With April Fool’s Day just around the corner, it was tempting to wait writing my weekly column until that hallowed celebration arrived. I usually try to come up with something in order to observe one of the few holidays which mean anything to me. But this year will be different.
In boxing these days, there is really no need to invent some farfetched and humorous tale. All you have to do is look at many of the recent media releases and news stories to find some gems wackier than most grade-A comic writers could ever imagine.
The problem, of course, is that these are real stories involving real people, and not lighthearted concoctions designed to entertain audiences. In what other category than comedy that places them varies, but they all share a common thread of madness among them.
The official benedictions from the World Boxing Council always provide an amusing way to start. This is the alphabet soup sanctioning body which is supposed to be the most respected, or least disrespected, of the three or four major ones in the world.
Imagine trumpets blaring as a herald wearing knickers and a funny hat unfurls a rolled parchment document and announces the latest proclamation from HRH Jose Sulaiman, President of the WBC.
Dated March 27, 2006, it states, “WBC super lightweight world champion Floyd Mayweather has relinquished the title and is moving up in weight to fight for the welterweight title of another organization.”
This is only about two months after Mayweather’s fight with Zab Judah was announced, and four months after Mayweather had actually moved up in weight to welterweight, defeating Sharmba Mitchell by a sixth-round TKO last November. (By the way, also guilty of a similar delay is The Ring, whose latest posted rankings, dated March 19, 2006, still have Mayweather at 140, like they had to keep him there because he still held an alphabet belt at that weight.)
Would it kill the WBC to specify the name of “another organization” whose title Mayweather is trying to wrest from Judah? More importantly, while most of the boxing media do not recognize Judah as holding any legitimate welterweight titles after his Jan. 7 unanimous decision loss to Carlos Baldomir, apparently the WBC still does, since its cryptic statement refers to this as “the welterweight title of another organization.” There is no Mafia, all the rival families agree.
The statement closes, “Mayweather has stated that he expects to win the welterweight title, and right after that to come back to the WBC to fight for its welterweight world championship.” Catch the distinction between “the welterweight title,” meaning the IBF version held by Judah, and the “welterweight world championship,” meaning the WBC version won by Baldomir? World championships are in the eye of the sanctioning fee collectors. Just try explaining this to a casual fan over a beer somewhere. You’ll probably be heeded about as much as George Bush is on 125th Street – or most American streets these days.
To replace Mayweather, the WBC commands, “For this reason, the World Boxing Council is declaring the world super lightweight title vacant and ordering No. 1 ranked Junior Witter of Great Britain to face No. 2 ranked DeMarcus Corley of the United States for the vacant title.”
And what did these two do to earn this anointment?
Corley’s last fight was on Sept. 17, 2005, when he won by ninth-round TKO in Kinder, LA, over Johnny Walker, then with a robust record of 18 wins and only 17 defeats. Before that Corley fought at welterweight, winning an eight-round unanimous decision over one Kevin Carter, then with a record of 9 wins, only 45 defeats, and 1 draw, on July 29, 2005, in North Charleston, SC. And before that, he lost three of his previous four fights, albeit all to the top fighters Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Zab Judah.
Witter actually has a legit claim to getting a title shot. (Or is it a world championship shot?) After a 2000 loss to Judah in an IBF title fight, his only defeat, Witter, now 33-1-2 with 19 KOs, has won his next 18 fights. He already beat Lovemore N'dou back on Feb. 19, 2005, by unanimous decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in a bout billed as a WBC title eliminator. He followed that up with decision wins over Andreas Kotelnik, then 24-1, and Colin Lynes, then 26-1, but now is slated to face Giuseppe Lauri (40-4) on April 28 in Varese, Italy. If that fight still comes off, it will be about a year and a half after his “title eliminator” by the time he gets to fight for that title, belt, championship, whatever.
This isn’t even close to being as bad as the WBC even letting James “Buster” Toney fight for its heavyweight title against Hasim Rahman March 18. Remember that after his April 2005 WBA heavyweight title fight with John Ruiz, originally won by Toney, his positive doping test not only cost him that victory and title, but also made him ineligible for fighting for any WBA belt for two years.
How can there not be reciprocity among the alphabet soup bodies for such a punishment? Can you imagine a major league baseball player being suspended in the American League but allowed to play in the National League? Even that steroid-infested sport has some type of central authority, as weak, hypocritical, and ineffective as it is.
Rahman-Toney ended up as a majority draw. If Toney was more active in the final round and had won it on the scorecards of the two judges who had the fight a draw, he would have won the bout by split decision and thus been crowned the WBC heavyweight champion, while still being barred, and for good reason, from holding any WBA title. It’s funny, or perhaps sad, how so few journalists pointed this out.
The camp of now-former WBA champ John Ruiz used the occasion of this WBC title fiasco to issue a press release on March 21 which pointed out “Toney’s listless performance” in this fight. Ruiz, who is suing Toney because of his doping before their fight, was quoted as saying, “He didn’t have the same energy he did against me, but that’s what steroids do. Toney had a lot of energy right through the last round in our fight. If I fought that Toney (last Saturday versus Rahman), I guarantee it would have been a completely different fight. He had to cheat to beat me.”
Maybe, maybe not, but the Team Ruiz statement did add, “Since his fight against Toney, Ruiz has called for boxing organizations to improve their standards, testing protocols and penalties to prevent and deter the use of anabolic steroids and other banned performance enhancing substances.”
Since that fight we have not received one report of so much as one of these commissions doing anything which Ruiz suggested. Instead, we had Toney, barred from holding one group’s title because of his cheating, fighting for and coming within one point of holding another group’s title.
It only gets worse, this perusal of the news from what looks more like sour alchemy than the name of this website.
A March 23 Associated Press story on the death of boxer Kevin Payne, who died March 19 the day after winning a bout in Evansville, Indiana, quotes Frances Kelly, executive director of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees boxing in that state, as saying that Payne “may have had a pre-existing brain injury.” (http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/sports/14168636.htm)
Kelly is also quoted as saying, “From the commission’s perspective, it appears like everything was conducted properly in terms of rules and regulations.”
These statements may not be as contradictory as they may seem at first glance.
According to information posted on the official web site of the Association of Boxing Commissions (http://www.abcboxing.com), all Indiana requires before a fight are a complete physical exam, a negative HIV test, and a pregnancy test.
NOT required, as they list them, are:
EKG (Heart Test)
EEG (Brain Wave Test)
Dilated Eye Exam (Eye Test)
CT Scan (Brain X-Ray)
MRI (Brain X-Ray)
Neurological Exam (By Neurologist)
Stress Test (Heart) 2D Echo (Heart)
Negative Hepatitis BsAg (Hepatitis B Test)
Negative Hepatitis CAb (Hepatitis C Test)
CBC (Blood Count)
PT/PTT (Blood Clotting Test)
TB Test (Tuberculosis)
Neuropsychological Exam (Neurologic Test)
Without a CT scan and/or MRI, how can any physician or commission member know whether a fighter has a “pre-existing brain injury” or not? By seeing them drop dead after winning a fight in which the video, as in this one, reportedly “did not show any devastating blows to Payne's head”? Is that what they must wait for?
So find somewhere else for April Fool’s Day pranks. The madness is quite real here, and will not end when the clock turns midnight to start April 2.