the seventh round, to capture the WBO flyweight title in 2000. After three successful title defenses, two by knockout, he vacated the title to capture the WBO junior bantamweight title, with a sixth-round TKO of Pedro Alcazar in 2002. After losing the title to Mark Johnson the following year he regained it 2005 by knocking out Ivan Hernandez. After two successful defenses of his crown, he vacated it in 2006 to unsuccessfully challenge Jhonny Gonzalez for the WBO bantamweight title, losing a split decision. He regained the WBO junior bantamweight title for a third time, in 2007, winning a split decision over Zcy Gorres. He held the title through 2008, successfully defending the title four times, all by knockout before vacating it to capture the WBO bantamweight title in April, knocking out Diego Silva in the third round in March.
Morales (14-0, 8 KOs), of Bohol, Philippines, has been making it rough for all his opponents since making his professional debut in 2007. He captured the WBO Oriental junior featherweight title in only his 10th bout, winning a unanimous decision over Marangin Marbun in 2008. He successfully defended the title three times, two by knockout, through this year, elevating his rating to No. 8 in the WBO.
Santiago (21-1-1, 14 KOs), of Ponce, Puerto Rico, is one of the brightest contenders to emerge from Puerto Rico. With knockout victories of tough contenders Cornelius Lock and Daniel Attah, Santiago earned his first world title shot, challenging WBO featherweight champion Steven Luevano in 2008. A Fight of the Year candidate, Santiago and Luevano battled to a draw in a fight many thought Santiago had won. Since that fight Santiago has won both his 2009 fights while raising his world ratings to No. 4 in the WBA and No. 7 in the IBF.
Concepcion (29-2-1, 17 KOs), of Rizal, Philippines, captured the NABF super bantamweight title in 2007, by knocking out Gabriel Elizondo in the fourth round. He successfully defended it twice in 2008 before moving up in weight to capture the WBC International featherweight title with a fifth-round TKO of Sande Otieno. Concepcion’s four-year, 22-bout unbeaten streak came to a controversial end in August when he was disqualified after the seventh round in his first world title shot, against WBO featherweight champion Steven Luevano, for hitting Luevano after the bell to end round. It was a close fight with Luevano ahead on two judges’ scorecards 67-66 while Concepcion led by the same score on the third judge’s scorecard.
LOS ANGELES, CA (December 22, 2009). . . The mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is now in jeopardy after Golden Boy Promotions, on behalf of Mayweather Promotions, learned today that Manny Pacquiao is refusing to comply with Olympic style drug testing as outlined and mandated by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and as requested by Mayweather's management to ensure fair play and sportsmanship by both fighters.
Early today Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, was contacted by Top Rank President Todd duBoef, who informed Schaefer that Pacquiao would not agree to have his blood taken within 30-days of the bout based on the fighter's superstition of testing so close to a fight.
Schaefer commented, "Todd told me that Pacquiao has difficulty with taking blood and doesn't want to do it so close to the fight. He, Pacquiao, would only agree to have blood drawn before the kick-off press conference and after the fight."
Olympic style drug testing involves random sampling of the athlete's blood and urine prior to and after the fight. The USADA procedure includes both blood and urine sampling so that all banned substances, some of which do not show up in urine alone, are tested for thoroughly.
"It is unfortunate to hear this from Manny Pacquiao's representatives, particularly since, as of today, both parties had worked out all other issues related to this fight," said Schaefer. "Team Mayweather is certainly surprised that an elite athlete like Manny Pacquiao would refuse drug testing procedures which Floyd has already agreed to and have been agreed to by many other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong, and Olympians Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant."
Mayweather, who was informed of Pacquiao's reluctance shortly after Schaefer received word of the impasse, feels Pacquiao has to explain himself immediately or be faced with accusations from the media and the public regarding his own status as a clean and drug free athlete.
"I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken, because frankly I don't know anyone who really does," said Mayweather. "But in a fight of this magnitude, I think it is our responsibility to subject ourselves to sportsmanship at the highest level. I have already agreed to the testing and it is a shame that he is not willing to do the same. It leaves me with great doubt as to the level of fairness I would be facing in the ring that night. I hope that this is either some miscommunication or that Manny will change his mind and step up and allow these tests, which were good enough for all these other great athletes, to be performed by USADA."
