Stephen Brunt is one of our favories, so we feature his thoughts.



                                TYSON TAKES ADVANTAGE OF BOTHA ERROR

(Globe & Mail, Monday, January 18, 1999)
By Stephen Brunt

LAS VEGAS -- The punch that prolonged Mike Tyson's career was something to
behold. Like most of the great ones, it was short and straight and to the
point. His opponent, Francois Botha, cocky and overconfident, had made a
whole series of mistakes: Standing with his feet in a line, his shoulders
square, throwing a lazy right lead and following with his head. Tyson fired
a right as well. It landed flush on Botha's chin.

"I don't remember throwing it," Tyson said. "I didn't see it," Botha said.

So it is with most one-punch knockouts. Down Botha went, crumpling to the
canvas. He struggled to rise, but couldn't, and the fight was waved off by
referee Richard Steele with one second left in the fifth round. Tyson rushed
to Botha and embraced him, keeping him from falling through the ropes, a
civilized, sporting gesture from someone who rarely seems either of the
above.

And if that was all there was to talk about, the notion that Iron Mike Is
Back would have legs this morning. Unfortunately for Tyson, every moment of
the fight before his Hail Mary landed suggested something very different
indeed. He had nothing. He looked like a hollow man, who didn't want to be
there, who didn't believe in himself. He won one round on one judge's card,
and lost everything else. Botha, who was brave and smart (at least until he
got dumb) was utterly dominant until the moment he was knocked out, and
seemed set to cruise to a decision victory.

Asked later if he thought he blew it, he smiled; "Ya," he said. "Big time.
Big time."

During the long march to the ring before the fight, Botha, wearing a white
buffalo robe that unfortunately made him look like a giant sheep, certainly
didn't seem ready for Tyson. He looked nervous in the moments before the
opening bell, waiting while Tyson, with a much smaller group of hangers-on
than in previous days, made his way to the ring.

The arena at the MGM Grand was nearly full by fight time, but that seems to
have been the result of a last-minute fire sale: One fan reported buying two
seats with a face value of $400 each for a total of $50 on Saturday
afternoon. All around, appearances were deceiving.

From the beginning of round one, it was clear that it was Tyson, not Botha,
who was at a psychological disadvantage. He began the fight trying to work
behind his jab, which must have been encouraging to his new trainer, Tommy
Brooks. After that, though, Tyson reverted to the one-dimensional fighter
he's been for some time now, loading up on single power shots, not putting
his punches together, obviously unsure of his own abilities.

Even in that context, what was startling was his apparent loss of hand
speed. Botha is no slicky, but still he easily avoided Tyson's big looping
punches with ease -- most of them by a foot. Thirty seconds into the fight,
Botha realized there was nothing much to fear.

And so he started to work on his own game plan, which was simple and
brilliant: Jab and follow with the right, which Tyson walked into again and
again; hold when Tyson got into punching range; keep throwing punches on the
inside until the referee broke the clinch; do everything possible to get
inside Tyson's head. To that end, Botha talked and talked and talked.

"I don't want to tell you what I was saying," he said. "They were some very
bad things." By the end of the first round, Tyson was getting hit, he was
complaining to Steele, he was nicked over the right eye. At the bell, the
fighters were locked together, with Steele unable to pry them apart.
Desperate and frustrated, Tyson locked up Botha's right arm -- a move
borrowed from that maestro of dirty-fighting, Two Ton Tony Galento -- and
started bending his elbow in a direction the elbow is not supposed to bend.

"I thought he was trying to break my arm," Botha said. "He's correct," Tyson
said.

All hell seemed set to break loose. A cadre of police officers surrounded
the perimeter of the ring, fearing a repeat of the riot that followed the
second Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight. Steele conferred with Mark Ratner, the
director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission -- the same body that had
suspended Tyson's licence after he bit Holyfield's ear. For several minutes
it was unclear whether the fight would continue.

After an extended break between rounds, it did, following the established
pattern. Botha had everything his way. Tyson held passively every time the
action moved inside. He held and he held and he held so much that at the end
of the round, Steele docked him a point. By the third round, Botha was
dropping his hands at his sides, mocking Tyson, daring him to hit him. Tyson
rarely came close. Meanwhile, Botha continued to land his jab and the
occasional clubbing right. Had he a little more power, he would have knocked
Tyson out.

"If I was fighting Mike Tyson and he was fighting like that," Tyson said, in
a rare flash of candour, "he would have been out. He would have been
through."

More of the same through the fourth round. Botha led the fight by five
points on two cards with six rounds to go. "I really believe that I was
handling him easy tonight," Botha said. "I expected more. I know that I was
in control and that I was slowly but surely getting to the end of the fight.
Then I walked into a right."

