The news is seldom good. This time, as innocent bystander Gary Shaw said, the black eye received by boxing did not come from a legal punch.
It’s all the more important to realize that Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, forever linked, have birthdays. Joe will be 60 on Jan. 12, The Greatest turns 62 on Jan. 17 and we’ll be sitting down with Gene Kilroy, his longtime assistant, for future columns that should alleviate the bitter taste of recent stories.
The Twin Towers of Trouble, Don King and Bob Arum, have again put boxing in a bad light. First it was King, who withdrew his application for a promoter’s license in Atlantic City when he found out that the casino commission there was going to question him about his good friend Bob Lee ”” the former IBF president who did time after Arum and fellow promoter Cedric Kushner testified they paid him bribes.
Never mind that King postponed a meeting with Chris Byrd one day in order to rub elbows with President George W., who probably could give him some tips on how to carry New Jersey.
King might be trying to ride the President’s coat-tails, but it appears Arum is in trouble for dirty laundry, probably stuff he didn’t soil, either.
Arum’s Top Rank seems to be the focus of a federal probe. FBI agents swarmed into his Vegas office last week, while Bob was vacationing in South Africa. Word came out in the New York Daily News ”” and the biggest bet of my life would be that it is pure unadulterated bullspit ”” that part of the probe was into the possibility that Sugar Shane Mosley’s victory over Oscar de la Hoya was "fixed."
"Preposterous," said Shaw, Mosley’s promoter. "Makes absolutely no sense," said Judd Burstein, Mosley’s lawyer. No one had to wait for Arum’s denial. What was really preposterous, ludicrous and otherwise incredible would be for Arum to somehow arrange for the Golden Boy who, as Shaw pointed out, layed his golden eggs, to lose a fight. Not even if Arum got wind de la Hoya was leaving him would Bob do something like that ”” and remember, I am hardly a voting member of the Arum fan club.
Shaw and Burstein, on a conference call with the media, both said there had been no contact from any law enforcement agency. Mosley knew nothing of any probe into the fight. His first reaction, according to Burstein, was "Whaaaat?"
But while the Daily News played up the possibility of rigging a bout in which one fighter made more than $20 million and the other probably $7 million, that doesn’t mean something was not rotten in the state of boxing.
Fixed fights? Medical records being tampered? Weights rigged? Some strange business practices? None of that would surprise me at Top Rank, but my second biggest bet would be that Arum knew little or nothing of any of this.
Would Bob Arum, I ask you, fix a Telefutura fight for the big ratings star, Jorge Paez? No way. That’s nickel and dime stuff. Would his underlings? That’s another question.
Arum claimed he was fleeced years ago by his stepdaughter, whom he alleged ripped him off for hundreds of thousands of dollars in T-shirts.
I’m sure he’s not any more hands-on with the minor fights Top Rank promotes. I understand one ex-con, who came out of 23 years in prison and tried to resume a boxing career (he was knocked down by the first punch his opponent threw, but the opponent strangely never threw another one and the ex-con, Joey Torres, scored a first-round knockout of the only bout on his comeback), may have been the connection between Top Rank employees and "Big Frankie," an undercover Fed acting as a wise guy.
Torres was supposed to be re-tried for murder, but reportedly has disappeared, either into the witness protection program, or on the lam.
Whatever comes from this investigation, even a clean slate with no charges, boxing is damaged again.
At a time when the game desperately needs TV sponsors ”” for example, to keep the Friday night fights going on ESPN. What razor company would want to be associated with FBI investigations?
At a time when there might actually be some interesting matchups on the schedule, the headlines will again be about nonsense like phony fixes and another newspaper able to brag, "Boxing is corrupt, the Daily News has learned”¦."
It’s time Muhammad Ali saved the game again. Next week.