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions said,"We hope that Manny will do the right thing and agree to the testing as it is an egregious act to deny the testing and hence, deny the millions of fans the right to see this amazing fight. We just want to make sure there is a level playing field in a sport that is a man-to-man contest that relies on strength and ability. I still hope this decision is coming from someone in Pacquiao's camp and not Manny himself as it would be a shame that an athlete of his stature and who represents his whole country would not be able to show the public or his fellow athletes that he agrees to the highest standards in sports competition."
On Monday, the Commission narrowed down the selection to four candidates that all come from the West Coast. One of those four will be recommended to the Department of Consumer Affairs to decide who guides the CSAC.
“It could take up to 30 days to decide,” said Mario Rodriguez, the chairman of the CSAC.
The candidates for Executive Officer are Scott Schwartz, a current Athletic Inspector for CSAC; David Finger a deputy district attorney in New Mexico; Bryan Mckrell, who is vice president of CBG Commercial Real Estate Industry in Sacramento, and George Dodd, who works for the state of Washington in a department that deals with athletics.
All four were present at the scheduled CSAC meeting held at the state building in downtown Los Angeles. Each spoke to the Commission behind closed doors in closed session. By 3 p.m. the interviews were concluded with the group’s recommendation not revealed, though Rodriguez had said earlier it would be.
The appointment of a new Executive Officer has been a mysterious journey as a previous group of candidates was swept away with no formal explanation. It seems the Department of Consumer Affairs sees itself as autonomous and not needing to explain to the media their reasoning.
This is not acceptable.
On several occasions this year journalists including myself have sought explanations on why a previous slate of candidates for Executive Officer was tossed aside, including Pat Russell, who works as a judge and referee for California and Ron Arnold, an attorney based in California to name two of that prior list. On each occasion the Commission declined to answer.
Perhaps it’s time for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to clamp down on Consumer Affairs and make it more accessible to the press. Otherwise, the cloud of secrecy makes the aforementioned state department seem above the law and unconcerned with the general public’s concerns. Yes, there are greater worries in the state, but still, Consumer Affairs and all state agencies should be accountable to the public.
It’s been over a year that CSAC has not had someone permanent guiding it through these especially rough times. The media has been lenient with CSAC, Dept. of Consumer Affairs and with the governor. Action and open books are necessary now. Quit hiding behind bureaucracy.
“Maybe he was calling to tell me I didn’t make it,” said the always exuberant Hazzard, who looks and carries himself decades younger than his 65 years. “My pulse started to increase and I got very nervous. And I’m not a guy that people usually associate with being nervous.”
When Brophy informed him that he, along with manager Shelly Finkel, promoter Wilfried Sauerland, and matchmaker Bruce Trampler would be inducted in the Non-Participant category, the normally excitable but unflappable Hazzard was overcome with emotion, the likes of which he had never experienced before.
“Any guy who says he’s not excited about winning the biggest prize in boxing besides a world championship is full of bleep,” said the longtime referee who went on to serve as the Athletic Commissioner for the State of New Jersey from February 1986 until November 2007. He is currently the IBF’s chairman of officials, as well as the personal assistant to Marian Muhammad, the organization’s president.
One would be hard-pressed to decide in what role Hazzard was more effective. He was a world class referee, who once refused to back down from a verbal barrage from a fired-up Howard Cosell. As an athletic commissioner, he brought about scores of changes that continue to serve the sport so well.
And as a humanitarian, he, along with Rhonda Utley-Herring, founded an organization called Community Organizers Making Better Alternatives Today for Tomorrow in 2002. Better known as COMBAT, it utilizes boxing and ju-jitsu as vehicles to keep at-risk youths out of trouble.
“I’m just doing for others what people did for me when I was a youngster,” said Hazzard of COMBAT.
Hazzard’s road to Canastota began on the streets of Newark, New Jersey, where he says, “like any inner city in the 1950s, you had to fight your way home from school. The guys that were good with their hands got respect.”
