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State of the Game 2004

Feb 19, 2004  By Jason Petock
Think back for a second. Way back now. What do you see? Sagging ring
ropes under poor lighting in smoke filled halls. Poor saps giving their all
when there's nothing left to give. Tension and electricity so thick in the
air that it couldn't be cut with 100 knives. Metal folding chairs row after
row after row seating frantic fans with their raspy cries of support for
their man. Everything is in classic black and white, as the newsboy on the
corner deals the daily scoop. Back when it meant so much to so many. It
still means that much to many of us thankfully.

Flash forward now to 2004. Economy sliding backwards, war, unemployment and
more. Those classic days were no picnic either, but today is for here and
now, not yesterday. That era is gone and for most of us a blurred,
unfamiliar memory at best.

Has boxing lost some of its appeal? The current ranks are filled with
superstars and new prospects galore, and there are so many different
champions who's counting? A fighter might be ranked #1 by one organization
and not even recognized by another. You have to love this sport of ours,
you really do.

You have to love it to watch one sided matches and soft fights on occasion.
These things happen of course in boxing, but it does make you wonder of
course. Why do current champions choose to defend their titles infrequently
and even refuse fights? Part of being a champion is defending that title,
it's the name of the game and should be mandatory more often.

But on the flip side of that coin there is dignity, respect, honor and
courage. There is Arturo Gatti, Micky Ward, Johnny Tapia, Marco Antonio
Barrera, Mike Tyson, Vernon Forrest and Shane Mosley to name only a few.
Some would definitely argue that Tyson's name shouldn't be in the same
paragraph as those words. I disagree. There is no denying greatness in the
ring, regardless of a man's transgressions outside of it.

So where are we now? Manny Pacquaio upset Marco Antonio Barrera in a
shocker last year. NBC has restocked its faith in boxing again; resuming
televised fights this year starting April 17th. Joel Casamayor vs. Diego
Corrales II is on for March 6th, which should be another scorcher. Cotto is
on fire and is taking no prisoners. His next opponent is Victoriano Sosa
who is no pushover. I'm picking Sosa myself. Tokunbo Olajide has healed and
makes his triumphant return on Feb 20th on ESPN2. It looks like a promising
year ahead, full of action and drama.

It was good to see Lennox finally retire. He has accomplished all he has
set out to do in his career and has stepped aside to allow everyone else to
vie for the crown. We all have to admit to seeing a rematch between him and
Vitali would have been a godsend, but such is life.

Bernard Hopkins should follow suit. He's a great champion who hasn't slowed
one bit, but has been so inactive lately that when he does fight its fairly
anti-climactic. He will always be remembered as a solid talent and
professional, but a changing of the guard needs to take place soon.
Holyfield should be a done deal as well, but you can't stop the pride of a
champion, no matter the odds.

Too many fighters rest on their laurels, while others choose not to defend
their titles at all. Isn't that what boxing is all about? Being a
champion? The Champion. Not the money, or fame or extras. The
accomplishment of knowing that you are the best out there.

Fighters should make more money too. In my humble opinion they should make
more than any football, basketball or tennis star, etc..out there, Sad
truth is that most of them don't and they actually deserve it.

That's why we need a commission. That's why fighters need to be looked
after. Duva's people provide their fighters with attorneys and accountants,
being the competent people that they are, caring about the welfare of their
fighters and keeping their dealings on the level. They've raised the bar
that much higher. Everyone needs to do the same.

Give boxers what they've needed all along - a chance. A fair shake isn't
much to ask for given their contributions is it?

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