The top ten lowest of the low in boxing for 2009. The only year-end list you will find on The Cruelest Sport.
#1 ANTONIO MARGARITO
Antonio Margarito, along with his malignant sidekick, Javier Capetillo, the Burke & Hare of the Red Light District of Sports, are easily co-rogues of 2009. Caught with elements of plaster of Paris in his gloves prior to facing Shane Mosley in January, Margarito became the biggest scandal in boxing since the early 1990s when Tim “Doc” Anderson was poisoned during his fight with slimy Mark Gastineau. The California State Athletic Commission suspended Margarito for a year, but it was Mosley who dished out rough justice at the Staples Center: an ass-kicking of a lifetime. No one deserved it more.
#2 THE WBA
The WBA has always been a joke, but recently the banditos from South America have gone over the abyss. In addition to the customary bizarre ratings everyone has come to know and loathe, the WBA has created so many championship categories– champions in recess, interim champions, “Super” champions, etc.–that they now have multiple champions in several weight classes. Take lightweight, for example, where there are currently three WBA champions: Juan Manuel Marquez (“Super champion”), Paulus Moses (“World champion”), and Miguel Acosta (“Interim champion”). This ingenious system, of course, lets the WBA collect three times as many sanctioning fees. If a boxing organization could be formed with elements of Monty Python, Dutch Schultz, Enron, The Marx Brothers, and Sarah Winchester, it would look and act just like the WBA.
#3 GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is given to sermonizing with the hypocritical zeal of a televangelist, except he does not have the showmanship skills that made Jim Bakker or Peter Popoff must-see TV for certain demographics. Along with Golden Boy “President” Oscar De La Hoya, who often sounds like a supernatural dummy freed from his ventriloquist, Schaefer has managed to inject even more cynicism into an anarchic sport where, unfortunately, his kind of duplicity flourishes. Sleaze in boxing is nothing new, but rarely does a promotional firm pretend so hard to be so virtuous.
This year alone GBP has programmed horrible fights for Versus, HBO, and ESPN; put together one ridiculous catch weight bout after another; overhyped Victor Ortiz, who not only quit against Marcos Maidana but claimed to have entered the bout with a “shattered” wrist; and denied press credentials to veteran writer Michael Marley. But nothing captures the Golden Boy spirit as much as the shenanigans of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez mismatch. For months GBP let the mystery weight dangle in the air. When the real sources–-Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya–-were asked about the weight, they lied. Period. De La Hoya, without a certificate from the School of Hard Knocks ala Don King or an Ivy League degree ala Bob Arum (you know, the man De La Hoya once referred to as the biggest Jew from Harvard) foolishly said at one point that the fight would be at a catchweight of 143 pounds, and Schaefer disingenuously claimed that the mystery number would boost the fun factor of the weigh-in ceremony. It appears that the real reason they kept the weight and its contractual stipulations hush-hush until the last moment was to make sure negative press about the size differential would not affect pay-per-view sales. This was a swindle, plain and simple, the first of many to come, no doubt.
#4 JOSE SULAIMAN
Jose Sulaiman, “Dictator for Life” of the WBC, is the Elagabalus of sanctioning bodies. Impulsive, sadistic, funny-looking, corrupt, and completely off his rocker, Sulaiman rules his boxing fiefdom with same loony touch as the infamous teen Roman emperor–who ordered his urinals to be carved out of onyx and refused to wear the same clothes twice–did. Not content with going hand and hand with the WBA in anointing multiple champions per division, Sulaiman also likes to speak out on “issues,” and since the obliging media will put anything in a headline, his inanities are often aired for public ridicule. Like Dee Dee Ramone and Oscar de La Hoya, anytime Sulaiman opens his mouth something absurd tumbles forth. But Dee Dee was a serious dope fiend and De La Hoya was punched repeatedly in the face by Manny Pacquiao. What’s Sulaiman’s excuse? Recently Sulaiman managed to outstrip his own stupidity by inventing a “Diamond Belt Championship,” immediately played up by lapdog websites like Fightnews.com, and by “suspending” Cris Arreola for cursing on television.
#5 FRANK SANTORE, JR.
Referees have a tough job in the ring, but the easiest part of their duties may very well be counting to “10.” Frank Santore Jr. could not even manage to get that right last May when he marred the Sergio Martinez-Kermit Cintron bout and single-handedly turned a top level prizefight into a complete clusterfuck. Santore Jr. counted Cintron out, waved his arms in the classic “fight over” semaphore, and then changed his mind. Not content with nullifying a KO and absurdly calling for a “Do Over” (as if boxing can be conducted by the rules of stickball), Santore, Jr. went on to steal the victory from Martinez outright by deducting a point from the Argentine in the last round of the fight for an innocuous infraction. As is the custom in boxing when someone screws up egregiously, Santore Jr. was back in the ring officiating a month later.
#6 RUBEN CARRION
Carrion, a referee whose negligence left super bantamweight Al Seeger in the hospital with a brain bleed after taking foul upon foul upon foul from his opponent Victor Foncesca, should never be seen in a ring again, but, of course, referees who put the lives of fighters at risk retain an inexplicable tenure in a sport all too given to the inexplicable. Seeger had a titanium plate drilled into his forehead and his career is likely over. If Carrion is unable to take control of a bout, then he should be barred from officiating. Incompetence of his sort is deadly.
