June, 1999
Hank Kaplan
Michael DeLisa
Thomas Gerbasi
Ed Vance
Hank Kaplan, Tracy Callis, Matt Tegen
BoxngRules, Chris Bushnell, Adrian Cusack, DscribeDC, Francis Walker, Dave Iamele, Phrank Da Slugger, Pusboil
Enrique Encinosa, Randy Gordon, Pedro Fernandez, Joe Koizumi, Mike Moscone, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Jim Trunzo, Barry Lindenman, Katherine Dunn, Pete Ehrmann

Editorial: Rinsing Off The Mouthpiece

By GorDoom


The 90's will be remembered for three hyper-modern, Shakespearian tragedies: Bill Clinton, OJ Simpson & Mike Tyson. As we careen down the home stretch of the 20th Century, these three figures have redefined the meaning of self destruction.

    Since it be boxing we talk in this publication, it is the enigma that is Leg-Iron Mike Tyson, that we will discuss:  A  man who is many different things to different people, but one thing is certain: He has been the single biggest sports attraction in history... & to this day he unfortunately remains so.

1601167P_Tyson_v_Holyfield.jpg (33106 bytes)   Leg-Iron Mike has been released from his latest incarceration & the media flacks are gonna try to convince us that Leg-Iron is not only the heavyweight champion of the United States Penal System - but that he also has a divine right to reclaim the heavyweight championship of boxing...

   Yeah, well... Believe that & you'll also believe Dan Quayle is a Rhodes Scholar... Ol' Leg-Iron is only headed for the last show down at the Planned Obsolecense corral.

   So is Evander Holyfield. When he fights Lennox Lewis again, the results won't be much different & the self righteous b.s. will flow like the River Jordan from the "Commander's" bloody, swollen, lips, once again...

   After the Lewis fight, Evander should have stepped up to the plate & admitted he had a bad night & got lucky with the judges. Instead, we got more pious, self serving crap, about how The Lord  really meant he'd knock out
Lewis in the third round of their rematch.

   Yeah. Right ...

   Has anybody noticed that nobody ever loses anymore? It seems like no team, athlete or boxer ever just simply loses a match ... There's always some excuse: hidden injuries, bad refs, the coach/manager/trainer doesn't understand me, room service sent up the wrong damn breakfast...

   That's why it was so amazing too hear Ivan Robinson say after his loss to Angel Manfredy, "I lost to the better man tonight. I'll be back".

   The simple dignity of that statement spoke volumes about what kind of man Ivan Robinson is... He may not be the greatest fighter in the world, but the Ol' Spit Bucket has more respect for him than Leg-Iron & Holy Moley combined ...


   Floyd Mayweather impresses the Bucket less with each outing. Don't get me wrong, young Floyd is a very speedy, highly skilled boxer, but he's way over-hyped. Since his fight with Manfredy, he's looked rather ordinary
against some mediocre opposition. It makes me wonder about Genaro Hernandez & Angel Manfredy... How could Mayweather look so brilliant in overwhelming supposedly world class comp & so pedestrian against his less  stellar opposition?

    The Bucket would really like to see young Floyd take a good whack on the mandible. That has always been the genetic flaw of the Mayweather clan .... The talk of throwing Floyd in against Shane Mosely is sheer insanity.

   Young Floyd would be vaporized...

   A fight with far more interest for me would be Mayweather vs. Prince Hamed. Physically they match up much better than Floyd & Shane & the theater of the absurd that they would create with their antics, trash talking & super nova egos; would be priceless.

   The innate speed & reflexes that they both possess would result in the fastest fight ever fought - the difference would be Hamed's power & chin. Floyd doesn't have any power & his ability to take a punch has yet to be determined ... My money is on Hamed by mid-to late rounds stoppage.

    The carrion stench emanating from the IBF & Don King has finally brought the cawing federal buzzards home too roost... This morning the FBI apparently raided & sealed the offices of both the IBF & DK. It is hoped that the repercussions of this investigation will change the barren landscape that is modern boxing.

    If the IBF & King go down, the WBC & WBA are in deep doo-doo. They won't be able to do that nefarious voodoo that they do so well - once the media glare really focuses on DK & the IBF, the media's voracious appetite for scape goats will eventually focus on the WBA & WBC.
   I can just imagine that corpulent rhino, WBC Boss Hog, Jose Sulaiman, hunkered down in some plush but garishly tacky bunker; rabidly spinning like a dervish between his banks of telephones & fax machines, cursing & sweating chimichangas   as he tries to implement some damage control before the media hounds & lawyers tear him a new A-hole big enough to ram Don King's ego through...

   Ah... But I digress, as pleasant as fantasies about the fall of   boxing's corrupt, monolithic, establishment may be, the reality is that business of boxing reeks & money talks. The more it might seem that the sweet science might change - those changes will eventually turn out to be merely cosmetic.

   Don King is no better or worse than, Bob Arum, The Duvas or Kushner. They're all fat, greedy fucks, out to make a buck no matter who they might trample. But isn't that the way of Corporate America? Hell, being an
unfulfilled piranha  is the American way - just ask Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich. In today's culture, being an avaricious, self serving vulture is down right patriotic.

   Only in America...


   Moving on to other (hopefully) more pleasant topics ...   We are constantly being queried about fistic matters. Two of the questions that come up most often are: When is such & such fight gonna be on TV?  & do you know
where I can get a video tape of such & such fight?

   Well dear readers, the Ol' Spit Bucket has the on line answer to those burning questions:
http://www.squaredcircle.com/fighttv is one of the coolest sites out there. It breaks down the USA by time zones & gives you all the boxing related shows & their times & network  for each week.

    They don't just give you the fights on TV, they have info on any talk show, boxing movie or TV appearance by any major boxing figure that week. This is a way cool sight that the Bucket checks out on a weekly basis.

   http://members.tripod.com/~boxingvideos/ringwars.html   is another excellent site. If you're a boxing video junkie (& Lord save me, but I always need another fix!), this is a very hip site. It is easy to navigate & has an extensive video library of fistiana.

   Definitely one to check out.

   As long as I'm plugging boxing web sites, I might as well continue... First off, the CBZ doesn't look at other sites as competition. We are all on line for the same reason: We love boxing & want to get the word out ....
    http://www.boxmag.com/  Ring magazine writer & good friend of the CBZ, Jim Trunzo, has a  terrific site featuring interactive boxing games & articles by a fine staff of writers .                                         

    http://www.boxingmania.com/   Is another excellent site with daily updates.
   There's also a brand new Gene Tunney site at: http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/1wepg.htm   This site contains everything you need to know about the vastly underrated Tunney ...

   In future editorials I will be spot lighting some more sites for our readers to peruse.


    Another subject that should be addressed is the constant flow of e-mails requesting  really obscure & recondite information. A lot of these posts have been from family members of former fighters who don't have much info about their careers. It has been very gratifying  helping out these families.

    Among the many people we have helped have been the families of such diverse fighters as, Jackie "Kid" Berg, Barney Ross, Benny Bass, King Tut, Abe Attell, Jess Willard & many, many, others.

    What people have to understand is that we are overwhelmed with requests for info. We diligently attempt to answer each one, but please be patient, a lot of this information takes a long time to dig up...

    Some of these requests are truly absurd. One of my favorites was from a guy in Wisconsin, who wrote that his girlfriend had been a ring card girl in a fight in Milwaukee in 1972 or was it in '73 or '74? He didn't even know who was fighting but somebody took a picture of his girlfriend which was published in a newspaper; though
he wasn't sure which one! Anyway, he demanded (!) that I find him said picture .... Is it just me, or was this guy out of his freakin' mind???

   Anyway, please people, use some common sense before you submit your requests ... Also, a simple please or thank you is all we require as payment for our services ....


   Well that's about all the ranting for this month ... Hope everyone enjoys the new issue. Before I sign off I would like to mention the addition of two talented young writers to our staff, Henry Martinez & Alan Taylor. I know you will enjoy their views of the Sweet Science.

   Last, but certainly not least, I'm happy to announce that the one & only Joe Bruno is back. JB, a former VP of the Boxing Writers Association, is one of the most controversial boxing writers I've ever read. He is not a man who minces words or parses opinions...

   Joe & The Ol' Spit Bucket are both cantankerous sob's & we had a falling out over some boxing issues that we both felt very strongly about - as in disagreed vehemently. But time passes & life is too short & I like the crusty
sum'bitch. Besides, Joe, while he may piss some people off, is a standup guy & always writes the truth as he sees it.

   So that's all folks & keep those e-mail's comin'


Prince Naseem Hamed

Boxing's Newest Superstar Is Also Its Most Misunderstood0202237P_NASEEM_HAMED_V__0B73O.jpg (13983 bytes)

By George Azar

The international press corps is massed three deep outside the entrance of Ballys Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. British photographers jostle German television crews, who push Argentinean cameramen against Arab TV personalities and American newspaper writers. At 1 p.m. a white limousine pulls up and I press against the outer fringes of the crowd, craning to see the most unlikely hero in modern sport.

Under the harsh glare of klieg lights a car door swings open and from it emerges a diminutive British-born Yemeni, wearing a grin as wide as the Persian Gulf. Prince Naseem Hamed, the hip-hop generation's undefeated featherweight champion of the world, professional sport's first Arab superstar and boxing's most charismatic personality since Muhammad Ali has landed on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Over the last two years, Hamed (or Naz) has electrified the fight game. He is Ali, Jack Dempsey and the Spice Girls rolled into one. A preening, bombastic terminator, Naz is at once the most wildly unorthodox fighter since the introduction of the Queensbury rules, the greatest showman in decades, and the most feared puncher in the history of the featherweight division.

In the ring he violates every boxing convention, or as HBO analyst Jim Lampley put it, ``Naseem not only breaks all the rules of textbook boxing, he looks as though he hasn't even looked at the table of contents.'' Yet his one-punch KO of challenger Paul Ingle last month brought his professional record to 32-0, with 29 knock-outs, which translates to a phenomenal 90% KO rate. The electric rave party atmosphere of his matches has drawn legions of new fans to the sport. And though he is far and away the most highly paid featherweight in boxing history, he is, with the exception of Mike Tyson, the most criticized prizefighter in the world as well.

The press envelops Hamed, who grinning, hoists his World Boxing Organization championship belt onto his shoulder and saunters into the casino as though he were on a Sunday stroll in his home town of Sheffield, England. Behind, in front and to all sides, news crews follow him onto the casino floor, where the brogue of Naseem's Irish trainer Brendan Ingle barks through a megaphone,

``The star of tomorrow is here today at Ballys! The one and only Arabian knight. . . . Don't blink or you'll miss it!''

Hundreds of elderly heads seem to jerk up from their slot machines at the same time. Remarkably, for a moment even gambling seems to come to a halt.

As Naz surveys the casino floor he declares to the rows of television cameras, ``I'm holding up these three fingers cause, he's going in three rounds. I'm not going to be out there messin' Around. I'm in there to dominate the fight.''

In the middle of his filibuster Hamed catches sight of me and holds up his palm to slap a high five. I lean over a TV crew and swat his hand. At the instant of contact Naz snatches my palm, pulls me up and over the top of several journalists and whispers in my ear.

And what did the man savaged by the Anglo-American press as boxing's number one narcissist want to say out of earshot of the news media?

`I'm glad you're here. How's your baby?''


Every ethnic group needs heroes. When I was growing up in South Philadelphia's century-old Arab community, my father bragged, ``Did you know that Danny Thomas is Lebanese?'' Later it was, ``Do you know that Dr. DeBakey [the pioneering heart surgeon] is Lebanese?'' After that it was, ``Did you know that Ralph Nader is Lebanese?''

Now, my old neighborhood, centered on 10th Street between Washington Avenue and Wharton Street, is the mythic home of Rocky Balboa, and with no disrespect to Danny Thomas, Ralph Nader or Michael DeBakey, they were never the sort of guys you could hang your emotional hat on. For me and a million other Arab American boys who've grown sick of watching Indiana Jones, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris pummel generations of Hollywood Arab caricatures, Prince Naseem Hamed is someone we have been waiting for all our lives.

I first heard of him in 1995, in an obscure reference on an internet bulletin board. I had no idea what the fuss was, but clearly an international debate was raging between Naz's British partisans, who proclaimed him as one of history's greatest boxers, and what seemed like legions of American skeptics who forecasted that the argument would end the day Hamed ran up against a serious American fighter.

Hamed's debut on American television took place on June 8, 1996, against undefeated American challenger Daniel Alicea, a tough young Puerto Rican from New York City.

I made sure to watch.

