- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Washington will become a fight town this week, but not the fight town envisioned by city officials when they were foolishly led into the bidding for the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight.Starting tomorrow, more than 500 officials, judges, referees, promoters and others involved in the business of boxing - such as it is these days - will meet in the District for the three-day World Boxing Association convention.
The man responsible for bringing the event to Washington is York Van Nixon, a former chairman of the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission and a vice president in the WBA. At last October's convention in Thailand, he urged WBA officials to bring the convention to the District this year to give the District the benefit of the convention dollars.
"[WBA] president [Gilberto] Mendoza thought that because of what happened here in Washington on September 11, it would be appropriate for the convention to come to Washington," Van Nixon said.
The last time it was in Washington was 1976. "I helped organize it then, too, and had all of the living heavyweight champions of the world here, including Jack Dempsey," Van Nixon said. "Howard Cosell was the master of ceremonies, and Henry Kissinger was a guest speaker."
It's not 1976 anymore, though, for any of us, including the WBA. They have invited President Bush to the dinner, and even had a belt made for him, but they have no idea if he will show up. They asked Vice President Dick Cheney to substitute, but his office declined. As it stands now, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz will be picking up the president's belt at the WBA dinner Friday night. Sen. John McCain is supposed to get an award, as well as Sen. Harry Reid and Congressman Michael Oxley, all for their work on boxing reforms in Congress. It's likely none will be there.
There won't be a long list of living heavyweight champions there this time, either. George Foreman was invited to give the opening invocation, but no one knows if he is coming. They're hoping Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes show up. Other current and former champions expected to attend include Bernard Hopkins, Roberto Duran, Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello.
The WBA is one of those alphabet-soup sanctioning organizations that are the bane of fight fans who hate the notion of multiple champions for the same weight division and are the scourge of reformers who decry the cozy relationships among the organizations that sanction fighters and the promoters and managers who profit from the fighters.
They are often the targets of congressional hearings into boxing corruption. Roy Jones Jr. called the sancitioning bodies that rule boxing today "a joke" the last time he was in town and testified before Congress on boxing reforms that called for the creation of a federal boxing commission.
Of course, the joke may be on Jones. He holds the light heavyweight belts of all three major sanctioning bodies - the WBA, World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation — and has to pay a sanctioning fee to each organization every time he defends their title. For the WBA, that is 3 percent of his purse.Here's a bigger joke — the heavyweight champion of the world, the highest profile title for any sanctioning body, for the WBA is a journeyman named John Ruiz, a stiff who managed to hang on to his bogus title recently when his idiot opponent, Kirk Johnson, was disqualified for low blows.
Ruiz got the WBA title when Lennox Lewis, who held all three titles at the time — WBA, WBC and IBF — refused to fight Ruiz as his mandatory challenge. It was a setup defense, of no use to Lewis, and he instead opted to fight Michael Grant. That left the WBA title vacant, and Ruiz fought Evander Holyfield for the belt. That resulted in three of the ugliest, most boring heavyweight fights you will ever see. Holyfield won the first, Ruiz won the rematch and the third one was declared a draw.
This is the world champion of the WBA. Right up there with Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, right?Here's a real belly laugher — Roy Jones Jr. coming off yet another boring title defense against a nobody opponent named Clinton Woods on Saturday, may be fighting John Ruiz in December for the WBA championship.A series of moves are taking place in the heavyweight division that could result in some fights of interest, if not memorable. Lewis has given up his IBF heavyweight title rather than fight the mandatory challenger, Chris Byrd. Lewis probably will defend his remaining WBC title against Vitaly Klitschko. Byrd will fight Holyfield for the vacant IBF title, and then there is Ruiz and Jones for the WBA championship.
The architect of all of this? The most powerful sanctioning body of them all — DK, as in Don King. King paid Lewis $1 million and a Range Rover vehicle to give up the IBF title. That set in motion the Byrd-Holyfield fight - both fighters are promoted by King. And Ruiz is also promoted by King, who last month was being sued by Ruiz for interfering with a proposed fight with Mike Tyson. I'm sure the payday from a Jones fight will satisfy Ruiz, who is fortunate to draw any kind of heavyweight champion paycheck.
DK is expected to be at the WBA convention. Van Nixon knows him well. "I got married recently, and my best man was Don King," Van Nixon said. "You would have thought he was getting married he had so much fun at my wedding."It's good when old friends get together.

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