#7 PIERRE BENOIST
Judge Pierre Benoist catapulted from anonymity to notoriety in a matter of minutes by turning in the most outrageous scorecard of 2009 when he gave Sergio Martinez one round in his competitive shootout with Paul Williams two weeks ago. If Benoist sincerely believes that Martinez only earned one round, then he is incompetent. Should obviously incompetent judges be allowed at ringside? Of course not. Will Benoist be suspended, re-educated, or passed over for future assignments? Of course not. After all, this is boxing.
Whenever a good matchup appears on HBO, the boxing media, that strange entity made up primarily of cheerleaders, sycophants, shills, cliché mongers, claquers, and the functionally illiterate, go into raptures. Think about it: When you go to a restaurant do you stand up and clap when the meal is edible? HBO is in the business of providing quality programming to its subscribers, and boxing is part of what they offer. Therefore, their boxing telecasts should also be quality fare. Too often, however, HBO televises set-ups and they do so fully conscious of the fact that they are offering inferior product. HBO has often been accused of playing matchmaker, but the real problem is not that they play matchmaker, but that they are so poor at it. It is the job of a manager and a promoter to guide and protect a fighter, but HBO never fails to bring its heavy hand down on the side of fighters it chooses, often inexplicably, to market. And part of this guiding process includes paying outrageous amounts of money for set-ups.
In 2009 fighters as undistinguished as Harry Yorgey, Cosme Rivera, Brian Minto, and Willy Blain were broadcast on a premium cable network whose subscribers pay a monthly fee for the privilege of watching fights that belong on the MSG Network (if not on a “Faces of Death” DVD). Shot boxers, like semi-retired Jameel McCline and 33-year old Antonio Diaz, were also brought in to face house fighters. In keeping with their philosophy of trying to get every possible edge for their pet favorites, HBO also has a jones for luring talented fighters, like Gerry Penalosa and Juan Urango, out of their proper weight classes so that they can swap blows with 5 to 1 favorites.
An exclusive deal with Golden Boy Promotions (see Rogue #3) practically guarantees more of the same next year. Not every fight has to be Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey or Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito, of course, but shameless set-ups like Arreola-Minto, Arreola McCline, and Angulo-Rivera, insult the intelligence of most of the public, if not the “in-the-know” types who treat mismatches with a strange reverence probably rooted in the “I do not want my press credentials revoked” syndrome.
#9 DAVE PARRIS
Rarely does Don King make any sense these days, but when he claimed that Amir Khan was in possession of a “tainted” victory over faded Marco Antonio Barrera, he was actually right. This pseudo win was tainted by blood and by the curious nonchalance of referee Dave Parris, seemingly more interested in seeing his countryman walk away with a “W” than actually taking his duties seriously. A headbutt opened up a gash on Barrera that was as wide as the Grand Canyon. This cut, bordering the scalp line, was as grievous a wound as has seen in boxing in many years, at least since Sebastian Lujan had his ear nearly severed by Antonio Margarito in 2005.
Barrera looked like a man who had undergone trepanning by a tribe drunk on snake venom. As soon as the laceration was incurred, the bout should have been stopped. But Parris decided it was more important for Khan to avoid a no-contest than it was to ensure a fair match or to protect Barrera from injury. So he let matters continue and a bloody Barrera was forced to box at a severe disadvantage. Predictably, the fight, such as it was, continued until the fifth round when a technical decision could conveniently be rendered. Barrera, unable to see because of the waterfall of blood cascading into his eye, was virtually helpless by then. The referee is in the ring to protect the fighters; unfortunately, Parris decided to split that equation in half by protecting only one of them, and in this case it was Khan.
#10 KEVIN JOHNSON
Only a handful of fighters came off looking like schmucks in 2009- -Billy Dib, Paulie Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Chris Arreola, and David Haye, among them–but only one, Kevin Johnson, makes the cut here. His distasteful non-performance against Vitali Klitschko in front of a sellout crowd in Bonn was perhaps the single worst fight of the year. Johnson compounded his ineptitude by pretending he was some sort of tough guy and clowning in the ring. True, Paulie Malignaggi was obnoxious against Juan Diaz, but then he would run off a neat combination and exchange punches with “the Baby Bull” in center ring. Johnson on the other hand, attempted to conceal his cowardice by taunting an opponent he was afraid to raise his fists against. This poor excuse for a prizefighter only got bold between rounds and after the final bell rang. Later, Johnson, still full of delusional braggadocio, claimed that he had suffered a “technical injury” to his elbow early in the fight. In fact, only those unfortunate enough to have purchased a ticket to see this sideshow performance suffered injuries.
(Some of this material has appeared previously in The Cruelest Sport)
Topics: Al Seeger, AMIR KHAN, Antonio Margarito, Boxing, Dave Parris, Dee Dee Ramone, Don King, Dutch Schultz, Elagabalus, Frank Santore Jr, GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS, HBO< Squash Matches, Javier Capetillo, Jim Bakker, Jose Sulaiman, Kevin Johnson, Marco Antonio Barrera, MOnty Python, Oscar De La Hoya, Pierre Benoist, Richard Schaefer, Rogues, Ruben Carrion, Trepanning, WBA, WBC