Hazzard was athletically gifted, but the night he watched Sugar Ray Robinson box on the Gillette Calvacade of Sports he was mesmerized. Although he was just 13-years-old, he made his way to a little gymnasium in the William P. Hayes housing project and found out quickly that he was pretty good with his hands.
It didn’t take long for Hazzard to get respect, as he became a three-time Golden Gloves champion. While a student at Central High School, he also won the New Jersey State AAU championship.
“There were so many good boxers, so many role models, around back then,” said Hazzard. “It was easy for me to stay focused.”
Hazzard began to referee amateur boxing and he also attained a black belt in ju-jitsu in 1968. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Montclair State College in 1973, he took a job as a physical education and health instructor at Arts High School, where he later became the athletic director and department chairman.
After receiving a master’s degree in education, Hazzard became the vice principal at Westside High School and the principal of Broadway Junior High School. Both schools were located in Newark.
In the late 1970s, when the re-emergence of casino gambling brought boxing to Atlantic City on a regular basis, Hazzard quickly became the busiest of referees. He couldn’t have been happier.
“I refereed everyone under the sun,” said Hazzard, who is most excited when talking about what he believes just might be greatest era of light heavyweights in the history of the sport.
“I refereed these guys coming up, as well as when they were winning and defending their titles,” he continued. “Fighters like Matthew Saad Muhammad, Michael Spinks, Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad), Marvin Johnson, these guys were amazing. Even the second tier heavyweights were outstanding, and they all fought each other.”
He also marvels about being the third man in the ring in fights with the likes of Marvin Hagler, Frank “The Animal” Fletcher, Thomas Hearns, Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, James Scott, who was fighting inside the walls of Rahway State Prison where he was serving a lengthy sentence, and the man Hazzard describes as “the great Buddy McGirt.” One of his all-time favorites was the epic battle between Hilmer Kenty and Sean O’Grady, which was 15 rounds of sustained action.
As thrilling as all that was for him, what really put Hazzard on the map was the work he did in title fight between WBC light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad and challenger Jerry “The Bull” Martin in September 1981.
When Hazzard stopped the fight in the 11th round because Saad Muhammad was giving Martin a beating, television announcer Cosell, using his well-documented bully pulpit, harshly questioned his actions.
Hazzard clearly, concisely, articulately and forcefully defended what he did, stating that the safety of the fighter was foremost in his mind. It seemed as if he was waiting for a vitriolic rebuttal, but the normally tart-tongued Cosell was silenced. Hazzard believes this began what he describes as “a new concept in boxing as it relates to the primary duties of a referee.”
“Whether or not you agreed or disagreed with my stoppage, my exchange with Cosell really brought me to prominence,” said Hazzard. “I was quite eloquent in how I explained myself, and people appreciated that. I think it opened up a new level of awareness regarding fighter safety.”
Hazzard’s career as a referee was brief, lasting only from 1978 to 1985. He left that aspect of the sport, and he also took a leave of absence from his educational career, when he was sworn in as the New Jersey athletic commissioner in February 1986.
As he has done in all of his endeavors, Hazzard hit the floor running. Over the next two decades he instituted scores of safety features.
“I’m a big buff of boxing history, so I looked over the old rules and adapted them to the 20th century,” he explained. “I wanted to be an agent of change, so I modernized the rules that needed to be modernized.”
It was Hazzard who implemented the rule where fallen mouthpieces must be reinserted in the fighter’s mouth at the first break in action, rather than wait until the end of the round. When the HIV virus became a health scare, he forced corner men to wear rubber gloves in the state of New Jersey. He also brought about the unified rules that HBO viewers hear Harold Lederman talk about during broadcasts.
In 2007, Hazzard introduced the use of instant replay to correct the errors of referees. For such a hard-nosed, seemingly old fashioned guy, Hazzard’s head was not mired in conformity or tradition. He was more than willing to not only institute what he deemed to be much-needed changes, but also to embrace them for what he perceived to be the greater good.