Naseem entered through clouds of white smoke, born aloft on a throne carried by four huge men, his fans cheering like spectators at a rock concert. With a look of smug bemusement, he dismounted, grasped the top rope of the boxing ring, shook his buttocks at the crowd, and somersaulted over the rope into the ring. (One of my friends told me he was so disgusted by the circus act that he felt like ``reaching through the TV and punching the little s.o.b. myself.'')

By the middle of round one I was convinced that, despite his uncanny speed, reflexes and flexibility, not only was Hamed no legend, he was without a doubt the worst professional fighter I'd ever seen. Naseem did everything wrong. He held his hands at his waist, threw punches after getting a running start, turned his back on his opponent, leaped off his feet, and played to the crowd. Alicea, was unamused. He stalked the little Prince and fired textbook-perfect punches with bad intentions. Near the end of the first round, he caught Naseem with a clean shot and deposited him on the seat of his pants. Naz was down for the first time in his career. As the bell ended the round, I thought, ``Ah well, too bad.''

When the bell sounded for Round 2, Hamed roared out and beat Alicea from pillar to post, before knocking him unconscious with a single thunderous shot.

I had to meet this guy.


I arrive in downtown London at midnight and go to an ATM to obtain British pounds. During my transaction a West Indian beggar approaches for a handout. ``OK, but first, tell me if you've heard of someone named Naseem Hamed.'' Looking at his feet he says, ``Yea, course I've heard of him.'' ``And what do you think? Is he a bum?'' A change comes over the man. Straightening himself, he says, with an earnest smile, ``No, mon! He's the business. The Prince is the business!''

According to legend, Naseem was discovered at age 6, fighting off three large English boys in a Sheffield schoolyard. Watching from the second tier of a double decker bus, Irish boxing trainer Brendan Ingle was amazed to see the older boys couldn't lay a hand on the tiny Yemeni.

Several weeks later Ingle happened to walk into a corner grocery shop and recognized the boy emerging from behind the counter. It was young Naseem, who, with Ingle's tutelage, would redefine British boxing.

Naseem, whose name means gentle breeze in Arabic, was born in 1974 in Wincobank, a tough section of Sheffield, to Yemeni corner grocers Sal and Caria Hamed. The Hameds were the first Arab family to settle in the area, which was a hotbed for Britain's racist National Front Party. Hamed's older brother and business manager, Riath, recalls the family’s shop windows being smashed. "They'd sing, ‘Ding, dong, the bells are flashing, we’re going Paki-bashing.’"

From London I journey North to Sheffield, where I meet Riath, for dinner. Riath Hamed, 29, is soft spoken, sophisticated and diplomatic, in many ways the antithesis of his boxer brother. The man behind the Hamed financial empire, Riath has helped to make his brother Britain's highest paid sportsman and according to Forbes Magazine, one of the 22 richest athletes in the World. Riath has brokered deals with Audi, Sony, Pepsi and Adidas grossing Naseem more money in product endorsements than Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Oscar DeLaHoya combined.

``So how do you do it?'' I ask. ``Do you have formal business training?''

`Well, not really'' Riath responds quietly. ``My only previous business experience was running the family shop.'' ``Then how do you know what to ask for?'' I wonder. ``Well,'' says Riath, ``it's really not much different than running the store. Essentially, the trick is to have them make the first offer. Then, whatever they propose, I tell them it's not enough.''

The next morning Riath picks me up in his Jaguar XJ8,which at the time is so new I don't recognize what brand of car it is. We drive to Naseem's mansion in a tony section of Sheffield. In front of his home, arranged in perfect semi-circle, are nine automobiles, each costing about the price of a comfortable family home, among them a Lamborgini, a Porsche, an Aston-Martin, a Mercedes, a Jaguar and Ferrari.

Naseem meets me at the door. In person he doesn't seem as small as 5 feet 3 inches would suggest. He walks with a strutting swagger that seems straight off the streets of South Philly . ``So, George,'' he says in his Yorkshire accent, ``I hear you've done well for yourself.'' ``We did a little checking into your background to make sure you were OK,'' Riath confides. ``We were impressed with your work on Noam Chomsky.'' I don't know whether I am more stunned that someone had been investigating my background or that a fighter's management is familiar with the M.I.T. linguist and political philosopher.

Naz asks me to sit in the kitchen, fixes tea, asks how many sugars I'd like, and in keeping with Arab custom, questions me about my life, career and family. Most startling of all, he is genuinely interested.

Unlike many athletes who project an angelic facade to the public, then go home and terrorize their families, the private Naseem Hamed is a courteous young man who, once cameras roll, becomes an pompous, preening egomaniac. An hour into our conversation I have to ask why he acts like such an jerk in public. I relate that my office mate wanted to punch him through the TV screen.

Naz roars with laughter. ``This is what I want them to think. I want people to say either, `The guy is brilliant, I want him to be a legend,' or, on the other side of the coin, `I can't wait till the cocky little bastard, the fucking arrogant little bombastic Arab gets his head knocked completely off his shoulders.' You see, if they think either two of those things, I'm very, very happy. Because if they was to come in the middle of them two things, indifferent, then I've got problems. Indifferent is not good news. I want them to either hate, or to love. But end of the day, they will realize that this kid is a living legend.''

Although his speech, acculturation and manner are thoroughly British, Hamed's deepest identification is as an Arab. In Yemen Naseem is a national hero and six postage stamps have been struck in his honor. Naz’s British braggadocio and American dance moves may draw outward attention, but it is from his Islamic beliefs that Hamed draws the inner strength that has made him world champion. Naseem regards his ability is a gift from Allah, and belief in his own destiny is the essence of his self-assurance.

Fan letters pour into Sheffield, and the Hameds allowed me to pick some at random to read. Remarkably, beyond the obvious requests for autographs and such, nearly all strike the same theme. Whether written by a convict in prison or a 14-year-old girl in her bedroom, all spoke of the powerful sense of self-belief that the Prince inspires in them. To his millions of fans, beyond the music, the dancing and the knockouts, Naseem Hamed is a study in the transformative power of super confidence. After all, if a short, skinny immigrant's son from one of Britain's most marginalized communities can reinvent himself as a boxing ``Prince,'' anything is possible.

The person largely responsible for this metamorphosis is Hamed’s former trainer Brendan Ingle. According to Ingle, his method stresses ``speed, rhythm, balance, mobility, flexibility, and agility. I tell my boxers, if you want to learn to fight, watch Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire dance.'' His fighters incorporate acrobatics, somersaults, and backflips in their training and are masters at sowing confusion in their opponents, cagily switching from an orthodox stance to southpaw and back again. Over the years Ingle has guided several prizefighters to the brink of greatness. Hamed is the first to vault over the top.

Last December, the seventeen year partnership between the "Paddy and the Prince" came to an acrimonious end. The surface reason was a dispute over finances. But more profound was the emotional rift that developed following Hamed’s ascendancy onto the world stage. Naseem had to find himself as both an adult and a world champion, and in doing so, had become estranged from the man who guided him from the schoolyard to madison square garden.

At 6 A.M. the next morning Naz picks me up in his navy blue Ferrari convertible. As I close the door he jams the accelerator. G forces throw me back into my seat as the car hits 50 mph IN 4 seconds. My eyes widen in terror as the corner stoplight flies toward us. Naz presses the brake pedal and the car comes to a smooth, safe stop. I realize, sheepishly, that these cars cost $170,000 not because they go fast, but because they also can stop fast. While we wait for the light to change, a blue truck rolls to a halt next to us. A pretty, strawberry blond English girl sitting in the passenger's seat looks over at us. Her gaze falls on Naseem. Her eyes widen, her jaw goes slack. Naseem is oblivious, grooving to Puff Daddy Combs rapping over his sound system. She reaches over, frantically tugging the driver's sleeve and pointing at Naz. When the driver leans forward, his face goes slack too. The light turns green and Naseem floors it. As we rocket toward the highway entrance, I turn and look behind to see the lorry, still sitting at the light, the driver too stunned to move.


Naseem Hamed's American debut was Dec. 19, 1997, in Madison Square Garden, against New York hero Kevin Kelley, the ``Flushing Flash.'' Kelley, a two-time world champion, had lost only once in fifty-one contests. He had never been knocked out. One way or another, questions about Hamed's credibility looked to be settled that night.

0501021P_Hamed_v_Kelley.jpg (41193 bytes)Never had so much hype been given over to a featherweight contest. Hamed arrived at JFK with 40 pieces of luggage, a huge entourage and a request to meet Cindy Crawford. A 22 foot high picture of Naseem appeared on the best placed billboard in Times Square and another larger one above the Lincoln tunnel.

Before the fight, Kelley tells the Arab hero, ``By the time I'm through with you, you'll be either driving a cab or running a Seven-Eleven.''

Following Kelly's entrance, the house lights go down. At the end of a long, bulb-lit runway, is a white curtain. As the music to "Men in Black" comes up, a thin silhouette with boxing gloves appears behind the screen, dancing like a hip-hop shadow puppet. The Prince swivels and spins, shadow boxes, freezes, and begins his groove over again. The crowd goes wild. Up in the ring, Kelly paces back and forth, muttering to himself. Naz meanwhile, continues his solo dance party. Three minutes go by. Then four. Then five. By now Kelly, apoplectic, is climbing the ropes, thrusting his fists in the air and shouting for the Prince to come down and fight. Finally, Hamed steps from behind the curtain as confetti explodes in the air, runs a few feet down the runway, then stops. The cheers mix with boos as the Prince slowly revolves his head, drinking in the scene and striking body builder poses. He makes his chest muscles ripple. HBO’s resident wise man Larry Merchant laments, "Folks, this could be the end of Western civilization as we know it." Halfway to the ring Naseem is joined by his entourage who, in dark sun glasses, black knit caps, Arab features and Yemeni flag , look like the World Trade Center bombers. By now the Garden is in pandemonium. Naz climbs the ring steps and surveys the crowd. He shakes his bootie, then somersaults into the ring, coming nose to nose with a livid Kevin Kelly. Fisticuffs nearly break out, before Kelly is restrained by his cut man.

In the early minutes of round one, Naseem's hand speed and reflexes give him an edge as he beats Kelly to the punch and backs him into the corner. Then Hamed commits a cardinal sin, pulling his head straight back to avoid a punch with his chin up in the air. Kelly explodes out of the corner, snapping back the Prince's head, sending him reeling on his heels and down to the canvas. The Garden erupts.

In round two, Naz leaps in with a punch and is caught by a Kelly blow in mid-air. After another exchange Kelly catches him again, sending him down for the second time. "We didn't know what was going to happen,"HBO's Jim Lampley shouts over the crowd's roar," but one of the things that could happen is that the Prince is exposed as a fraud!"

Over the next two and one-half rounds, Hamed and Kelly wage what many observers called the most dramatic punch-out the Garden had seen since Ali-Frazer.0901021P_Hamed_vs_Kelley.jpg (37089 bytes)

Between rounds, Kelly's corner, buoyed by success, urges him to "Hunt the Peanut!" Coming out for round four, Naz ignores Brendan's pleading,"Just don't get into a war with him!" and throws himself at Kelly, launching a pair of lighting-bolt left hands that short circuit Kelly's nervous system, starching the ‘Flushing Flash' for the only time in his career.

In his post fight interview Naz explains why he defied expectations by battling toe to toe with the larger, more muscular Kelley, ``I just wanted to fight. I showed the heart of a lion...a lion's heart.'' Then, turning to the camera he asks what is really on his mind.

``Larry, tell me...does my hair look good?''


Hamed's New York adventure, with an impressive 10.1 Nielsen rating, catapulted him to the cusp of American stardom. Naseem's second U.S. fight _ in Atlantic City against Wayne McCullough would post an astonishing 12.8, making it the most highly watched boxing broadcast of 1998. After only one year on HBO, boxing's little Arab was out drawing both heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and boxing's ``Golden Boy,'' Oscar DeLaHoya.

Still, Hamed seems unable to contain his critics, especially those in the British press who harbor a near pathological dislike for him. Never was this more apparent than in the aftermath of the McCullough contest.

Wayne the ``Pocket Rocket'' McCullough of Belfast is a former WBC bantamweight world champion and a 1992 Olympic silver medalist. McCullough, 22-1, had never been knocked to the canvas in a professional fight and had lost only once in his career.

Dancing through a mist-filled Halloween graveyard scene, Naseem entered the Atlantic City Convention Center, to Michael Jackson's ``Thriller.'' The house was packed by what seems like half of Ireland. The jeers of thousands of foot stomping McCullough partisans threatens to turn into a riot. A fight errupts behind me when Irish fans trade punches, because each thinks the other is English.

