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Boxing and politics cross paths

Senator Clinton -- on the Pavlik bandwagon? Such is politics. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Speaking at a campaign rally on Valentine's Day in Ohio, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held up a pair of boxing gloves and likened herself to middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.

Pavlik is one of Ohio's favorite sons and was scheduled to do battle against Jermain Taylor on Feb. 16.

Given the fact that Taylor is from Little Rock and Senator Clinton was once first lady of Arkansas, the act struck some as disloyal. But such is politics.

Not to be outdone, Janet Huckabeee (wife of former Arkansas governor and current Republican presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee) donned a pair of boxing gloves on Feb. 15 and posed for photographers while pretending to work out on a weight-lifting machine.

Later, Ms. Huckabee outdid Senator Clinton by actually attending Pavlik-Taylor II and rooting for Taylor.

The political maneuvering brought to mind the hours before Taylor's December 2005 rematch against Bernard Hopkins.

Early in the evening of Dec. 3, 2005, Marc Ratner (then executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission) entered Taylor's dressing room and told trainer Pat Burns, "The Governor of Arkansas [Huckabee] will be coming in before the fight to see Jermain."

"If the Governor is coming, get his [butt] in here now," Burns instructed. "I want no distractions later on."

Five minutes later, Ratner returned with Mike and Janet Huckabee. Taylor rose to greet them.

"We're so proud of you," the governor said. He and his wife posed for a photo with Taylor.

"Now how do I say this as politely as I can?" Burns interjected.

"I know," Huckabee responded. "Get the hell out of here."

"Yes, sir. That's right."

Looking back on the moment, how does Burns feel about his actions?

"I'm glad I did it," he says. "Someone has to keep these politicians in line. Besides, if Mike Huckabee becomes president of the United States, it will make for a good story."

It's a pretty good story now.

Don't count on it

Each year, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota inducts 12 new members. The problem is, with each passing year, the list of inductees gets more and more curious.

Some of this year's honorees (such as Larry Holmes) are obvious choices. But others (Mogens Palle, for example) have raised eyebrows.

Hall of Fame inductees fit into one of five categories:

• Pioneers: Boxers whose last contest was prior to 1893.

• Old-timers: Boxers whose last contest was between 1893 and 1942.

• Moderns: Boxers who have been retired for five or more years and whose last contest was no earlier than 1943.

• Observers: Members of the media.

• Other: Non-participants who have made a contribution to the sport.

How are they elected?

Hall of Fame executive director Ed Brophy says that pioneers are voted upon by 21 electors with each year's top finisher being inducted.

Old-timers are voted upon by 54 electors with the top three finishers enshrined. Moderns are considered by 200 voters (including members of the Boxing Writers Association of America) with the top three selected. Fifty-six electors chose two observers. Three other nonparticipants are designated for immortality by 57 electors.

However, the process is marked by an unfortunate lack of transparency and the absence of accountability.

The electors are chosen jointly by Brophy and a three-person screening committee. These same four people decide which names go on the ballot. The screening committee for 2007 was comprised of former Boxing Digest editor Herb Goldman, historian Hank Kaplan (now deceased) and boxing agent Don Majeski.

The public is not told who the electors are. Most of the electors don't know either, nor are the electors told what the final vote totals are.

Brophy says that the votes are tabulated by a certified public accountant named Dorothy Sember.

This is not a process that inspires confidence.

Two ounces, a world of difference

Every now and then, promoter Bob Arum embarks on a crusade.

His current campaign is an effort to have the Nevada State Athletic Commission rescind its 2006 edict requiring fighters in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions to wear 10-ounce gloves instead of the traditional eight.

"The intransigence of this commission drives me crazy," Arum says. "They made the change arbitrarily with no serious study and there's no valid reason for it. It runs contrary to what virtually every other commission in the world does. And the problem is, they're Republicans; so like most Republicans, they're stubborn and refuse to admit that they've made a mistake."

"It's horrible," Arum continues. "Nevada is losing fights because guys like Cotto and Antonio Margarito refuse to come here and wear 10-ounce gloves. And I don't blame them. If I was a puncher in the welterweight division, I wouldn't want to wear 10-ounce gloves either."

And what does the commission say in response?

"It's on our agenda for re-evaluation," notes executive director Keith Kizer. "So we'll see what we see."

In his spare time …

Did you ever wonder what ESPN.com senior boxing writer Dan Rafael collects?

I didn't think so. But a lot of homework goes into his job.

Rafael has about 3,300 VHS tapes and 1,500 DVDs with multiple fights on many of them. Most of the tapes are stored in cartons in the unfinished living room of his home. The DVDs are in his office and poster room.

His poster room?

That's right. One of the bedrooms in Rafael's new house is devoted solely to his 1,400 fight posters and a few other pieces of boxing memorabilia. He also has about 500 fight programs.

And what does Mrs. Rafael say about this extraordinary assemblage of boxing lore?

No comment.

Thomas Hauser is the lead writer for Secondsout.com. His most recent collection of boxing columns -- "The Greatest Sport of All" -- has been published by the University of Arkansas Press. He can be reached by e-mail at thauser@rcn.com.