One disturbing incident that took place under his stewardship still rattles him, and is something he thinks about on a regular basis. In November 1999, junior middleweight Stephan Johnson died from injuries incurred in a bout with Paul Vaden in Atlantic City. It was later determined that a medical document showing bleeding on Johnson’s brain was not brought to Hazzard’s attention prior to the fight.
“If it had been showed to me, he wouldn’t have fought,” said Hazzard. “I always prayed to God that during my watch no fighter would lose his life. He was the only one in over 20 years.”
Hazzard sued the New Jersey state attorney general in early 2008, claiming he was fired from his position the previous November for exposing the errors of subordinates, including the person he still believes to be responsible for Johnson’s death. Hazzard claims that he regularly told state officials about health and safety errors, but that his admonitions were ignored.
“Politics being politics, they chose not to listen,” said Hazzard. “The guy I hold accountable for that death was the guy I was trying to get rid of when I got fired.”
While speaking with Hazzard, I couldn’t help but ask him about an incident I had personally witnessed about 15 years earlier. While in the dressing room of an out-of-town opponent who was fighting a local attraction in the main event at a north Jersey venue, Hazzard appeared overly confrontational as he dressed down the manager, a soft, doughy Midwesterner.
When I asked him about it, he addressed the issue like he does all others: head-on and without the slightest bit of equivocation.
“I don’t specifically remember the incident you’re talking about, but it sounds like me,” he explained. “I’m very passionate about the sport of boxing, and I can be quite fiery. This is a tough sport, with tough people. You’re not dealing with choir boys. You got hustlers of every stripe in this game, and you got to meet fire with fire or you’ll be eaten alive.
“Most of the guys you deal with on a daily basis are clever and articulate, and they’ll sense any weakness in you,” he continued. “You have to exude a certain toughness to be successful. It sends a message to everyone that you’re in charge, that you won’t be walked over. I don’t mean to be abrasive, but if you get in my face, I’ll get in yours. Sometimes you got to be aggressive to get your point across.
“Anyone I have ever offended, I hope they know it wasn’t personal. It was business. I’m sincere, and I say what I mean and mean what I say. The biggest compliment of all is that a lot of the people I had moments with voted me into the Hall of Fame. They voted me in, I didn’t walk in. I tip my hat to them, and I want to thank them for giving me the greatest honor of my life.”
He also tips his hat to Marian Muhammad for helping him “put the crown” on his boxing education by enabling him to get an inside view of the business side of the game and for being such a good friend, and to Patricia, his beloved wife of 46 years, and their three children and seven grandchildren. They gave him all of the strength and motivation he ever needed, and his love for them grows stronger by the day.
When asked if they will join him in Canastota for induction day, I knew the answer before he even said it.
“You bet they will,” he responded. “This is big. Canastota is boxing’s Cooperstown, where I’ll share a wall with Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis. Everybody in my family will be there. That’s a requirement.”
ALL CONTENDERS FROM 147 TO 154 ARE ON KERMIT CINTRON’S HOLIDAY WISH-LIST THIS YEAR
(December 21, 2009) It’s Christmas time, but despite having a great family to share the season with, Kermit Cintron is feeling a little lonely. That’s because since his May victory over highly touted contender Alfredo Angulo, it seems as though everyone else from welterweight (where he has twice held world titles) to junior middleweight (where he pulled a convincing upset over Angulo) has forgotten about Cintron, the WBC #2, WBO #2, IBF #3 ranked contender.
To bide his time, Cintron (32-2-1, 28 KOs) fulfilled a lifelong dream by returning to his native Puerto Rico and stopping Juliano Ramos in five rounds. Now he’s back on the prowl for the biggest names and toughest challenges.
“I don’t discriminate,” said Cintron. “From 147 to 154, I feel like I can beat anyone in the world. My only two losses were to a guy who was later found to have loaded gloves. Almost no else has a track record as good as mine, and yet everyone else seems to be getting opportunities.”
Among those getting opportunities is Angulo, who was back on the HBO airwaves six months after losing to Cintron in a battle for the interim WBO junior middleweight title against untested Harry Joe Yorgey. Angulo won easily and is now planning his first title defense while Cintron sits in limbo.