The replays of the final punch drew oohs and aahs from a crowd that had
seemed divided in its loyalties in the beginning, and distinctly pro-Botha
just before the end. Still, it was hard to believe the finish -- the first
time in his career that Tyson has come from behind to win a fight -- had won
many converts to the possibility of a return to greatness, especially
following what were arguably the four worst rounds of his professional
career.

Tyson's new braintrust -- manager Shelley Finkel, financial adviser Jeff
Wald, trainer Brooks -- did their best to sound upbeat during the postfight
news conference, talking about ring rust, about work to do in the gym, and
about the fact that their fighter still has his power. But quietly, they
were also asking trusted friends among the boxing press if there was an even
safer opponent out there for Tyson's next fight in April (the likely
candidate is German Axel Schulz, with a possible George Foreman fight
looming in the summer).

It was left to Botha, who seemed relatively content despite blowing his big
chance, to put matters into perspective.

"We're happy to have him back in the heavyweight division," Botha said of
the victory. "He's helping a lot of heavyweights to make a living."

Heavyweights and promoters and managers and trainers and lawyers and casinos
and television networks. But that won't last for very long.


                                          STEPHEN BRUNT'S TEN BEST

(Globe & Mail, Monday, January 18, 1999)
Stephen Brunt is a member of the International Boxing Digest ratings panel,
and a voting member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. This is the
second in an occasional rating of boxing's best, regardless of weight class.
The previous ranking is in parentheses:

1. (1) Roy Jones Jr. (WBC/WBA light-heavyweight champion):  Someone please
find him a challenge, fast. Richard Frazier, the policeman who fought like
one of the Village People, certainly wasn't up to it.

2. (3) Oscar De La Hoya (WBC middleweight champion):  The Golden Boy's
toughest test to date comes against Ike Quartey next month. Should be a
thriller while it lasts.

3. (2) Ricardo Lopez (WBC strawweight champion):  Tested severely by
Nicaraguan tough guy Rosendo Alvarez. Still, the best technician in the
business.

4. (4) Shane Mosely (IBF lightweight champion):  This should be the year he
moves into the superstar ranks.

5. (-) Rosendo Alvarez (strawweight):  The only two blemishes on his record
are a draw and close decision loss to Lopez.

6. (5) Evander Holyfield (WBA/IBF heavyweight champion):  Lennox Lewis will
be another big mountain to climb in March. Should he prevail, a third Tyson
fight looms in the fall -- if Tyson lasts that long.

7. (7) Felix Trinidad (IBF welterweight champion):  Coming showdown with
Pernell Whittaker will be fascinating classic puncher-against-boxer matchup.
If he wins, on to De La Hoya.

8. (8) Johnny Tapia (IBF junior bantamweight champion):  Needs a big box
office opponent.

9. (6) Naseem Hamed (WBA featherweight champion):  Didn't help himself with
mediocre performance against Wayne McCullough. Then fired his trainer, made
his brother his manager. Not good signs.

10. (-) Floyd Mayweather Jr. (WBC junior-lightweight champ):  Consecutive
wins over Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy vault him into this company. A
surprise from the Olympic class of 1996 -- though of course he does come
from a great boxing family.

                                QUARRY DEATH HAS COLUMNIST THINKING

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, Jan. 17, 1999)
By Bruce Keidan

He was a fighter by inclination and by trade, a heavyweight contender who
went to war with all the biggest, toughest guys of his day and defeated most
of them.

He was, depending on the ring announcer, Irish Jerry Quarry, Gentleman Jerry
Quarry or "the flower of Bellflower," Calif. All of them could turn out your
lights with one punch.

His style was about as subtle as an earthquake. He tried with every punch he
threw to hurt you. He rarely took a backward step.

If the first round of his first fight with Muhammad Ali was not the best
opening round in boxing history, it was the most remarkable I ever saw. It
was Gotterdammerung in gloves. For most of its duration, the combatants
stood flat-footed in center ring and traded bazooka shots. The crowd at
ringside in Atlanta was on its feet and in a frenzy at round's end.

Quarry lost that fight, but in the process became a greater attraction than
ever before. Thick-necked and lantern-jawed, he was willing, sometimes
seemingly eager to take your best punch to land one of his own.

He was 47 and punch drunk when he fought for the last time. He was 53 when
he died. His brain was long gone by that time. He suffered from a condition
called pugilistic dementia, brought on by a thousand concussions.

Sugar Ray Robinson suffered from puglilistic dementia late in life. So did
Billy Conn. And so did hundreds of lesser fighters, pugs who never fought
for a championship or a six-figure purse.

Quarry's death will likely result in renewed demands from outraged Americans
to outlaw prize-fighting. It is a corrupt and contemptible sport, the
reformers will note. It is one step removed from bear-baiting. To license it
is to condone it, and no civilized nation ought to do that. Boxing ought to
be banned.