Hamed seemed oblivious to the commotion breaking out all over the arena and proceeded to give McCullough a 12 round beating. Hamed did not fulfill his prediction of a third round KO, though he did control every aspect of the fight.

Naz boxed when he wanted to box, held the center of the ring when he needed to stand his ground, jolted McCullough when he felt like trading leather and made the former bantamweight champ look the fool when he decided to showboat.

By fight's end, a stumbling McCullough, both eyes nearly swelled shut, had to be helped out of the ring. Naseem Hamed had successfully defended his title for the 11th consecutive time and handed McCullough, by far, the most lopsided loss of his career.

The following morning he awoke to find himself once again savaged by the English press. The Daily Mirror led the charge, labeling Hamed's victory a ``devastating flop.''

Part of the press' animosity may be generational. Reared on the charming roguishness of Ali, the middle-aged males that constitute Britain's media elite are genuinely put off by Hamed's surly, hip-hop sensibility. On the other hand, a black friend from Oakland who witnessed a confrontations between Hamed and the media saw the conflict as clearly racial: ``They just can't stand that Naseem doesn't act thankful to them for his success.''

Whatever his ultimate place in the pantheon of great prizefighters, for Arab-Americans, Prince Naseem will always mean something more than just boxing. Hamed is our Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. When he fights, for us it is more than a sporting event, because each time the Prince steps into that ring he takes all of us with him.

Hating Oscart1_oscar_all_01.jpg (7134 bytes)

By Thomas Gerbasi

You've been there before...

The lights, the cheers, the girls falling at your feet even faster than your vanquished opponents...

You've been a champion. Even if only in your dreams, you've been Golden.

Whether you would like to admit it or not, as a boxing fan, you've dreamt of being in the ring. You dreamed of fighting the best on a world stage. Some of us have even climbed up those four steps into the ring. But it never turns out the way you've seen it in your dreams, does it?

See, when you win your imaginary titles, you don't dream of being a defensive wizard like Willie Pep or Pernell Whitaker. And certainly no one dreams of being Tex Cobb or Chuck Wepner. Even Holyfield and Tyson don't hold much appeal anymore.

When you dream, you're Oscar De La Hoya.

And you hate him for it.

You don't look like Oscar though. You may be White, Black, or Asian. You may be Puerto Rican or Dominican. But everything else fits in place. In your fantasy boxing ring, you never lose, the ladies love you, and even when you get marked up, it's not that bad. Sound familiar?

When you dream, you may get knocked down, like Oscar hit the floor against Ike Quartey. But in true dreamlike fashion, you will roar back to beat or stop your opponent.

When the slumber camera crew scans the crowd, all signs say "We Love You (fill in the blank)"

And you've got a punch that can lay the best of them out. You've got thunder in either hand, perfect for creating drama. And what's a dream without drama?

And dreamers don't talk trash, do they? They love the camera, and the camera loves them back. And as a bonus, my dreams don't have Larry Merchant ripping me or George Foreman ranting inanely about me.

But this dream may be ending.

See this real-life Golden Boy? He doesn't fight anyone unless they're crippled or collecting social security, he's a pretty boy, and he's ducking Tito Trinidad.

Or so "they" say.

t1_duo_all_01.jpg (14975 bytes)On September 18, 1999, all bets may be off. Oscar De La Hoya may stop being an annoying figment of our imagination, and become real. He may leave the hometown judges back at the hotel and take matters into his own hands. He may lose, he may even get knocked cold. For Felix Trinidad awaits. And Trinidad is like a phone call in the middle of the night, a loud crash, or a garbage truck with a bad muffler. He'll wake you out of your dream. And you'll never get it back.

Oscar vs. Felix....We may never sleep the same again.

I don't hate you Oscar; I've just seen this story before. It's time for a new chapter.

Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno---Former vice president of the Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association

It was absolutely the worst theft in Manhattan since Peter Minute robbed the whole damn island from the Indian for 24 measly bucks. On March 13, very mediocre heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis totally dominated the terribly shot Evander Holyfield at New York's Madison Square Garden, winning at least eight rounds, but the Don King-bought judges did the unconscionable, and scored this one-sided fight a mysterious and sinister draw.

Sadly for those paying $1500 a pop at ringsides, it was terribly boring fight, and the worst possible scenario for a rematch, which, because of the chicanery perpetrated by Don King, this rematch most certainly will happen.

Judge Eugenia Williams of the United States scored the fight 115-113 for Holyfield. Stanley Christoudoulou of South Africa had it 116-113 for Lewis, and Larry O'Connell of Britain had it a 115-115- a draw. If the The British Parliament has any guts, should deport this crook O'Connell to Northern Ireland immediately.

But then suddenly I remembered.

Even though Lewis was born in England and , for obvious monetary reasons, is now aggressively promoting himself as a British fighter, Lewis in fact moved to Canada when he was 12 years old. In 1988, Lewis won the gold medal in the heavyweight division in the Olympics, not for Great Britain, but for Canada. So maybe this robbery by O'Connell was the Brit= ish version of payback for a perceived traitor.

To show how lopsided this fight really was, Lewis landed 187 jabs to 52 for Holyfield. And Lewis landed 348 out of 613 punches, while Holyfield only landed 130 out of 385.

For me it was the guy's night out at Neal's house in sunny Sarasota, Florida. Just four middle-aged men enjoying a heavyweight title fight away from the pressures of the outside world. Felix and Carlton brought the beer. I supplied the pizza, and Neal put out, as usual, a wonderful spread. Before the fight we were all brimming with anticipation, and me being Sarasota's resident boxing expert, they asked me who I tonight was going to win. I said, "If Lewis wins, that means Holyfield is totally shot."

Damn, it sucks being right all the time. But stay tuned folks, it gets even better.

The fight was a snooze form the opening bell. In the first two rounds, Holyfield through nary a punch. Lewis won those two rounds just by showing up. Could it be Holyfield had some master plan?

And then I remembered.

"Hey guys," I said as the bell rang ending round two. "Holyfield predicted a third round knockout. Maybe he's saving it all up for this next round."

Sure enough, Holyfield went back to his corner and we could hear him say with a confident smile to his cornermen, "Okay. This is the round. He's outta here."

Great. A master plan. Now let's see a fist fight.

Holyfield came out smiling at the beginning of the third round. He landed two hard rights, then he pushed Lewis back and threw furious combinations. But very few of Holyfield's punches landed cleanly. Lewis weathered the storm, and quite frankly, it was the last time Holyfield mounted anything resembling an attack all night long. The rest of the fight was so boring, we had to do all we could to stop our pal Carlton from falling asleep on Neal's couch.

Lewis biggest round was fifth when he captured Holyfield against the ropes and landed punch after punch. Holyfield wasn't firing back and it looked for a moment referee Arthur Mercante Jr. was ready to step in and stop the fight. But Holyfield weathered the storm, and that rally by Lewis, more than anything else, showed how mediocre Lewis is as a fighter. Despite being hit by Lewis' roundhouse rights and sweeping lefts, Holyfield was never really hurt. A shot fighter for sure, but Holyfield was never in danger of being knocked out.

Yet in the third round, Lewis' biggest of the fight, and nearly a two point round, a blind woman judge named Eugenia Williams from New Jersey somehow gave the fifth round to Holyfield. Later she claimed that Lewis' back was toward her during this particular flurry, and she couldn't tell if any of Lewis' punches had actually landed. In that case, maybe a seeing-eye dog for Ms. Williams is the best solution. Either that, or a pair of hand cuffs attached to a Federal Marshall.

So now the Lewis-Holyfield heavyweight snoozefest was over. All four of us middle-aged men, now slumping in our seats in Neal's living room, had Lewis way ahead, maybe by as much as six or seven points. Holyfield won at most three rounds, or if you want to be extremely generous, four rounds.

We all got up and did some stretching exercises. Carlton threw some water on his face to wake up.

And then it hit me.

"Wait guys," I said. "Holyfield is owned by Don King, and except for Felix Trinidad, Holyfield is the only big-name fighter King has got left. I wouldn't be surprised is Don King bought at least one judge. I'm telling you, it's gonna be a split decision for Lewis."

Neal looked at me like I was crazy.

"Impossible," Neal said. "There's no was anybody could ever score this fight for Holyfield."

I answered, "Neal, believe it or not, I've seen worse decisions. Floyd Patterson against Jimmy Ellis in Sweden in 1968. Patterson won 12 of 1 5 rounds, and the referee Harold Valan, the sole judge of the fight, gave the fight to Ellis."

Felix said, "Yeah, but this fight is in New York's Madison Square Garden. They'll never get away with it."

Yeah, but I know boxing. And more importantly, I know Don King.

But even skeptical little-old-me me never envisioned the British judge being the deciding factor in robbing Lewis of his rightful claim as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. This was payback for sure for Lewis, who is considered by some across the Atlantic to be the British version of Benedict Arnold.

Finally, the scorecards were read by Jimmy Lennon Jr., and the draw proclaimed. I looked around the room, and you could've fit Don King's ego right into Neal's open mouth.

Ah yes. The sweet stench of boxing smacks us right in the face again.

After the fight, the happiest man in Madison Square Garden, of course, was King, who already is pushing for what he hopes will be a very lucrative rematch. Looking for a reasonable explanation for the outrageous decision, King captured the essence of Lewis's failure to use his superior strength and punching power against an often vulnerable Holyfield.

"When you get a man hurt you're supposed to finish him," King said. "You don't play chess with him."

After the fight, Holyfield showed how hard he must've been hit by Lewis when he said. "I feel like the heavyweight champion of the world."

Asked about his failure to knock out Lewis in the third round as he had predicted as a tribute to his Christianity, Holyfield said: "I still believe in the Lord. Sometimes you think you heard something and you didn't. Maybe it's the third round the the next fight I'm supposed to knock Lewis out."

Finally, one brave man found it necessary to tell the truth about how boxing is run, especially when Don King is involved. "It looked like the judges were rigged," said Emanuel Steward, who trains Lewis and once trained Holyfield. "I hate to say it, this is the sport I make my living in. I'm ashamed of it."

"I got cheated,'' said Lewis, after the draw was announced to a chorus of boos from a crowd of 21,284 in the sold-out Garden. "It's incomprehensible that I lost. I don't even think he hit me with a jab. He looked like an old man in the ring. He hardly hit me. He looked slow to me and he missed a lot of punches. It was my time to shine and they ripped me off. I felt like I won the fight hands down."

Yeah pal. You and everyone else.

So now us four weary middle-aged fight fans shook hands and said good night. And we all vowed to be in Neal's living room again for the inevita= ble rematch, which Holyfield can't possibly win without the judges again being rigged.

P.T. Barnum was right. There is a sucker born every minute. And us pure suckers have made Don King and crooked promoters like him very rich me= n.

Only in America indeed.


Just a little side note that has a little to do with boxing.

I was abjectly disgraced by fellow paisans Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro at this year's Academy Awards. The duo who brought us the Academy Award winning boxing film "The Raging Bull" (De Niro also played sleazy lawyer/boxing promoter Harry Fabian in "The Night And The City"), drastically shrunk in stature when they accompanied disgraced Black List Informer Elia Kazan onto the stage to receive his controversial Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy. Kazan spilled his yellow guts in 1952 to a Congressional committee investigating Communist influence in Hollywood. Kazan cowardly named the names of people who along with him belonged to a pro-communist group 20 years earlier. Those people were blacklisted and never worked under their own names in Hollywood again. Some even committed suicide.

For me pal, this one was personal.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's, although we were not friendly, I grew up on Baxter Street in New York's Little Italy, just scant blocks south of Scorcese's Elizabeth Street apartment building . De Niro grew up a few blocks west and to the north in Greenwich Village. If there was we learned one thing in the old neighborhood is that you just don't tolerate rats. Even multi-talented rats like Kazan.

The true men in the audience were ones like Academy Award nominees Ed Harris and Nick Nolte, who sat on their hands during the tribute to Kazan, maybe as an alternative to giving the 89-year old canary the Italian salute.

Comedian Chris Rock said earlier in the show as he stood at the podium presenting another award, "I saw De Niro backstage. They better keep De Niro away from Kazan. We all know he hates rats."

Boy, did Chris Rock miss the boat on that one.

What's next for Bobby Ba Da Bing and Marty the Mook? A tribute to Sammy the Bull Gravano?

That one would wash in the old neighborhood like a pair of cement shoes for sure.

I've been a sports columnist for more than 20 years, but I've never read such inane drivel as that perpetrated by nationally syndiacted columnist William Raspberry in his recent column about Mike Tyson. Blaming society for creating a monster like Tyson ignores the fact that the vast majority of kids who grew up in ghettos like Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York, do not become criminals. They face the hand dealt to them head on and persevere despite the considerable obstacles. Raspberry glossed over Tyson's heinous crimes when he inexcusably said, "We take away Tyson's boxing license, give him jail time for that traffic dust-up that a lot of people thought warranted no more than a few days behind bars."

