The 49th Round

Following our story a couple of weeks ago about the International Boxing Union (IBU), in which we relayed that Don “Moose” Lewis, president of the organization, was looking to sell out to the highest bidder, a revelation took place – one that will undoubtedly send shockwaves through the corridors of power throughout the sport.

Offers for the fledgling sanctioning body have been put on hold – for now. The Moose is loose – and he's wreaking havoc on all those so-called “champions” his group has been placating thus far.

OPERATION CLEANUP has learned, through reliable sources, that not only have two of the IBU's titleholders – Peter Manfredo and Adnan Serin – been stripped by the organization, but there will be more strippings to come, which may spell bad news for Ray Oliveira, Gary Balletto, and others. It is the first step in upgrading the IBU championships to a point where they can be world-class, ready to compete with the likes of the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO, for the attention of the television networks – HBO in particular – which, judging from its insistence on the inclusion of an alphabet title match on Lou DiBella's recent “Monday Night Fights” pay-per-view telecast, appear ready to re-embrace sanctioning bodies as a “necessary evil”.

Lewis is dead serious, indicating that even vacant titles may be stripped, as he is determined to cut a swath through his organixation.

Evidently, the heavyweight crown was taken from the estimable Serin because of failure to meet the mandatory obligation to defend his title. As a result of his unwillingness to meet this obligation, chaos ensued. Jeremy Williams, the #1 contender, was waiting in the wings so long for his championship opportunity that he was forced to take a fight with Alfred Cole (remember him?), which resulted in a ten-round draw in January. Second-rated Ray Mercer hasn't won a fight in over a year, and was waiting, waiting, and waiting, to the point where he has taken a fight with Robert Wiggins just to stay active.

Derek Bryant, the #4 contender, also had to wait, and as a result lost a decision last night to Erick Kirkland. The same problem forced Charles Shufford, the 6th-ranked challenger, into a fight with Lawrence Clay-Bey, which he lost as well. Maurice Harris, who was rated fifth, had to take a bout with Fres Oquendo which yielded much less of a financial opportunity than a prospective bout with Serin, and was knocked out in controversial fashion. Rob Calloway, another top ten contender, lost to Audley Harrison in England. And Corrie Sanders, who was rated #3 on the most recent heavyweight list, had to take a step down to fight Wladimir Klitschko, which resulted in his winning the lightly-regarded WBO belt, although he would have much preferred to challenge Serin. This would present a major problem, except for the fact that Lewis doesn't recall whether he had placed CORRIE Sanders, the South African, or COREY Sanders, the Washington DC native, in his heavyweight ratings.

You can see what kind of confusion this can create across the heavyweight landscape.

Obviously, Lewis wants to avoid this in the future. And he would like to make it clear that despite the name his organization carries, he is not getting into the “boxers' union” business, as groups such as the Boxers Organizing Committee and F.I.S.T. are involved in. But his concept would benefit fighters, for sure.

Ultimately, the goal is to have the two best fighters in each division – without exception – box off for a series of IBU championships, in a series packaged for television, at which point networks would be invited to bid on the series in its entirety. We salute him in this effort.

And because of that, we at TOTAL ACTION may commit our own resources to make the Moose's vision come to fruition.

Growth in the industry – the right kind of growth, that is – has always been our objective, despite what some nay-sayers may contend. That is why the worldwide “Experts Poll”, which we detailed in the Chapter 74 of OPERATION CLEANUP and which will be going into effect this coming month, is strongly considering throwing its complete support behind the efforts of Lewis to clean up his own organization, and the entire sport.

And here's the best part – all of the sanctioning fees generated by this relationship will be donated to charity. Lewis (who is no relation to Lennox) has earmarked one in particular – Children's Health Care of Atlanta.

In the context of the overall issue we address here – which is, after all, reforming boxing and making it a better place to do business – this has to be considered a major step forward, certainly one that will please John McCain, Teddy Atlas, Greg Sirb, and everyone else who seems to be just as committed. My only hope is that all of you who are sincere about making improvements to the “sweet science” get behind these efforts, not just with your moral support, but financially as well. Please send your contributions to the IBU's corporate offices at: P.O. Box 550087, Atlanta, GA 30355.

No contribution is too small, as funds are needed to update the IBU website.

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.