I agree with the critics: Boxing is vulgar, dangerous, uncivilized - not to
mention corrupt. In a better world, it would not exist.

And if two grown men did resort to fisticuffs, bystanders, horrified, would
avert their gaze.  Any resemblance between that world and this one is,
unfortunately, remote. And Congress is not going to stamp out boxing. Not in
this millennium or the next.  Because it can't.

True, Congress could pass a law prohibiting prize-fighting as an activity --
in the United States. Just as we once passed a law that prohibited the
manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages. And when it proved
unenforceable, we could repeal it, just as we did in that case.

But let's suppose for a moment that we could control boxing within our
borders. Let's suppose it would not flourish on riverboat barges and on
Indian reservations and in private social clubs. Even though we suspect that
it would.

Have we stamped out boxing? Not even close.

Prize-fighting is an international sport. When Ali was banished here, he
fought an exhibition in Canada -- despite U.S. government pressure to
scuttle the fight. During the 18 months in which Mike Tyson's license was
suspended, he could have fought in Asia or Africa. Promoters in Japan and
South Africa would have welcomed him with open arms and an open checkbook.

You could have watched it on pay-per-view, just as some of you did when he
fought Pierre Botha in Las Vegas last night.

Tyson did not do that because flouting the Nevada boxing commission would
have resulted in his permanent banishment from fights on American soil. But
if there were no fights in the USA, Tyson would be on the next flight to
Tokyo or Capetown, or London, perhaps.

(The Brits talk incessantly about banning boxing, but somehow never get
around to doing it.)

And he would not be alone.

Hundreds of other American fighters would simply relocate in countries where
they could ply their trade. And we would turn on our TV sets and watch the
bouts.

Does it make a difference whether Roy Jones Jr. knocks out his next victim
in Pensacola, Fla., or Paris, France? Not to you; not to him.


                                   A NEW YORK 'BILL OF RIGHTS'?

(New York Post, Monday, January 18, 1999)
By Gregg Birnbaum

ALBANY -- State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is climbing into the ring to
launch his campaign to clean up the fight game, by putting into law a
"boxers' bill of rights."

Spitzer, who has represented fighters in the courtroom, is holding an
unusual three-day sweet-science summit that kicks off on tomorrow at the
Downtown Athletic Club.

As head of a national task force of attorneys general who are investigating
boxing, Spitzer will bring together more than 50 fighters, ex-fighters,
promoters, medical officials, state regulators, TV and cable execs, and many
others.

Spitzer will be probing the often inexplicable methods by which sanctioning
organizations rank boxers; the power of promoters and problems with their
exclusive contracts; brain damage suffered by fighters; the possibility of
creating a labor union for fighters; and setting up a pension plan for
retired pugs.

"One of the missions here is to create a 'boxers' bill of rights' that will
touch on not only the relationship with promoters, [but] touch on finances,
touch on health," Spitzer told The Post.

Ex-heavyweight contender "Jerry Quarry just died. Punch drunk and penniless.
There is clearly inadequate supervision of the sport."

Among the boxing "Who's Who" set to testify this week are ex-heavyweight
bruiser Gerry Cooney; one-time light heavyweight champ Jose Torres; WBC boss
Jose Sulaiman; New York Athletic Commission Chairman Mel Southard; promoter
Bob Arum; and referee Richard Steele.

Spitzer said his findings will result in a raft of proposals he plans to
make this spring to the state Legislature and Athletic Commission for
changes in state laws and regulations.

Spitzer also will be sending his recommendations to U.S. Sen. John McCain
(R-Arizona), who is crafting federal legislation to better police the sport.

As a Manhattan lawyer in private practice, Spitzer said he's seen some of
the problems firsthand, and he jokes that he may be the one of the only
people who has ever won a legal case against megapromoter Don King, who was
invited to the hearing but won't be attending.

Spitzer represented William "Kid Chocolate" Guthrie, a promising light
heavyweight from St. Louis in the early 1990s.

"'Kid Chocolate' had sought to get out of a contract with Don King," Spitzer
recalled.

"His career was being substantially impaired by the way that his promotional
relationship was being run. He left to another outfit. As a result of his
departure from Don King, the sanctioning bodies - even though he was the No.
1 contender - would not give him a title fight."

Spitzer filed lawsuits in state and federal courts in New York and New
Jersey.

"Ultimately, we prevailed and got him his title fight. He won it," Spitzer
said. "In the post-fight interview, he said, 'I want to thank God, my
trainer and my lawyer, Eliot Spitzer.' I almost fell off my couch. Clients
never say thank you, let alone a boxer."