The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Tyson's boxing license for the cowardly act of biting off Evander Holyfield's ear in a Las Vegas ring. "That traffic dust-up" occurred while Tyson was on probation for the rape of Desiree Washington. Tyson punched a 130-pound, 63-year old man in the face, and kicked a 53-year old man in the groin, both after a harmless low-speed fender-bender. The subsequent jail sentence was based not only on this single event, but on Tyson's past vast propensity for violence.

Raspberry also failed to include the fact that Mike Tyson was jailed more than 30 times before he reached the age of 14, for cowardly acts such as beating up old ladies for their welfare checks. Raspberry flippantly ended his column by quipping, "It's too late to change Mike Tyson's childhood, but can't we at least give him back his medication?"

Well, Mr. Raspberry, Tyson's medication was never taken away from him in the first place by the authorities in that Maryland jail. That was a simple ploy by Tyson and his lawyers to again blame someone else for Mike Tyson's profuse anti-social behavior.

The problem here with men like Mike Tyson, Mr. Raspberry is not society's fault, but the fault of men like you who minimize a human being's ability to choose between doing right and doing wrong.

I emphatically choose to emphasize the millions of men who face this hard choice head on, and still overwhelmingly decide to do the right thing. Mr. Raspberry chooses to emphasize the reprehensible exceptions, and not the general rule.

That people, is the crux of our problems.

More Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno---Former vice president of the Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association

It's not too often that  you get a nice heart-warming story in boxing, so when you get one it's a breath of clean, fresh air. I started covering the career of middleweight Alex Ramos from the time he won four golden glove titles in New York City in the late 1970's (1977-80). Ramos was on the USA Boxing Team from 1978-80, but when
then-president Jimmy Carter decided to play political hardball with Russia and boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Ramos was denied his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. (Tony Ayala, Bernard Taylor, Mitch Green, Tony Tucker, Johnny Bumphus and Davey Moore were also on the 1980 Olympic Team). Ramos' amateur record was 189 wins, 9 losses with a whopping 132 knockouts. Ramos was a happy-go-lucky kid with an effervescent personality and one of the best left hooks in boxing. He also was burdened by an exuberant love for wine, women and song, and in boxing that is not a very good thing.With Lou Duva and Shelly Finkel as his managers, and George Benton as his trainer, Ramos was one of "Tomorrows Champions" and his pro career was
off to a booming start. In 1984 he won the USBA Middleweight Title with a unanimous decision over Curtis Parker, who at the time was the number one ranked middleweight in the world. He also beat future light heavyweight champion J.B. Williamson.

But then Ramos' boxing career started to crumble. He did win the California Middleweight title in 1986, but losses to Ted Sanders and James Kitchen, and a disputed  loss to John Collins set Ramos back.  Ramos fought
off and on the next decade, but he never displayed  the genius in the ring that he had earlier in his career. There were looses to future champions Murray Sutherland and Michael Nunn, and a loss to Jorge Castro in Argentina.
Then literally the roof caved in, and Ramos, fighting the demons of alcoholism and substance abuse, found himself homeless and penniless living on the streets. He "awoke from the darkness" as he describes it, following a dream about Joe Louis and other fighters who died penniless and humiliated. He entered rehab, and today Ramos, now only 37 years old,  fights the biggest fight of his life trying to stay clean and sober.

In 1995, Ramos founded the Retired Boxers Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping former boxers who are now down and out and looking for some dignity in what is left of their lives.  The RBF executive
director is Jacquie Richardson. Ms. Richardson has twenty years in marketing and public relations and 10 years in grant writing and fund development.

Ms. Richardson said, " I've written over $5 million in grants, so I'm very good at what I do and I'm very picky. I've been working with Alex for a little over a year now and we have made progress. We have found ways to help fighters in trouble, and a the same time, get the word out to the public on the difficulties far too many retired fighters have once they leave their glorious days in the ring. While the job seems overwhelming, it would surprise you how little an effort it takes sometime to make a real difference. We have made referrals for medical care, rehab and even had a surgical procedure donated for a fighter."

The mission  of the RBF is to assist retired professional boxers, especially those suffering from alcohol and substance abuse problems, hopelessness and the effects of pugilistic dementia (the medical term for punch drunk). Their goal is to identify and build resources that are available and accessible to retired boxers under five areas of service.
They are:
*Financial services to help boxers in critical need of financial assistance.
*Rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, personal and peer counseling, substance abuse treatment and support groups.
*Housing Services to those boxers who are homeless.
*Youth Services whereby the RBF will organize activities to assist disadvantaged youth under Kids Gloves Boxing Foundation Programs, including summer boxing camps.
*Senior Citizen Programs to provide supportive services to senior citizens, including assistance with simple daily tasks such as transportation and assistance with personal business.

Richardson and Ramos also find the time to visit with fighters who are lonely and in need of company. One such fighter is former great featherweight and junior lightweight Bobby "Schoolboy" Chacon, who is also battling substance abuse and pugilistic dementia. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Chacon can barely
remember his address,  let alone his nickname. Still, Richardson and Ramos feel that fighters like Chacon deserve better, and they socialize with Chacon often, trying to restore the former champ's spirit of self worth.

Ramos is now spending time in Orlando, Florida as the camp supervisor for his old pal Hector "Macho" Camacho. Ramos and Camacho have been friends for 27 years, both growing up, like myself, in the mean streets of New York City. Even though he is retired as a fighter, Alex still gets up a 4:15 a.m. every day to put in his roadwork. The first day Alex woke up Camacho that early, Camacho yawned, rubbed his eyes and grumbled some unhappy words. So Alex decided 6 a.m. was early enough for Camacho to begin his daily training routine.
For my 25 years in boxing, I've heard numerous people, most of them with deep pockets and short memories,  pay lip service to developing programs to assist retired boxers who are in need. Until now, only boxing historian
Irv Abramson has done a damn thing. The rest talk the talk, but only Abramson, and now Ramos and Richardson walk the walk. If you can find it in your hearts and in your pocketbooks, you can make a donation to the RBF at:
The Retired Boxers Foundation, 3359 Bryan Avenue, Simi Valley, Ca 93063. Instead of making guys like Don King rich by paying for silly fights on pay-per-view (like the now out-of-jail Mike Tyson against anyone with a
pulse), bypass your TV set and write out a check to the RBF instead. As for hurting King's feelings, let the former felon's  hair go flat if he can't take a bleeping joke.

When I first moved down to Sarasota, Fl in 1995, there was very little activity in the world of boxing. Tennis and golf yes, and football is God with the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles. But now boxing in Sarasota county is moving forward  with a vengeance with the announcement that the area will hosts the 2000 Olympic boxing trials.  The USA Boxing Eastern Trials, U.S. Olympic Team Trials and the U.S. Olympic Qualifier are scheduled for Jan. 24-29, Feb. 7-12 and March 27-April 1 at either the Venice Sports Center or another location in the area. Venice Sports Inc., in association with Top Entertainment Promotions Inc. (TEPI), outbid other venues to host these events. Exact locations won't be determined until July. TEPI and Ed Smith Stadium are negotiating the possibility of co-hosting some of the trials.

The U.S. Olympic Qualifier is the final step before the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The Games will be held from Sept. 16-Oct. 1, 2000. "We are trying to make this a West Coast of Florida event," said Randy
Shearer, whose wife Erin is vice-president of Venice Sports Inc. According to Shearer, the warm climate of Florida played a major role in attracting the events. The Olympic Trials and Qualifier will be televised live on NBC, while regional stations will air the other boxing events.

In addition to the Olympic-style events, the Venice Sports Center will host three international boxing matches titled "Slugfest by the Sea." The three boxing events are as scheduled: July 17, Team USA vs. Korea; Sept.
28, Team USA vs. Cuba; Nov. 9, Team USA vs. Puerto Rico. The Venice Sports Center, with a 5,100 seating capacity, is equipped with world-class equipment, in-house training facilities and a dining hall. Let the games begin.
In other South Florida boxing news, Sarasotian Larian "Action"  Jackson won the 100 pound, 13-14 year old Junior Olympics Division Regional Championship  May 23rd in South Carolina . His trainer Harold Wilen, owner of the Sarasota Boxing Club also trains several pro fighters including Johnny "Ghetto-blaster" Williams who lost in a bid for the WBO middleweight title against Lonnie Bradley in 1997.  Wilen's top amateur light heavyweight Slam Bam Sam Tillman is scheduled to make his pro debut in July. Light heavyweight champion Roy Jones, who is the owner and point guard for the local Gulf Coast Sun Dogs pro basketball team, also trained at Wilen's Sarasota Boxing Club in preparation for his title defense against Reggie Johnson.
Finally, former heavyweight Dave Jaco has changed careers and is now the owner of West Coast Sedan, a Sarasota limousine and car service. Jaco, who holds a win over Razor Ruddock, fought seven world champions, including Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Buster Douglas, Mike Weaver, Tony Tucker, Oliver McCall and Tommy Morrison. On Jaco's business card it is written, "Relax, Ride, Talk Boxing and Travel. Call for 2 for 1 ---- Driver and Story Teller." He forgot to mention comedian.

Power Punches

By Lee Michaels

Shall We Unite?

Unifying titles in the sport of boxing today is like sex. It’s great while it lasts. I see absolutely no reason to get excited about any unification bout, especially Holyfield-Lewis II, because it will only be a matter of time before the titles are scattered about like dust in the wind again. Fact is, each individual organization’s rankings and agendas are too far apart for unified titles to last. Mandatory challengers and huge differences in rankings are just two problems that need to be addressed before the words "unified champion" mean diddly squat to me.

This Just In...

The streak is over. Oscar de la Hoya did not become a father this month. Therefore, I will not refer to him as Oscar de la Humper as I had previously planned.

Showtime had the audacity to premiere it’s Rocky Marciano movie, which claimed to be about Rocky Marciano, along with boxing classics Rocky and Raging Bull. I’m no Siskel or Ebert, but this was the equivalent of airing Bull Durham and The Natural with Mr. Baseball, which starred Tom Selleck. What a crock of Raging Bullshit.

As if the Marciano movie wasn’t enough, Showtime followed that up with a live card that co-featured Henry Akinwande. A study just released has shown that suicide rates skyrocketed 63.6% during the bout.

Mike Tyson exited his latest jail stay weighing 285 pounds. Rumor has it that he purposely put on the weight after deciding that his new dream is to pursue Butterbean’s IBA (I’ma BigAss) SuperHeavyweight belt. Tyson’s next comeback bout will likely air on, you guessed it, Showtime - s_0607butter.jpg (5245 bytes)as a non-PPV bout.

True story - Butterbean is fighting Peter McNeeley on the undercard of the Johnny Tapia-Paulie Ayala card on June 26th. Of course, Showtime PPV is carrying the card. Hence, another reason why Don King should be shot.

Showtime Boxing - it’s faaaaaantastically awful!

Just One Question - "Why?"

Mike Tyson versus George Foreman in December? "Why?" is the question I pose to Rusty Mike. The obvious answer is money. But Foreman will be 51 years OLD (not young) by then. People need to get over the amazement of seeing an old man inside the squared circle. It’s simply not funny anymore. If Foreman were to ever face a top-notch heavyweight like Ike Ibeabuchi or David Tua, our "amazement" would turn to sheer horror.

For Tyson, fighting an old, stationary fighter will hardly gain him the respect that he so desperately seeks.

Yo Louie!

Lou Savarese will give Michael Grant fits when they meet on June 19th at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. Many people feel that Grant is the future of the heavyweight division. If you were to chose one heavyweight and pick the ideal physical makeup of a champion, Grant would be your man. But he is still raw. He still gets hit a tad too often. The key for Savarese is to be active, active, active. If Savarese comes into the bout in tip-top shape and can stay busy while avoiding Grant’s bombs, Grant may very well suffer a setback in his young career.

Keep this in mind - a young boxer like Grant does not have to lose to suffer a career setback. A strong Savarese showing along with a lackluster Grant outing may still mean a Grant victory. But, if this is the case, Grant’s climb to the top of the heavyweight ladder may have to come along at a slower pace in the future.

Prediction - Savarese takes Grant into the later rounds but suffers a late-round TKO.

USFL Revisited?

Fred Levin, attorney of Roy Jones Jr., has come up with a splendid but painfully obvious idea: get rid of boxing’s alphabet soup and replace it with one organization: the World Boxing League.

Levin’s idea is to have the league financially backed through corporate sponsorship. Unfortunately, this will only hurt boxing rather than help it.

