On The Ropes
Three big fights stood out from the rest in yet another troubled year for the constantly beleaguered sport of boxing.
In the first heavyweight title fight where all three major belts (IBF, WBA, WBC) were at risk since 1992, Evander Holyfield was soundly beaten by towering British heavyweight Lennox Lewis at Madison Square Garden in March. The funny thing was that two of the judges were the only ones who didn't quite see it that way, one judge ruled it a draw while the other (IBF judge Eugenia Williams) actually thought Holyfield won the fight. The controversial draw in this mega-fight was yet another black eye for boxing and led to, among other things, an outcry for an investigation from New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Surprise, surprise a federal investigation into corruption at the IBF actually took place. And to no one's surprise they found improprieties. In fact, the government indicted IBF president Bob Lee and three lackeys for taking bribes to rig their rankings and set-up fights. We can only hope that when the dust settles boxing will be a bit cleaner.
The second big fight of the year was in the welterweight division. “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya and Felix “El Tito” Trinidad, a national hero in his native Puerto Rico, met on Sept. 18 in the most highly-anticipated non-heavyweight fight in many years. Although many observers thought the decision could have gone either way, Trinidad came out on top in the disputed majority decision. After all the build-up the fight, from a pure action standpoint, was somewhat of a disappointment. De La Hoya scored early and appeared to open up a lead. He apparently thought he had the bout won and coasted in the late rounds, allowing Trinidad to comeback and take the decision. The fight was a huge financial success and broke all non-heavyweight records for pay-per-view.
Lewis got the recognition he deserved following his March fight with Holyfield with a unanimous decision in their November rematch in Las Vegas. The only problem was that some people thought Holyfield won this time.
Mike Tyson, still boxing's biggest draw despite all his problems, made his umpteenth return to the ring from jail in October and once again left everyone with a sour taste in their mouths. His punched Orlin Norris off a clinch, dropping him and apparently twisting his knee in the process. Norris was unable to continue, the fight was ruled a no contest and the Nevada State Athletic Commission was finally fed up with Tyson's antics and asked him to fight elsewhere in the future.