Enough is enough.
The World Boxing Council, a collection of crooks that competes against two other collections of crooks to control the world's supply of human fighting flesh, last week pronounced Mike Tyson its number-one heavyweight contender. Perfect. That puts Leg-Iron Mike just a couple of angry lurches away from the WBC's alleged champion, Oliver McCall. Little matter that Tyson, a convicted rapist who spent the last three years in prison, hasn't stepped into a ring since June 1991. He's still number one.

Maybe he should be. Ex-Michigan football coach Gary Moeller hits harder than McCall (especially when Gary's got a load on), and Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox has better footwork (especially when he's cuffing his wife around). Either one of them can outthink poor Oliver, if we can judge by his bumbling performances against rest-homers Tony Tucker and Larry Holmes. Some titleholder. Some division.

Meanwhile, Tyson's first post-release opponent, on August 19, will be one Peter McNeeley. For this encounter, Tyson will earn $30 to $35 million. Exactly. Just what I was thinking. Peter McNeeley. The British chess champion. Maybe the second mate on New Zealand's America's Cup yacht. Whatever.

Enough is enough.
The world's other heavyweight champ, at least according to another collection of crooks, the International Boxing Federation, and to three blind mice in Las Vegas, is George Foreman. Now 46 years old and the size of a beer truck, Big George defended his crown a few Saturdays back against a supposed nonentity named Axel Schulz. When the thing was all over, a lot of people were glad the Germans don't still have U-Boats. The smart, game, surprisingly mobile Schulz beat Foreman but good on points, but he was fighting in the wrong town. The bold-faced fraud by which three Las Vegas boxing judges let the plodding, puffed-up Foreman retain his bogus title was nothing new--corrupt decisions go back to bare-knuckle days. But this hometown call was cause enough to blow the U.S.S. George clean out of the water--dinghies and all.

Back home in Munich, those beery fans who weren't throwing things at the big closed-circuit TV screen were reaching for the Schmeling Schulz. Will Axel get a rematch? Sure. And George will get about 30 million bucks to smother him again with forearms and snout.

Enough is enough.
As you read this, a brave kid named Jimmy Garcia remains unconscious in a Las Vegas hospital, fighting for his life. That's because on May 6, super-featherweight Gabriel Ruelas gave Garcia such a beating that he collapsed in his corner after the fight was finally stopped in the eleventh round. The Colombian was rushed into surgery to drain blood from his brain, and even now it is not certain he will survive.

An isolated case? Of course not. Over the years, hundreds of fighters have been killed or maimed in the practice of a sport where the object is to injure your opponent. Not to score points, as in football. Not even to capture territory, as in Bosnia. The lone object of boxing is to beat the crap out of the other guy.

Remember Benny "Kid" Paret? Dead in his corner, courtesy of Emile Griffith. Doo Koo Kim? Barely made it to the hospital. By the way, when was the last time the magnificent, once eloquent Muhammad Ali was able to utter a coherent sentence? Yeah, Ali has other problems, but it was all those Joe Frazier hammer shots that finally added up.

As recently as February 25, boxing took its toll. That night in London, super-middleweight champ Nigel Benn pounded Gerald McClellan so mercilessly (not Benn's fault--that's what they pay him to do) that a blood clot formed in McClellan's brain and he had to be put on life support for four weeks. He is said to be "recovering."

Last year, former Olympic gold medalist Robert Wanglia died after suffering a brain hemmorhage in a fight in Las Vegas.

Are severe neural damage and death simply occupational hazards in boxing? Apparently so. The so-called "ringside physician" at the Garcia fight, Flip Homansky (only in Vegas are there doctors named "Flip"), let the fight continue even after ten rounds of brutality. "There was no way I could have known something was wrong," Homansky said. Three days later he had the gall to go on ESPN and, with a straight face, declare that protective headgear would have little or no effect on the incidence of boxing injury. Nicely done, Doc Flip.

For his part, the badly shaken Gabe Ruelas says he will give up boxing if Garcia dies.

Enough is enough.
Ever since the days of Mysterious Billy Smith and Torpedo Billy Murphy, the fight scene has attracted unsavory characters--gangsters, fixers and cigar-smoking manipulators. Guys who would knock their mothers cold if they could get 7-to-2 odds on the bout. In fact, for many, that has been the fight game's main attraction--the chance to rub shoulders with mobsters and molls in the $500 seats, to catch a little spattered blood on your lapels and boast that you were there, amid all that elemental drama and romantic tragedy.

But in all its past depravities, has boxing ever beheld anything quite so bold as Don King?

The loudmouth with the electric hairdo has a past that would shock Josef Stalin, and he's been indicted on federal insurance-fraud charges, but no one in the aforementioned state of Nevada has seen fit to re-examine his promoter's license. That means King will continue to pick the pockets of promising young fighters and take the lion's share from the others.

King's newest charge is, of course, his most celebrated former charge: the "new" Mike Tyson--straight out of the joint. Despite some Muslim trappings, he's a man who looks and talks exactly like the "old" Mike Tyson, and there's no reason to believe that this unholy tandem won't set an ugly style for years to come in what was once called the Sweet Science.

Enough is enough.
The beauty and bravery of boxing, the way it has lifted tough kids out of barrio, ghetto and slum, the vivid memories of Ali-Frazier or Robinson-LaMotta or Dempsey-Firpo remain powerful forces in the public imagination. For what it's worth, the first sporting goods I ever owned were a pair of little boxing gloves. At our house, my brother and I had a speed bag in the basement, and two of my earliest heroes were Rocky Marciano and the ultratough welter/middleweight Carmen Basilio. I started going to fight nights at Madison Square Garden and St. Nicholas Arena when I was six years old, and whenever my father and I dropped into Jack Dempsey's place on Broadway for a pre-fight hamburger, the Manassa Mauler bear-hugged my Dad ("Howya doin', Doc?") and always called me "champ." I always called the champ "Mr. Dempsey."

And when I was sixteen, a fast, tough kid from Beacon--or was it Newburgh?--New York, name of Calvin Exem, abruptly ended my ten-fight, undefeated boxing career at 1:24 of the second round.

Enough is enough.
Like a lot of other people, I've finally had it. Seen the light at long last. With Jimmy Garcia and Gerald McClellan in mind and the twin specters of Don King and Mike Tyson looming over the proceedings, with the image of the great Basilio wailing blindly through the final seconds against Gene Fullmer still aglimmer in the memory alongside my late father's dark Italian face, it's time to join the boxing abolitionists. Like many before me, I join them reluctantly. But the violence, corruption and dishonesty in a sport that has always oozed plenty of each have finally overwhelmed its grace and singular courage. It's as simple as that.

Enough is enough.


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