Unless Levin can convince every boxing organization to dissolve into his organization, all this will do for the sport is further complicate it. Imagine having the WBA-C-O, IBA-C-F...you get the picture...along with the WBL, which will be trying stake its claim as boxing’s premiere league. This all adds up to two words: D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R and C-O-N-F-U-S-I-O-N, especially for fans trying to familiarize themselves with the sport and its participants.

Good Bye Roy?

Unless he can get that one shot at the heavyweight crown, Roy Jones Jr. should retire. The world’s greatest fighter has run out of time when it comes to finding opponents who will help define just how great he truly is.

One of the greatest things about the Sweet Science is that it ignites many hypothetical match-ups conjured up by its fans. In baseball, fans may debate about who was better - the ’27 Yankees or the ’75 Reds. But one thing is for sure. Baseball fans accept the fact that each team was great.a_jones.jpg (9450 bytes)

The same realizations need to be made by boxing aficionados. True, we’ll never know what Jones would have done against an in-his-prime Sugar Ray Leonard, for example.

But what we should know is that Roy Jones Jr. is one of boxing’s all-time greats, as was Leonard, who obviously benefited from his strong opposition. We should keep our eyes on Jones. He may be gone before we know it.

The Odd Couple

Here’s my two cents on Oscar versus Felix. Oscar needs to fight conservatively early, avoiding Felix’s two-fisted punching power. If Oscar can survive through the seventh or eighth round and then make it a brawl, Oscar will once again come through in the late rounds and win via knockout.

However, this is easier said than done. Oscar has made it clear he wants to be a fighter. He wants to earn the respect of the boxing world by knocking out each and every opponent.

Problem is, he’s never faced an opponent like Felix. Forget about Felix’s tendencies to go down early. If Oscar gets caught by a Felix-made bomb early on, he’ll go down too. This is why Oscar needs to box early and often to win.

My problem with Oscar is this. His enormous ring ego has taken precedence over what is truly the obvious. Oscar is the possessor of a rare commodity in boxing. He is a boxer/slugger.

Once again, the baseball analogy comes in. Take Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Larry Walker and Barry Bonds. All great baseball players. Players who happen to have the ability to hit for both high average (i.e., boxing) and power (i.e., slugger).

If someone can convince Oscar that it’s okay to box AND slug, to mix things up a bit, Oscar will win this bout. In other words, Oscar needs to use Gil Clancy as something more than a decoration in his corner.

Will it happen? Not likely. Oscar tends to listen to mainly one man in the ring - himself. And because of that, his greatest ring lesson to date will be taught to him by an unlikely person come fight night - Felix Trinidad.

Comments or opinions? Want to fight me on Showtime? E-mail me at leebubba@aol.com

Until next time.


By Tracy Callis

Bob Fitzsimmons was one of the cleverest fighters and deadliest hitters of all time. He was deceptive and ringwise crafty, often pretending to be tired or hurt in order to draw his opponent in close. He would attack the head or body. He could deliver a fast, "whistling" shot to a vulnerable area and achieve a knockout. His ability to recuperate after taking hard blows was unequalled.

The physical characteristics of Fitzsimmons gave him a weird appearance. For years, he worked as a blacksmith and developed huge shoulders with tight, hard arm and back muscles. His legs were skinny and his head was bald.

Some critics, but few experts, argue that Fitz was too light to be a bonafide heavyweight. He may have been lanky with thin legs but his upper torso was equal to that of a well-developed two-hundred pound man. He may have looked like a joke but no one who fought him laughed.

Houston (1975, p 13) wrote that although Fitz was "Something of a physical freak, with wide shoulders, and spindly legs, he was nevertheless a sound ring craftsman and a tremendous puncher".

Gilbert Odd (1974, p 17) also called Fitz a physical freak and fistic phenomenon. He comments that the magnificent shoulders and deep chest perched on spindly legs looked grotesque but had astonishing punching power.

Usually, Bob was good-natured. He liked to tease and be playful. But, in the ring, an inner viciousness surfaced. He played for keeps. As a middleweight, he knocked out the marvelous and slippery "Nonpareil" Jack Dempsey. As a light-heavyweight, he knocked out the fast and clever Jim Corbett to win the Heavyweight Championship. As Heavyweight Champion, he battered the powerful and rugged Jim Jeffries unmercifully.

Fitz fought for thirty-four years and, during his career, held three world championship titles – middleweight, heavyweight, and light heavyweight. In 1893, he knocked out seven men in one evening and required only nineteen rounds to do so. All men weighed over 200 pounds. One stood 6-7 and weighed in at 240 pounds (see Carpenter, 1964, p 8).

John L. Sullivan called him a "fighting machine on stilts". Jim Corbett said "for his weight and inches, he was the greatest fighter that ever drew on a glove". Jim Jeffries said he was "the trickiest man who ever fought in the heavyweight division and he could hit like hell. A guy could make just one mistake against old Fitz".

When Fitz got into the ring with Jim Jeffries, it was fantastic hitting ability against an iron-jaw defense. Bob’s fists hit so hard they smashed nearly everything in the ring. Jeff’s face was a mess. His eyes were swollen almost shut. An ear was ripped loose. His nose was pulverized and his lips bleeding. Fitz broke his hands on Jeffries’ granite chin.

Edgren (1926, p 55) said "The punching power of Fitzsimmons was marvelous. Every blow seemed to dent Jeffries’ face out of shape". Hype Igoe, famous sportswriter, wrote that Fitzsimmons gave Jeffries the most awful beating he ever saw a man take in the ring (see Graffis, 1945, p 119).

Jack Johnson rated Fitzsimmons better than Jim Jeffries or Sam Langford as a puncher (see Lardner, 1972, p 100). David Willoughby (1970, p 357) said that "… Fitzsimmons had perhaps the hardest punch ever possessed by a boxer of his size". Bromberg (1958, p 23) asserted that "Fitz generated fierce fire power from short range". Gene Tunney (1950, p 218) wrote that "Fitz could unleash terrific blows for his size, and it is conceivable that he could have taken (Joe) Louis …".

The writer, John Masefield, described Fitz as a man with "a slouch and a crouch … a way of moving … which deceived you into thinking of a slow moving gorilla; then he would straighten up into a very tall straight limber man, with magnificent shoulders, who moved deathly quick … I felt he that he could stand a very great deal of punching and that his shoulders and long arms gave him a defence not easy to overcome" (see Carpenter 1964, p 3). Carpenter added "The truth may be that there were few men good enough to pierce Fitzsimmons’ defence …".

Lardner (1972, p 100) wrote that Fitz was sometimes given to wide and ineffective swings but nevertheless was rugged, determined, and crafty and had enormous shoulder, back, and arm development. He later added (1972, p 129) that Fitz was most dangerous when hurt.

Durant (1976, p 39) said Fitz had a superior hook and "… in many ways was the most remarkable fighter who ever laced on a pair of gloves … a physical freak, a 6-foot tall, knock-kneed, red-headed middleweight with a wasp waist … yet he was built like a heavyweight from the waist up – and he certainly hit like one".

Fleischer (1972, Appendix VII) rated Fitz as the best knockout puncher and body puncher among the heavyweights. He also asserted that Fitz possessed the best hook. At other times, he called Bob a person of average intelligence who was a "brilliant thinker" in the ring.

McCallum (1975, p 8) described him : "Fitz might not have looked like your idea of a heavyweight champion. From toenails to torso he would evoke only laughs in a bathing suit – knock-kneed, pipestem legs, hairy barrel chest, topped off by a freckled face, garnished with sparse red hair. His looks were deceiving, of course, for his heavyweight arms could deliver blows as devastating as sticks of dynamite … His timing was perfect. He was a superb judge of distance. His punching, therefore, was deadly accurate."

Edgar Lee Masters said "I could put up a good argument to the effect that Fitzsimmons, all things considered, was the greatest fighter who ever lived …" (see Graffis, 1945 p 113).

It is the opinion of this writer that Bob Fitzsimmons was the greatest middleweight fighter of all-time, the second greatest light-heavyweight fighter of all-time, and the best "pound-for-pound" fighter in the history of the boxing.


Bromberg, L. 1958. World’s Champs. Retail Distributors, Inc.

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Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers

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Houston, G. 1975. SuperFists. New York: Bounty Books

Lardner, R. 1972. The Legendary Champions. New York: American Heritage Press

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Odd,G. 1974. Boxing: The Great Champions. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited

Tunney G. 1950. Was Joe Louis the Greatest? (contained in Collier’s Greatest Sports Stories, 1955, pp. 215-225). New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc.

Willoughby, D. 1970. The Super Athletes. Cranbury, NJ: A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc.

Wrestling with Regulation

By Katherine Dunn

(Considering the Bizarre Relationship between Professional Wrestling and State Boxing Commissions in the U.S.A. OR: How Wrestling Has Supported Boxing All These Long Years)

An on-going revolution in the professional grappling industry is having interesting side effects on the solemn business of busted beaks. A tidal wave of popularity has the monster World Wrestling Federation and its biggest rival, World Championship Wrestling, cramming arenas and smashing all records in cable TV ratings. The two organizations are using their growing money moxie to gradually break the hold of the state boxing commissions which have pretended to regulate wrestling for half a century and more. Being de-regulated may not improve the working conditions or financial status of wrestlers, but they won't be any worse off. Few Commissions have ever done a thing for them. All the benefits go, as usual, to the big bucks promoters. The losers are the various commissions scurrying to their state legislatures begging for new sources of money to survive.

Taxes on wrestling have been the life blood of many boxing commissions from the start. If they're not spry enough to locate fresh funding some commissions may have to close down. States without commissions, such as Colorado, have invited commissions in from other states to regulate their infrequent boxing shows, but problems of sovereignty and liability can make that a risky proposition that many state governments won't touch. Under the federal Professional Boxing Safety Act, no boxing can take place without the supervision of a state commission, EXCEPT on Indian reservations where the tribe has its own regulatory agency.

Indian casinos have already rescued boxing by resurrecting the nearly defunct club shows that are the heart of the sport. In many areas the only pro boxing is in Indian casinos. But if a commission dies, even the option of non-tribal boxing disappears, effectively banning boxing in the state.

The wrestling insurrection surfaced back in 1985 when Vince McMahon, impresario of the monster WWF, pranced out of the closet to lobby the Connecticut legislature. McMahon testified that pro wrestling isn't "real," that it is all scripted performances. No competition, just entertainment, an athletic form of theater. Although this was no surprise to boxing fans, wrestlers and promoters across the land, who had spent lifetimes loudly insisting that pro wrestling is a sport, were horrified at having their holiest quasi-secrets spilled in public.

The grappling fraternity branded McMahon as a traitor, but he got what he wanted. The Connecticut legislature voted to exempt professional wrestling from regulation by the state commission (actually the Professional Athletics division of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection) which oversees boxing. It was the first boulder in what has become a long, slow motion avalanche.

Though the storm crows shrieked that McMahon was ruining wrestling with his bold proclamation of fakery, he has lived to glory in the fruits of his genius. The unmasked, un-real WWF became more popular than ever. The rest of the industry was dragged reluctantly onto the confessional bandwagon but is now merrily banking the benefits. The WWF and the WCW dominate the ratings on cable television and both organizations stage monthly pay-per-view broadcasts as well as periodic blockbuster PPVs. Their live shows are a rolling gold mine criss-crossing the country, peddling action dolls, t-shirts and logo gear as they go, and denting, if not destroying, the smaller local and regional wrestling promotions in their paths. The survivors grow stronger.

While McMahon and his colleagues have never launched a nationwide push to completely deregulate wrestling, they have nibbled their way state by state and the drift is clear.

It's ironical, I guess. We boxing fans have always looked down our snoots at professional wrestling. Whenever the sober dignity of boxing is threatened by scandal, fiasco or silliness, some crusty fight guy will be heard muttering the ultimate insult-- that the game gets "More like wrestling all the time."

Fact is, in the U.S.A. the fates of professional boxing and professional wrestling have been perversely entwined. Loathe though the fight guys are to admit it, pro wrestling has a bigger, steadier audience than pro boxing. Maybe it always did. During the recent decade when boxing at Madison Square Garden was closed down, the monthly "wrassling" crowds were "standing room only" at the Garden.

Sporadic efforts to clean up boxing over the past century gradually pushed the individual states to create their own regulations and laws enforced by state agencies of one kind or another (known generically as "Commissions") which dictate the licensing, safety requirements and conduct of professional boxing matches. Forty-seven of the United States currently have Commissions. From the beginning they all included wrestling because that's where the money came from. Other professional combat sports, such as kick boxing, have been added over time.