“How does this make sense? I beat Angulo and he gets two more dates like it’s nothing,” asked Cintron. “Since I beat Angulo, the only fight I’ve been offered was to fight Joshua Clottey and I was already scheduled to fight down in Puerto Rico. So my DiBella Entertainment stablemate Carlos Quintana took the fight, and it ended up getting cancelled anyways.”
While Cintron is eager to fight the best from 147 to 154, it is a fight against fellow Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto that tops his wish list.
“A fight between Cotto and I makes the most sense. It’s about Puerto Rican pride,” said Cintron. “There could not be a bigger fight than me versus Cotto on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. What would make no sense would be for Cotto to give Margarito another fight.”
If a fight versus Cotto cannot happen, Cintron is willing to put to clear up any questions that remain with regard to his bout against Sergio Martinez.
“Because the Cotto fight wouldn’t happen until June, I’d like to get a rematch against Sergio Martinez. Some people disputed the draw. Look, the guy wore so much hair gel and moose, that the fumes were making me dizzy. And I still managed to put it on him on only 4 weeks’ notice. Let’s clear the air for good. With an eight week camp, I knock him out. Simple as that!”
Espino's trainer John Bray threw in the towel in the fifth, at the 1:44 mark, after his guy went down twice in the fourth and once again in the fifth.
Pavlik (35-1), for a guy who was on the shelf with a staph infection on his left hand, looked sharp and energized, though it must be acknowledged that Espino (20-2-1) is couple of grades below Bernard Hopkins, a Pavlik conqueror, and Paul Williams, who was supposed to meet the Ohioan before his hand forced him to reshuffle his deck.
Pavlik (6-2 1/2; age 27; 160 pounds) put his WBO and WBC middleweight belts up for grabs against Espino (listed at 5-11; age 29; 159 pounds).
In the first, Espino tossed as Pavlik went to touch gloves, so he set a tone from the get go. The challenger looked to do his work inside, and to the body. Pavlik got himself room, trying to use his height and reach edge. He ripped rights to the body and lefts as well in a spirited, fan friendly first. Espino threw after the bell and earned himself a hard and inappropriate shove from ref Steve Smoger. The ref took a point from Espino for that move. The Contender alum smiled as he chatted with trainer John Bray post-round. In the second, it was more toe to toe action. Smoger warned Espino for going low. There was six rounds worth of action in these first two frames. In the third, Pavlik kept on electing to throw power punches, instead of setting things up with his jab and working from the outside. Good for the fans, maybe not good strategy. A right uppercut put Espino on a knee for a nine count in the fourth. The underdog went down again, with a minute remaining, off two more right uppercuts. He was on his feet at nine again. He just barely made it to the bell. Pavlik finally realized that Espino leaned forward, head down, a perfect target for an uppercut.
In the fifth, Espino came out looking to bang. But Pavlik was too large, and too busy, and down he went again, with 1:30 left. Trainer Bray walked up the stairs and signaled to Smoger that his kid was done.
After, Pavlik said, "Paul Williams, you're not the most feared fighter, you got a guy who's standing right here in Youngstown that wants you." The middleweight admitted he was rusty, but was happy he shed rust and that his hand fell up. Espino chatted with Al Bernstein after. He thanked the fans and Pavlik for being hospitable. He said he was mad at himself that he decided to rumble after he didn't think Pavlik's power was all that. Bernstein read my mind, and asked him if he might consider dropping down a class. No, he said, his body shuts down.
In the PPV opener, the Freddie Roach-trained Vanes Martirosyan (from CA; age 23; 2004 Olympian; 25-0, with 16 KOs coming in) took on Willie Lee (from New Orleans; from age 29; 17-5 with 11 KOs; coming in) in a junior middleweight tangle. The NABF and NABO belts were on the line. The lefty Lee had trouble slipping Vanes from the start. A one-two staggered Lee two minutes in. He was a little wild looking to finish Lee, something Freddie will be looking to correct in the gym. Vanes sent Lee to the mat in the third, from a short right. Lee was up at eight but not for long. Vanes put him on his butt, and the ref saw enough. The ref screwed up, as he called for a break with the two tangled up, but didn't force Vanes to back off. He stepped right in on Lee, and blasted away, finishing off the Lousianian. The time of the ending was 2:13 of the third.
