We hardly needed a Senate investigation to tell us that boxing is corrupt


The festering open season currently declared on political incumbents is certainly understandable, given Washington's sorry state of affairs -- pun intended. Bimbo eruptions are only the latest stain on the legacy being forged by our highest public servants.

Too often, however, we tend to overlook the valuable services rendered on Capitol Hill and the uncanny way in which many of our pols keep a finger not only on the pulse, but in many cases, ahead of it.

And right there on the cutting edge this week is the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, and trend-sniffing Sen. Bill Roth, R-Dela., who has unearthed a shocking blight on our society. After a six-month investigation utilizing a dozen staffers and a half-million dollars in tax money, Roth and

his public protectors came forth Tuesday with the thunderclap announcement that boxing is -- brace yourself -- corrupt.

I know, I know. This comes as a blow to those of us who thought boxing was peopled only by Eagle Scouts operating on bbTC self-governing code of integrity higher even than used-car salesmen. I can't tell you how appreciative I am that my eyes have been opened to this undetected scourge. I plan to stop sending in my love offerings to Don King this very week.

Gimme a break.

If Sen. Roth wanted to determine the moral fiber of boxing, he could have saved a lot of time and tax money by merely appropriating $18.95 for Barney Nagler's wonderful book on the larcenous history of the sport, "Only The Ring Was Square." Heck, I would have even lent him my copy for free if Sen. Roth would only promise to spend his next $500,000 probe on more important mysteries -- like why birds keep confusing my mailbox for a toilet, or how meter maids can sense from six blocks that my meter will expire in the next 7.5 seconds.

Roth pointed with pride to the fact that this is the first time the Senate has looked in on boxing since 1961. No doubt they were surprised to learn that Kid Gavilan is no longer dispensing bolo punches. The investigation was launched, naturally, on the basis of provincial pique. It seems the good senator had flipped on a TV fight from Atlantic City where a member of his Delaware constituency, one Dave Tiberi, was challenging IBF middleweight champ James Toney. Tiberi was hosed with a smelly split decision, and the indignant Roth used his power as the Investigations Subcommittee's ranking Republican to launch a probe into that fight and boxing in general.

I talked to Senate sleuth Dan Rinzel, who headed the investigation. Perhaps it was my imagination, but Rinzel seemed to be shuffling his feet on the other end of the long-distance connection as he allowed as how it wasn't up to him what is investigated. "My job is just to go dig up the dirt," he said, "and in this case, it wasn't too hard to find."

Noooooo ... really?

Rinzel's only prior brush with boxing was sitting at the feet of his father during the old Gillette "Friday Night At The Fights." When he and his staff started digging into the Tiberi-Toney debacle and dropping in on fight cards from North Philly's musty Blue Horizon to the parking-lot arenas of Las Vegas, they found themselves awash with chicanery.

Roth has introduced a bill to create a federal corporation to regulate boxing, and the hearings continued yesterday with a focus on none other than the main Eagle Scout himself, Don King. King took the fifth on every question.

More cooperative was a sweetheart named Mike Franzese, a self-described former capo for the Colombo crime family. According to Rinzel, Franzese became inadvertently involved in an FBI sting operation when undercover agents posed as drug dealers wanting to launder profits through boxing. It seems they used Franzese for an introduction to King knowing that (a) King would receive them if recommended by the Mafia, and (b) wouldn't cheat them if he figured the Mafia were involved.

Imagine my grief at learning that such dastardly deeds transpire on boxing's backstage. I'm so grateful to have my eyes opened. As I hear it, our trusty truth-seekers will next set out to determine exactly what is that large, blazing ball that rises in the east every morning. This mystery more out in the open, I suspect Roth and the boys can get to the bottom of it for not a nickel more than $300,000.

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