Beginning in the mid eighties with McMahon's confession, and at the same time his WWF and the rival WCW were becoming national touring companies with a growing presence on cable television-- many states began to cut wrestling loose. The Commissions of North Dakota and Arizona, for example, haven't had anything to do with wrestling since 1986. New Jersey hung on until 1996. About half of the state commissions still officially regulate professional wrestling.

From state to state the commissions differ widely in their rules, powers and structure. They also vary in how the regulatory bills get paid--the bottom line of staff salaries, office rents, phone and postage and printing. Wide indifference or even distaste for combat sports among the public and legislators means a lot of states have been unwilling to pay for regulation out of the general tax fund.

Many ring regulatory agencies are funded only by taxes on the gross receipts of the events they regulate, with a little help from licensing fees for participants. These commissions are often heavily reliant on taxes from wrestling because boxing rarely pays enough to keep the doors open.

The rare item is New Jersey, which de-regulated wrestling in 1996, and has nothing to do with the muscle soaps. The big casinos of Atlantic City apparently stage enough fight cards each year to completely fund the state commission, which relies entirely on licensing fees and taxing live boxing shows.

Those states that do get general fund budgets, Connecticut, California and New York, for example, minimize the cost to the state by feeding their tax revenue back into the general fund.

Nevada is an exceptional case. The Commission budget comes from the general fund, but the agency is unusual in that it more than earns its keep, returning a surplus to the state, mostly from taxes on boxing shows. Marc Rattner of the Nevada Commission estimates that taxes on wrestling comprise less than 10 % of the commission revenues in an average year.

But proof of the importance of wrestling revenue are those states which no longer even nominally regulate wrestling but still tax the events. John Burns, the director of Connecticut's commission says the state, which de-regulated wrestling in 1985, switched to General Fund money in 1989 but still taxes live events and pays the collected money back to the general fund. In 1998, thirteen years after the state de-regulated wrestling, 100% of the commission revenue came from taxes on professional wrestling events. Burns expects that around 80% of the 1999 Commission revenue will be from wrestling.
(The boxing venues at the Mohegan Indian reservation in Connecticut, and at lively Foxwoods Casino on the Mashantucket-Pequod reservation, are governed by tribal commissions which have no monetary link to the state.).

Pennsylvania is partially supported by general fund money, but fills the gaps with taxes on events. Pennsylvania de-regulated wrestling in 1989 but still collects a 5% tax on live wrestling shows. The state has 35 to 45 boxing shows per year but around 200 wrestling events.

California's commission is supported by general fund money. The state de-regulated wrestling in 1987 but still levies a 5% tax on live wrestling shows. Director Rob Lynch estimates that between 50 and 60 percent of the commission's tax revenues come from wrestling. California is the busiest pro boxing state in the Union, with 90 fight cards in 1998.

Mississippi is one of the states with no general fund support and a complete dependence on licensing fees and taxing live events. Billy Lyons, the one-man band of the Mississippi Commission puts it succinctly, "We eat what we catch." Mississippi had 22 boxing shows in 1998, but Lyons says the state hosted around 200 wrestling shows in the last fiscal year.

During the past decade some states with no general fund backing, such as Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon, have tapped the profitable pay per view industry, taxing the purchase price for home viewers of boxing and wrestling shows sold through satellite and cable TV. Pay per view user taxes are viewed as breakthrough financing that minimizes the old conflict of interest in which the commission budget directly depends on the success of the promoters it regulates. In theory the cable company can negotiate a fee with the event promoter that will cover the cost of the tax, so the money will come out of Don King or Cedric Kushner's pocket. But the cable and satellite folks are irritated by this tax and bucking whenever possible. A recent federal court ruling trounced California in its bid to tax the satellite compay for PPV events. The future of taxing PPV is currently in question.

Money was the motive for the seedy pact made early on between regulatory agencies and wrestling promoters.

My pal the wrestling historian says pro wrestling was a "real" competitive sport, though often corrupt like boxing, from the 1880's until around the end of WWI. By the 1920's wrestling had become a "work"--a scripted performance. Occasional "shoot" (real) matches were sprinkled in until the late 1940's when television emerged. Since television, says our expert, wrestling has been all "work." Convinced that the audience needed and wanted to believe in the reality of the thump, grunt, fly and flop antics in the ring, the industry insisted that wrestling was "real." Wrestlers and all those connected to the game maintained the fiction ferociously.

The lie made wrestling vulnerable to a legislative form of protection racket. If you insist that those forearm smashes and spine-cracking falls are real, they definitely need regulating. Promoters were anxious to protect the "real" wrestling fantasy and they welcomed the appearance of competition bestowed by a commission with rules and laws. The sheen of legitimacy through regulation was considered valuable enough that promoters were willing to pay a percentage of their gross in taxes for the priviledge. The commissions were delighted to go along with the fiction because the reliable tax on wrestling paid their wages.

In most places the commission actually made no effort to regulate wrestling. As one regulator told me, "Commission people tend to be fight guys, boxing fans, who despise wrestling and feel tainted by it." They knew it wasn't "real," so they didn't bother with it. The grappling tax was free money with few obligations attached. Apparently the only consistent requirement for the deal was that regulators kept mum whenever some naively enterprising reporter tried to grill them about wrestlings' credibility. The promoters didn't want any actual meddling regulation so this governmental negligence was fine with them.

Occasional unscrupulous regulators viewed wrestling as a lush opportunity for rake-offs, such as demanding blocks of free tickets from promoters which could be given away or sold for profit. In some notorius cases commissions have insisted that there be "judges" at ringside, paid positions which were conveniently assigned to the regulators' wives. brothers or buddies.

The combination of the Big Lie of the wrestling industry and the deliberately turned backs of Commissions means wrestlers are often at more risk in their dangerous theatrical performances than they would be in genuine competition. In too many states even the most basic workplace protections are unavailable to the grappling brotherhood. Because they are usually classified (wrongly, in my opinion) as independent contractors rather than employees, wrestlers are not eligible for workmen's compensation when they are hurt. Workplace safety rules seldom seem to apply. There are often no safety mats to cushion a 250 pound guy who dives out of the ring over the top rope and plunges ten feet to the floor, no safety barriers to prevent the crazed old ladies in the audience from attacking wrestlers with hat pins or umbrellas. The wrestling fraternity doesn't complain when promoters require steroid amped muscles as a qualification for TV appearances, or demand "juicing," the self-inflicted razor cuts on the forehead that excite the crowd with a face-mask of running blood. Few commissions require sanitized ring mats to prevent the spread of scabies and other skin contact diseases. Many a state regulator has calmly explained to me that they don't require the medical exams to license wrestlers that are routine for boxers, "because, you know, it isn't real." Few places test wrestlers for blood communicable diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Most commissions ignore the chronic use of painkillers by wrestlers coping with injuries, and the frequent use of drugs such as cocaine to hype themselves up for a performance. The speed users scare the bejabbers out of their "opponents" because guys high on coke from the dressing room tend to forget the script and get carried away.

In May, 1999, WWF wrestler Owen Hart was killed instantly when he fell more than fifty feet from a rope rigging in the arena rafters that was supposed to lower him into the ring during a live show being broadcast by pay-per-view. Although relatively few wrestlers are killed in the ring, everybody gets hurt. Some are crippled. The mortality rate from drug abuse is impressive--six high visibility deaths in the last two years.

As for finances, forget it. The TV stars are decently paid for a brutal work schedule. The majority of wrestlers work for local and regional promoters who pay an average of fifty dollars per show, and the grappler foots all his own bills for transportation, food, lodging, equipment, costumes, and medical bills. Few commissions concern themselves with whether the wrestlers get paid, or get stiffed to sleep in their cars until they can scrabble down the road to the next small time promoter.

If we want to get huffy about it we could interpret this historic arrangement as government agencies demanding bribes in return for colluding with wrestling promoters to defraud the public and exploit the participants. More charitably we could note that wrestling has paid for the regulation of boxing when the only options are "regulate it or ban it."

The small market of Oregon, (population around 3 million in the state), has few boxing cards in recent years but does have local wrestling promotions. Its commission is funded mainly by pay-per-view taxes on boxing and wrestling events. PPV wrestling taxes provide 60% to 75% of the annual Commission budget. But Oregon's commission is one of the few which seriously regulates wrestling to protect the wrestlers and the public. It bonds promoters to make sure wrestlers get paid, requires medical exams, drug screens, safety equipment and security measures.

For years the WWF and WCW have skipped the state entirely on their West coast tours. Apparently the issue was not the 6% live gate tax, which both organizations pay blithely in many other states, but the drug screeen and medical exams. The two big organizations recently launched a lobbying campaign through the Oregon Arena Corporation, which belongs to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and the owner of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. The OAC hired a high-powered lobbying firm and legislative amendments have been introduced to specifically exempt the WWF and the WCW from the states' drug screening and HIV and hepatitis testing. One of the proposed amendments also takes a bite from the Commission tax on the WWF and WCW live shows in Oregon. The O.A.C. wants those big shows in its arena, the Rose Garden. The legislature is eager to please the big bucks boys, and according to the local news coverage and commentary 'it's silly to require wrestlers to take medical exams and drug tests because, as we all know, it isn't REAL.' McMahon and company will probably succeed in Oregon, too.

There is no union, no pension plan, no broad medical coverage available for boxers. But now that wrestlers have declared themselves to be athletic actors, they have an option. I figure wrestlers should band together and join the actors' union, AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Or, if they haven't made it to TV yet, the stunt guys union. The benefits would be better..... at least there might be some.

It is fascinating that McMahon, the brilliant showman and scandalously successful businessman, has never announced a massive campaign to escape the taxes being exacted from his live gates and pay-per-view shows by boxing commissions all over the U.S.A. But I have a hunch it is neither accident nor indifference. His primary focus has been escaping even nominal medical and safety requirements. Once that pretext is eliminated, the rationale for taxes becomes blatantly absurd to ensuing legislative sessions. Any commission with half a brain at the helm sees the inevitable coming and has time to make a play for other funding sources. McMahon made it happen by ditching the big lie that had ruled the industry and held it hostage for more than half a century. From this outsiders view, it looks like he knows when to hold'em, when to move slow and take what he can get, one legislative inch at a time. He's always been a man with a plan. So far, gradually, state by state, his plan is working.

Pernell Whitaker - a great lightweight .... or just light weight? 1501021P_Whitaker_v_DeLa_Hoya.jpg (20588 bytes)

by Alan Taylor

Now that his top flight career is surely over, how will Pernell Whitaker be remembered?  Is he an all-time great or just an also-ran?

Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1964 Whitaker was had an outstanding amateur career, taking gold as part of the USA 'dream team' of the 1984 Olympics, a team which included future champions Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland.  While most now agree that Holyfield has earned his place amongst the pantheon of greats, that Taylor's flame burned brightly but waned quickly and that Breland was a damp squib - Whitaker's case is a more complicated one.

Turning pro shortly after his Olympic success Whitaker became the first undisputed lightweight champion since Roberto Duran, beating all comers.  He went on to win titles at light-welter, welter and light-middle but never won the hearts of boxing fans nor, it seems, the respect of many boxing 'experts'.  Despite being rated by some 'pound-for-pound' champion in the early nineties Whitaker never seemed to gain recognition for his achievements.  Even his nickname 'Sweet-Pea' came from a misunderstanding - reporters mishearing sweet 'Pete', the name Pernell's friends know him by.  He also suffered the indignancy of having this nickname spelt 'Sweat Pea' on his gown in one bout.  Where does this lack of respect come from?

To a large extent Whitaker's style is what turns people off.  He has the reputation of a 'fancy dan', a runner who takes the safety first approach.  But surely to accept this view is to misunderstand the 'art' of boxing.  Whitaker is certainly no one punch knockout artist.  He is light years away from a Marciano style face first slugger.  'I get a kick out of going the distance', Pernell has said. 'I like to dodge my opponents. And while I'm no banger, I'm good at what I do.'  And at his peak, as a lightweight, Whitaker was not merely good he was among the best.

A southpaw, Whitaker certainly did display superb defensive skills but it was more than just staying out of trouble.  Whitaker could stand right in front of an opponent and land fast combinations while avoiding being hit.  He constantly changed angles, creating punching opportunities.  He could turn an opponent, leave him floundering, only to reappear behind him.  It was hard to believe that teleportation was not involved.  Fast hands, quick footwork, a hard straight left, a great jab - Pernell Whitaker had the lot.  He also was a master of body punching, an art that most neglect these days.