Featherweights (22-12 entering; from Colombia) Yogli Herrera and Miguel Angel Garcia (18-0 coming in) of California squared off. The favorite took care of business, and stopped Herrera in the third. A right put the loser on the mat, and he didn't beat the count. Kid's got heavy hands. He scored a knockdown off a left hook as well. Time was 2:19. It was his 16th stoppage.
Russian Matt Korobov (26; now 9-0 with 7 KOs ) notched a win. The middleweight prospect downed Ken Dunham of NC, and the lefty showed gave his fellow southy hell in the second. He was trained by Dan Birmingham and is now overseen by Kenny Adams. Dunham was cut over his left eye, from a butt, not a result of Korobov's increased ferocity. He has upped his power and Dunham didn't benefit. Matt banged to the body, and scored a knockdown in the third. Another knockdown on a deflated Dunham (6-12) forced the ref to halt the tiff.
From Sonora, Mexico, Humberto Soto (age 29; from Mexico; 49-7-2 entering; ex featherweight and super feather champ ) met Jesus "El Matador" Chavez (age 37; 44-6 coming in; ex super feather and lightweight champ; from Mexico) in a lightweight-plus tussle. Soto scored a knockdown less than a minute in on a cold Chavez. It was really a flash knockdown and Chavez bounced back to get some good stuff done. He tried to back Soto up, trap him against the ropes. He clanged to the body as Soto answered with some solid counters. His uppercuts hit home in the second. There didn't look to be an age differential, as Chavez impressed with his vigor. Chavez spun Soto and shoved him threw the ropes, onto the photographers in round five, and had a point deducted. In the sixth, Chavez dinged him low, a left hook, and Soto rolled around in agony. He got some extra time and got back to work. This was a full-on war by this time. Soto mostly worked off the ropes, and let Chavez do his ruffian thing. Chavez was a bit wobbly in the tenth, but he kept on steaming forward to the last bell. The judges handed in their cards, which read 100-87 across the board. I think Chavez deserved better, merely for his aggressiveness.
In Mexico, Panamanian Nehomar Cermeno (age 30; 19-0) met Mexican lefty Alejandro Valdez in a bantamweight bout. Valdez went down late in the 11th, and the ref halted the match. The victor Cermeno was told before the 11th that the 12th and final round was up next, and he looked to close the show. A right hand was the capper. The end time was 2:40. Cermeno came in with back to back wins against Cristian Mijares.
SPEEDBAG Ref Jimmy Villers collapsed, apparently from a heart attack, at Beeghly and was taken to the hospital. The ref is the brother in law of Jack Loew, Pavlik's trainer. He was in stable condition and alert at a local hospital.
Friday Dec. 18, 2009, LIVE at 11 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME®
From Grand Casino Hinckley, Hinckley, Minn.
HINCKLEY, Minn. (Dec. 18, 2009) – While weather on the East Coast wreaked havoc on travel and holiday plans, there were clear skies and the stars were out on ShoBox: The New Generation in Hinckley, Minn. Friday night when Fernando Guerrero, Shawn Porter and Lanard Lane all remained undefeated with impressive knockouts, each in less than four rounds.
“These guys are future stars,” said ShoBox: The New Generation expert analyst Steve Farhood, of Guerrero and Porter, who are now 17-0 (14 KOs) and 12-0 (10 KOs), respectively. “Not only are they fun to watch, but I think they have star potential outside the ring as well. They have pleasing personalities, good smiles, they’re good-looking guys, they speak well. I think the American middleweight scene for 2010-2011 is in good hands.”