The list of opponents that Whitaker 'toyed' with is impressive - Roger Mayweather, Greg Haugen, Azumah Nelson, Jose Luis Ramirez, Jorge Paez, Freddie Pendelton - all victims of shutouts.  The total number of rounds Whitaker lost could be counted without taking your socks off.  But still many were unimpressed.  In his first title fight, against Ramirez, Whitaker was the victim of one of the most outrageous robberies since Jesse James became Mr. Howard.  Forget Holyfield and Lewis, this was the real thing; Ramirez hardly landed a punch yet was handed the win by split decision.  In a rematch the scores were 120-109, 120-108, and 117-111 (the judge who gave Ramirez three rounds must have been family!).

'Counterpunching, defensive style' the critics maintained, but, Haugen for example was overwhelmed by a fighter who could seemingly hit him at will.  'No punch' they said, yet Juan Nazario was bowled over in the first round as Whitaker unified the titles.  'No chin' they cried.  'I really don't want to know what will happen if I get hit on the chin', Whitaker replied.  'That's why I'll be a moving target'.  He frustrated opponents and critics alike.

'There's nothing exciting about me until I get into the ring'. Pernell said.  Many maintained that there was nothing exciting period.  But this was to ignore the artistry in Whitaker's natural ability, his ring generalship.  But you cannot ignore the record books.  As a lightweight I would contend that Whitaker is top five material.  He should be respected and revered with Roberto Duran,  Benny Leonard, Joe Gans and Henry Armstrong.  Many may laugh at the idea that Whitaker should be mentioned in the same sentence as these greats but think - how would Duran have handled Whitaker? Could he have hit him or would it have been 'no mas'?  Would Armstrong's windmill style have blown Pernell away or would Sweetpea have been too quick?  I believe that Whitaker should be thought of as the natural successor to Willie Pep, a master tactician who was always in complete control.  But I fear he won't be.

When Whitaker eventually got to fight Julio Cesar Chavez, the UK's highly respected 'Boxing News' previewed the fight by declaring that a Whitaker win would be the 'upset of the decade'.  What, more of an upset than Tyson-Douglas?  The judges obviously agreed with this completely unbiased opinion - they scored the fight a draw - the biggest robbery since.... well, since the last time they robbed Whitaker.

"I Am The Man!"

The Honorable John Morrissey (1831-1878)

Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Gambling Innovator and Entrepreneur

U.S. Congressman & New York State Senator

By Frank Baillargeon

Read the history of many of our boxing champions and you’ll read the story of impossibly tough childhood. Poverty and early violence, combined with grueling manual labor, can make a body strong. These conditions will also destroy most spirits. Rarely does one escape the physical, emotional, spiritual, and even legal risks of abject poverty. Even more rarely does one escape to find real success in any arena. John Morrissey endured to find great success in prizefighting, gambling, and politics. He became that rarest of the boxing world, one who was able to translate the fame of the ring into subsequent successful careers.

As a ring pugilist Morrissey lacked finesse and boxing fundamentals. What he had was what 19th century fans called "bottom." He had spent his youth fighting toughs in the Albany/Troy, New York, area under any conditions, establishing a reputation by his late teenage years as the best fighting man in the area. He took this reputation to New York City where he fought rivals constantly (particularly Native American (1), Irish-hating gang members). In one such fight, against a local tough named Tom McCann, Morrissey was having the worst of a battle at an indoor pistol gallery under the St. Charles Hotel. He was pinned on his back over burning coals from a stove that had been overturned. As a cloud of steam and smoke and the smell of burning flesh arose from Morrissey the crowd expected Morrissey to call "Enough!" Instead he endured the pain without a whimper. He somehow bucked and struggled his way to his feet and beat McCann insensible, earning in the process his lifelong nickname – Old Smoke. It was this ability to endure pain and actually gain strength and resolve ("bottom") that distinguished all of Morrissey’s ring battles, and, in fact, all of his life’s struggles.

The young Morrissey longed for the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship. He pursued the current, inactive champion, Tom Hyer, with spiteful vengeance, publicly calling him a "cowardly cur." When Hyer abandoned New York for the gold fields of California, Morrissey was hot on his trail. He and a friend stowed away on a ship, were discovered, and only through chance and customary pluck did he manage to avoid being put off ship on an island or turned over to authorities. Arriving in California, Morrissey was still unable to secure a fight with Hyer. He settled for a contest with the California Champion, George Thompson (Hyer’s trainer) on Mare Island, in San Francisco Bay, on August 31, 1852. The stakes were $2,000. The fight lasted 22 minutes, 11 rounds, ending with the referee’s decision to award the fight to Morrissey after 2 deliberate fouls by Thompson. Thompson had battered Morrissey virtually at will for 10 rounds. Morrissey, however, seemed to gain strength in spite of the beating, and with a predominantly hostile, armed, and drunken crowd growing more belligerent,

Thompson probably decided a quick end of the fight was preferable to a quick end to him. Thus Morrissey captured the California crown, national fame, and dramatically increased business at the modest gambling business he had begun in San Francisco.

Morrissey returned to New York in 1852, still pursuing Tom Hyer, who hated training, loved drink and women, and would fight only for a purse far larger than Morrissey and his backers could raise. With Hyer unwilling to engage him, except with pistols, Morrissey turned his attention to the former champion, Yankee Sullivan, a skilled and experienced prizefighter whose only career loss had been to Hyer. This fight between the 22 year-old Morrissey (6’, 175lbs.) and the 40 year-old Sullivan (5’9, 154 lbs.) would have never occurred in modern boxing.

Because of his youth and size Morrissey was the favorite at fight time, on October 12, 1853, at Boston Corners, an obscure, rural location located on the border of Massachusetts and New York (to limit the risk of interference by police authorities). Favored or not Morrissey was horribly abused by the experienced Sullivan for 37 rounds. Sullivan would use his fighting skills to unleash terrific, accurate blows on Morrissey’s body and head. When threatened with a counter-attack Sullivan would drop to the ground, taking advantage of the London Prize Fighting Rules used at the time. These "drops" would end a round.

As rounds progressed Sullivan, "cool and calculating, went at his man determinedly, pecking, slashing, hammering, connecting three times to his opponent’s one." Morrissey kept on coming but soon "exhibited the most revolting appearance imaginable..his eye was dreadfully swollen and the blood was flowing in a perfect stream from each nostril." In the 34th round Morrissey took a dozen blows without a return. Odds quickly changed from the original two to one for Morrissey to two to one for Sullivan. A crowd of over three thousand began to wonder if the young warrior could last.

In round 37 Sullivan seemed to have complete command. Morrissey was "fading rapidly. His knees shook, and his hands were down and his mind bewildered." Sullivan stepped back after battering his man, probably to rest momentarily. Morrissey, however, pursued him, wrapped him against the ropes and proceeded to choke him. According to London Prize Fighting Rules this was legal! Fearing his warrior might lose or die, a Sullivan loyalist entered the ring and knocked Morrissey down. This, according to any rules, was a foul. Sullivan then struck Morrissey, who was still on his knees, a 2nd foul. After that a Morrissey backer entered the fray and all hell broke loose. The referee tried in vain to restore order. He called the combatants to the scratch line to renew the official battle. Morrissey responded. Sullivan was too consumed with an engagement with Morrissey’s Second, Awful Gardner (that was his legal name. Gardner, years later, left the sporting world and became a Christian evangelist of some note) to return to "scratch." Morrissey was awarded the victory, and with it the title belt of Champion of America.

John Morrissey was now one of the most famous men in America. He used that fame to advance his growing gambling business investments in New York City. In the succeeding years Morrissey also became deeply involved with Tammany Hall Democracy in the City. His popularity, particularly among the growing number of Irish immigrants, as well as his leadership abilities at defending polling places from opposition violence during elections earned him the trust and protection of many of the New York’s most powerful politicians.

In 1855 Morrissey’s hostile relationships with Native American gangs, including a group that included Tom Hyer, led to a series of confrontations with one Bill "Butcher Bill" Poole. Threats, with and without weapons, finally reached violent explosion when Morrissey agreed to meet Poole in fistfight in the early morning hours on the waterfront. It was foolhardy for Morrissey to engage Poole on what was his "home turf." No sooner had they engaged in their violent brawl than the crowd of Poole supporters pressed in on the combatants. Morrissey and Poole wrestled to the ground where they pummeled, gouged and bit each other. With Poole on top and the crowd pressed in on all sides, Morrissey was doomed. Finally, lacking even air to breathe, Morrissey surrendered – a loss of honor he would not soon forget.

The conflict between the two and their factions continued. Finally, on the evening of February 25, after another threat-filled exchange between Morrissey and Poole, several of Morrissey’s acquaintances sought out Poole, engaged him in a confrontation and shot him fatally. Poole’s death became a major rallying cry for Native American’s throughout the nation. A crowd estimated at 20,000 paraded along his funeral route and substantial violence, aimed mostly at New York City’s Irish ensued. Morrissey was indicted as a conspirator in Poole’s death but never was called to trial (benefiting from many carefully nurtured political connections).

Morrissey was recently married at the time of his conflicts with Poole. His wife, Susan, was an well-educated daughter of a Hudson River steamboat captain. She would constantly prod and direct her husband to personal growth and social acceptance. The birth of their son, John, added to Morrissey’s determination to leave his violent and tainted past behind. He and his family returned to Troy to escape the temptations and ghosts of New York. His business activities in Troy, however, were disappointing, as was the lack of excitement and social acceptance, and calls for him to defend his boxing title were growing more compelling. He understood Suzie’s objections about everything undesirable about returning to the ring, particularly the "public opprobrium" that went with pugilism. He announced, in 1858, however, that "I shall have to fight to vindicate my character for honor and manhood, and to relieve myself from the persecution and assaults of my foes."

Morrissey accepted a challenge from John C. Heenan, the "Benecia Boy." Heenan was tall (6’2"), handsome, strong from swinging a sledgehammer in the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s Benecia, California, repair works, irresponsible, foul-tempered, and had a reputation from fighting on the tough streets of San Francisco. He, like Morrissey, was raised by an immigrant Irish family in Troy, New York. Heenan, however, was born in America, making him a candidate acceptable to the Native American-dominated New York boxing establishment. (Morrissey, Heenan, and earlier champion Paddy Ryan all grew up in the same small, manufacturing community). Arrangements were made on July 3, 1858, for a title bout to be fought for $5,000 a side. It would be held on October 20, 1858, somewhere in Canada.

It’s hard to imagine today, at a time when we have TV, radio, newspaper coverage, magazines, Internet and a constant table full of professional sports, how much enthusiasm a championship fight could generate in the mid-1800’s. Speculation about such an event filled sporting papers and barroom conversation for months. Interest reached fever pitch as Morrissey and Heenan concluded their very serious training. Both lined up trainers who could teach ring tactics while applying the conditioning rules as laid down by the famous Captain Barclay of Great Britain. Morrissey hired Jim Kelly, the Australian champion. Heenan used Aaron Jones, a seasoned English fighter.

The fight took place on a forlorn stretch of beach on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie. It could hardly be reached by land from Canada. It was reached, for the thousands of spectators, by chartered steamer from Buffalo, New York. Morrissey had hacked years of soft living from his frame. He weighed in at 176. He was sighted by sports writers as being in the best physical condition of his life. Others claimed he was "a magnificent animal," and one of the most "splendid specimens of human development we have witnessed." John had learned some boxing skills in training, but his principle weapon still would be his ability to withstand punishment. Heenan was to rely on his superior punching power.

Heenan had taken his training more lightly than Morrissey. He still had some "blubber" around his midsection. He was ill with chills and fever at least twice during training. Worst of all he developed a sore on his right leg that seriously impaired his quickness. Rather than risk the ridicule a request for a delay would cause, Heenan forged ahead.

Press coverage for this spectacle exceeded anything ever witnessed prior to this bout. Even "respectable" dailies, like the New York Herald, sent emissaries to report. A new record for wagering, estimated at "at least $250,000," accompanied the national, and international enthusiasm. The fight crowd was thus described – "Probably no human eye will ever look upon so much rowdyism, villainy, scoundrelism and boiled-down viciousness, concentrated upon so small a space as was compressed into the few feet of seeing room about the ring of the Morrissey and Heenan fight of October 20, 1858."

After all ringside bets were accounted (including Morrissey’s own personal wagers) the fight was on. Morrissey and Heenan seemed to put aside all training skills and settle into a slugfest. Heenan drew "first blood" and punished Morrissey heavily. Morrissey was almost instantly a "spurting claret." During the first round Heenan hit Morrissey so frequently and hard that one observer noted that he would have "knocked out any man in the United States except Morrissey."

At the start of Round Two both fighters were blowing hard from fatigue. Morrissey seemed dazed. Heenan, however, had a far more serious problem. During Round One he had hit a ring stake during a wild miss and broke two knuckles on his left hand. In spite of the handicap, Heenan was able to keep Morrissey off him with his longer reach and continued to rain powerful punches on the champion. Morrissey barely made it to "scratch" for Round Three. Round Four saw Heenan showing serious fatigue. Morrissey began to reach him. Both were bleeding heavily as Morrissey threw Heenan to the ground to end the round. Heenan was carried back to his corner.

With shaking legs Heenan began Round Five. He had trouble keeping a guard up. Morrissey damaged his head and body with heavy blows. Heenan was completely turned around by a terrible blow. Heenan tried to clench. Morrissey broke free. Heenan caught him with a blow to the jaw that took Morrissey off his feet and down to finish the round.

The knockdown seemed to focus Morrissey’s energy. His famous "bottom" began to tell in Round Six. Heenan was growing weaker and showing signs of defeat. Heenan fell from exhaustion in Round Eight. The end was now predictable. It came in Round Eleven. Morrissey dealt Heenan a heavy blow on the neck. Heenan went down on the hard sand where he stayed completely motionless for an uncomfortable length of time. Morrissey was declared the victor and still American Champion.

Morrissey would never fight in the prize ring again. He fought numerous exhibitions, including several against Heenan. His record in the ring was perfect, as would be his record as a politician. Morrissey would run twice for United States House of Representatives and twice for New York State Senate, winning every time. Morrissey would also build a gambling empire that was unrivaled in America. He would build progressively more elaborate establishments in New York City, catering to the wealthy and powerful, and making himself exceedingly wealthy in the process. He opened operations in Saratoga for the summer spa season in the 1860’s and opened the world famous Clubhouse in 1870. He began a horseracing course in the late 1860’s and convinced several of his wealthy, horse-loving friends to form the still-existent Saratoga Racetrack a short carriage ride from his Clubhouse (gambling was, of course, not allowed at the track!).

Morrissey’s energy and perseverance were matched only by his resourcefulness. In addition to creating splendid, unprecedented gambling destinations for the rich, he took advantage of the development of the telegraph to make betting available to all. He also formed the Saratoga Rowing Association to create a new spectacle for the wealthy to bet upon. He owned a professional baseball team in Troy. His life is filled with marvelous tales of daring, courage, adventure, generosity, honesty, loyalty to friends, love of his wife, and accomplishment in numerous arenas.

During his campaign for the New York State Senate in 1877 he became ill. He won that election, against Tammany’s handpicked candidate, in the most affluent election district in New York City. He never took his seat, however. He died at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, at age 47. Thousands lined the streets in the village to get a final look at a man who had occupied center stage, in numerous roles, for more than two decades. The New York State Congress closed on the day of his burial and the entire elected body attended the services in Troy, N.Y. An estimated crowd of 12,000 stood outside the church to pay tribute to an American Champion.

Fights Lost In Time

By Henry Martinez

Thank God for ESPN Classic Sports! This cable network's dedication to unearthing classic boxing matches is truly a gift from pugilistic heaven.

Sure, it's great to see Ali and Frazier fighting life and death in "The Thrilla In Manila," or a young, hungry Roberto Duran brutally dissecting poor Ken Buchanan in 1972. Being a child of the '70s myself, I'm partial to watching any classic match post-1970.

But there are still gaps to be filled. Maybe these fights have been shown and I just missed 'em. Or maybe these fights weren't all that hot to begin with. But there are a handful of memorable fights that I wish would resurface on ESPN Classic or some other national sports channel.

As I recall, this match occurred circa 1979 or 1980. It was on the undercard of a major telecast, back in the day when you could still see big-time boxing on network television. (The lack of network TV exposure is killing boxing today, but I'll talk about that later...)

I do remember that, next to Alexis Arguello, O'Grady was the biggest threat to Watt's WBC lightweight title. Sean was a young, skilled boxer with a somewhat reckless style. I loved the way he fought.

On the other hand, Watt was boring to me. He was workmanlike but wholly unspectacular as champion. I rooted for O'Grady to take him out, knowing that the devastating Arguello lurked in the shadows. I always thought Watt's pasty-white skin was the result of his fear of Alexis The Great.

But on this night, Watt had reason to fear O'Grady. I remember that Sean was taking control of the fight, combining above-average power with good boxing skill. He was flat-out beating Watt when the two warriors clashed heads.

It turned into a bloodbath -- mostly Sean's. His reputation as a profuse bleeder was cemented on this night. By this time, I was used to seeing blood in a boxing match. But I had never, even to this day, seen a fighter bleed as much as Sean O'Grady did against Watt.

Today, the fight would have been stopped early. Back then, the ref let O'Grady go a few extra rounds. By the end, Sean's face -- hell, his entire head! -- was crimson red. Mercifully, they finally stopped it. I can't imagine how O'Grady could have seen any of Watt's punches.

Watt went on to lose to Arguello, as expected. I felt disappointed for O'Grady, but he finally reached his dream in a classic war against Hilmer Kenty. The Kenty match had more action, but if you measure your fights in blood, then there's no better gusher than Watt-O'Grady.

Objectively speaking, this wasn't the greatest featherweight title match ever fought. But it featured a battle for the ages -- a battle of the bands.

On Aug. 21, 1981, Mexico's Sanchez and Puerto Rico's Gomez entered the ring to settle who was the best featherweight in the world. But it was pre-fight mania that really left an impression on me.

Gomez entered the ring with a salsa band in tow. As the musicians settled into the ring alongside Gomez, the bouncing, infectious rhythms would have made Ricky Martin proud.

Not to be outdone, Sanchez escorted a full-throttle mariachi band to the ring. Soon, the ring was completely filled to the brim with the fighters, handlers, and a bunch of musicians trying to play above one another. It was madness! It still surprises me, to this day, that the ring didn't collapse from the sheer weight.

Finally, we got down to the business at hand. Sanchez was at the peak of his powers and just one year away from the tragic car accident that would prematurely rob us of this under-appreciated legend. He dominated Gomez, once seen as invincible but reduced to a pedestrian fighter against the sensational Salvador.

But that night, it was all about the music. Hmmmm? I wonder if "Prince" Naseem Hamed and Luisito Espinosa could top that?

OK, I know why this isn't shown on TV. Fox can show "The World's Wildest Police Chases," but I guess we haven't reached the point of televising a killing.

Granted, "Boom Boom" didn't mean to. No boxer goes into the ring meaning to kill his opponent. But on November 13, 1982, that's exactly what happened.

This fight, I remember vividly. It was one of the fiercest wars ever. More than halfway through the fight, I thought Kim had a great chance to win. He took an incredible punch, plus I recalled how Alexis Arguello eventually wore down Mancini and knocked him flat out.

As it turned out, Kim took too good of a punch. He finally gave out in Round 14, then collapsed after the fight. This gallant warrior died four days later from injuries sustained in that match.

Boxing was never the same. Soon, championship rounds were reduced from 15 to 12. Television advertisers, horrified by the image of a dead fighter, began fleeing as sponsors. In no small way, it led to pay-per-view as the medium of choice for major boxing matches. And that's why you now see golf, NASCAR and figure skating way ahead of boxing in the pecking order of weekend afternoon sports on network television.

But it was one helluva fight.

(Henry Martinez is a contributing writer based in Dallas, Texas.)


By Knuckle Junction

Attention, Attention!

Calling all sub-geniuses who still want to use the so called "open scoring,"  the following quotes come from world champions who went into the last few rounds of their respective fights knowing exactly how large their margins of victory were.  Even the sub-geniuses will recognize that the following quotes show the disincentive to the fighters who have a lead late in a fight.

"The open scoring kind of took the crowd out of it."
"I knew open scoring was going to hurt."
"Once you know you're winning, you might get a little sloppy."
Mark Johnson

"I played it safe at the end, even though he was punching hard."
Sharmba Mitchell

Last night, open scoring was exhumed from its dank, funky, putrid grave (it was last buried in the early eighties) and aired out in the first ever boxing card in the new MCI Center in downtown Washington, D.C.

Guess what? Open scoring still stinks!  The reason that this stupid idea was resurrected was that there was some bad judging in a recent heavyweight title fight.  Logic dictates that the solution to bad
judging is to replace it with good judging.  Get better judges, and don't let them be paid by the promoter of the fight, who obviously has a vested interest in the outcome of the fights.  What you don't do is to try to influence a judge to change her vote by announcing all scores and letting her see how out of line she is, Mr. Gump.

Enough with that.  We tried open scoring last night, and as they used to say on "In Living Color"--HATED IT!

Back to the fights.  Say what you will about Don King, but he puts together good cards.  The official program listed 10 fights.  Unfortunately, because of the NATO Summit meeting and my failure to allow enough time for random traffic jams consisting of limousine motorcades, police escorts, ambulances, etc., I missed the first few.   One of the fights I missed was between the up and coming Lion of Judah, Sammy Retta, of Alexandria, Virginia by way of Ethiopia, who improved to 13-0 with 13 knockouts, as he took out Ed Bryant of Brooklyn, with a fourth round knockout.  This fight was in the super middleweight division, and Retta can crack.  I would like to see him on ESPN2, when they next come to the Washington D.C. area.  Bryant dropped to 10-5. 

Local favorite Antonio "Starchild" Reese stepped up to meet Ross Thompson of Buffalo.  This fight went according to seedings, as Starchild, who was rated #14 by the IBF was stopped by Thompson who was rated at #11.  Thompson now looks to crack the top ten in the 154 lb. division.

The scariest fight of the night was between a couple of heavyweights whose names might be familiar, depending on how much of a hardcore fan you are: Jerry Ballard, and Garing Lane.  Each fighter has fought on ESPN or USA several times.  Garing Lane is a large heavyweight, often tipping the scales at close to 300 lbs.  On this night, he failed to get out of the second round, and in fact suffered a seizure after being knocked out.  This was a surprise, as Lane is known for his toughness.  He was carried out on a stretcher, but according to a Dr. Strudwick who attended him, he is OK.

The card also featured a women's bout, with Christy Martin taking on Jovett Jackson.  The official program did not list Jackson's record, and touted her as a Tough Woman Challenger (not even the Champion?), but the Washington Post listed her at 13-2.  Christy Martin is the WBC Pound for Pound Champion, according to the Official Program. (Really?, Did anyone ask Sumya Anani's or Lucia Rijker's opinion of this?)  At any rate, Jackson was badly overmatched as Christy took 36 seconds to settle things.  The action concluded with a couple of hard and sharp two punch combinations that left Jackson with the wrong kind of goo-goo eyes.

Too Sharp Mark Johnson, D.C.'s current contribution to the (real) pound for pound greatest fighters, was up next, although on the Showtime telecast his fight was shown last.  This fight was for the vacant IBF 115 pound crown.

Too Sharp was indeed too sharp, and with this fight, scores were announced after the 4th, 8th, and of course the 12th rounds.  After 8 rounds, Mark heard that he was pitching a shut-out, and, well, you do the math.  Mark could have given away the last four rounds and still won by a very comfortable margin.  He did appear to let up at the beginning of the ninth round, and the boo birds who passed math class let their opinions be known, but Johnson did not dog it.  Mark's punches were crisp and punishing to the challenger Ratanachai Vorapin's body, and the action picked up by the end of the round.  Although Vorapin was the larger man, and certainly tough, he came up short on the scorecards.

Congratulations and thanks go out to Keith Holmes, as he regained his WBC Middleweight Championship belt.  Congratulations for winning back the belt, of course, and thanks for doing it before the end of 8 rounds, at which point the @#$$#*% scores would have been announced.

Hasine Cherifi (Has Seen) better nights.  He fought this one like he did the first one, awkwardly plowing forward, winning points or not with his aggression.  His skills are not up to par with those of Holmes, and skill won out this night over determination.  In the last minute of Round 7, Holmes caught the lunging Cherifi with an uppercut, stunning him.  Holmes followed with 31 unanswered punches, most of which landed, and several of which did serious damage.  Referee Frank Capuccino made the correct call and stopped the fight.  Although Cherifi was still on his feet, the fact that this windmill puncher had COMPLETELY STOPPED punching demonstrates that Capuccino's decision was the correct one.

The final fight of the evening, and featured main event pitted Sharmba Mitchell against Reggie Green, two local fighters, both talented and tough.  Mitchell dropped Green with a round overhand right, and the way that Green crumpled indicated that he would not escape the first round. He did, however, due to Mitchell's over eagerness and due to clinching.  The rest of the fight was a back and forth affair, but Mitchell kept the upper hand, as well as the title.

All in all, the fight card was a great success.  The fights were well attended and the competition was good.  However, as the fighters themselves admitted, competition is improved by dropping open scoring.  Boxing, are you listening?

Knuckle Junction

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