The crowd-pleasing triple feature, promoted by DiBella Entertainment, took place in front of a sellout crowd at Grand Casino Hinckley in Hinckley, Minn. It aired LIVE on SHOWTIME at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
Guerrero, of Salisbury, Md. – by way of the Dominican Republic – took down Jessie Nicklow (19-2-2, 7 KOs) of Baltimore in a four-round middleweight bout; Porter, of Akron, Ohio, bested Jamar Patterson (8-1, 8 KOs), of Utica, N.Y., in their jr. middleweight fight, also in four rounds; and in the night’s opening welterweight bout, Lane (10-0, 7 KOs) took down Said El Harrak (8-1, 3 KOs) of Henderson, Nev. – by way of England – in just two rounds.
In the main event, Guerrero and Nicklow were touted as cross-town rivals – the Baltimore fighters had fought each other five times as amateurs, Guerrero holding the edge, 3-2. Guerrero, however, quickly put any notion of a rivalry to rest. In the second round, the charismatic Dominican transplant landed multiple solid punches that had slowed down “The Beast” Nicklow and put him back on his heels.
“I knew I had him as soon as the third round, when he started moving for no reason,” Guerrero said. “He wasn’t giving me those quick movements, so I knew I had hurt him with a punch. That’s when I knew that I had to go for the attack.”
Attack he did. In the fourth round, Guerrero knocked Nicklow down, and as soon as he was back up, slugged away again. Punch drunk but staying with it until the referee called it at 2 minutes, 9 seconds, Nicklow proved true to his nickname.
“He’s got the heart of a beast,” Guerrero said.
As for that cross-town rivalry, that might be KOed too.
“Guerrero had every advantage,” Farhood said. “He was bigger, he was stronger, he was faster, he hit harder. Nicklow’s heart was the only reason that fight lasted as long as it did.”
In the second co-feature, Porter faced Patterson, who was 8-0 with eight KOs but had only one fight under his belt in the past three and a half years. Despite the layoff, Patterson came out sharp in the first round.
Right at the bell, Porter charged Patterson, showing his speed in attempting to set up big right hooks.
“Early off, he was on point, he was fast, he was quick enough to slip out of the way of those shots or ready to defend them,” Porter said of Patterson.
But as Porter broke Patterson down, he faded, and so did his ability to elude Porter’s attack. By the beginning of the fourth round, the end appeared near.
“I looked him in the eyes, and I just knew that he really wasn’t ready,” Porter said. “When I went to go back at him, he was coming out a little slow, so I knew the first thing he would do is throw his hands up, so I threw in some quick straight shots to set up that hook, and I knew the hook would be the one to get him. I doubled up on the end of it, and I caught him with both of them real clean.”
One clean knockdown and a few punches later, it was over, 1 minute, 51 seconds into the fourth.
“It was a great fight,” Porter said. “I was well prepared.”
In the first co-feature of the night, Houston Firefighter Lane certainly didn’t milk his SHOWTIME debut. He quickly knocked El Harrak down twice in the first round.
“He couldn’t take the power of my right hand, and I saw how slow he was,” Lane said.
Fortunate to get out of the first round, El Harrak came back out in the second with a heavily swollen eye, and Lane finished him off. It was called at 1 minute, 38 seconds, much to the dismay of the El Harrak camp – and a vocal Grand Casino Hinckley crowd.
“They shouldn’t have stopped the fight,” said Mike Criscio, El Harrak’s manager, after El Harrak declined to comment. “They said because of his eye, and I said, ‘OK, but you’re not a doctor.’ You bring him to the doctor and say, ‘Can the fight go on?’ The guy can see. His eye’s not closed.”
“They should’ve called it in the first round,” Lane said. “The first time he got dropped, he didn’t even know where he was.
“That was my first ever live show. People are going to get to know me.”
As for the Houston firehouse where Lane works full time while still boxing professionally, “They’re loving it. They’re cheering up and down right now hoping they don’t catch a call. They’re probably going to watch and re-watch it over and over again.”
Friday’s stirring bouts will re-air as follows:
Thursday, Dec. 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT SHOWTIME 2
They’ll also be available On Demand from Dec. 21, 2009 - Jan. 17, 2010.
Al Bernstein called the action from ringside with Farhood and Antonio Tarver serving as expert analysts. The executive producer of ShoBox: The New Generation is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.