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Sunday, September 13, 2020

No Holds Barred: Brendan Schwab on the Execution of Navid Afkari, Human Rights for Athletes, Black Lives Matter, and Caster Semenya 



On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association.

The World Players Association, part of UNI Global Union, is the exclusive global voice of organized players and athletes across professional sport. It brings together 85,000 players through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries.

We first spoke with Brendan Schwab by Skype Thursday, Sept. 10. But on Sat., Sept. 12, we all got the horrifying news that, despite a worldwide campaign on his behalf, Iran had secretly executed Navid Afkari on the trumped up charges for which Iran's courts had convicted him. We thus spoke again with Brendan Schwab Sat., in a much shorter discussion, about this execution and its implications for world sport and the place of Iran in it.

So, to keep us all up to date, the first segment you will hear is the shorter discussion of Sept. 12 with Brendan Schwab. After that is the longer discussion of Sept. 10, when again we all had hoped that Navid's life would be spared.

"There needs to be the highest level of accountability in sport for this type of behavior. We need to make sure that Navid has not lost his life in vain," he said.

"There's no doubt that we regard this as a repudiation on the part of Iran of its desire to be a member of the international sporting community. And of course our position is only made stronger by the devastating events of today."

He added, "We now need to see a very strong statement that global sport condemns the use of the death penalty, the use of torture, the use of inhumane and degrading treatment on any member of the Olympic movement, on any athlete, on any person who's affected by the Olympic movement."

In the first part of our discussion, Brendan Schwab emphasized that, while the rising tide of athlete activism is gaining popular support, there are still many sports organizations, especially in the Olympic movement, which are trying to block athletes from expressing their views. That itself has become an issue in this fight for human rights for athletes.

"If you're going to really understand any civil rights or human rights movement, and what does that mean, it really basically comes down to two fundamental aspects," he said.

"The first one is the right of freedom of expression, the right to freely state your genuinely held political beliefs. And the second, of course, is the right to freedom of association.

"And these are two rights that the Olympic movement really struggles to come to terms with. Because what it is trying to be is an organization that is inclusive, and therefore it believes it needs to be autonomous, that is it's self-governing, and it needs to be politically neutral. It tries to avoid the tough questions. It tries to avoid the uncomfortable conversation.

"And that can actually put it at odds with these two essentially inalienable rights, freedom of association and freedom of expression."

These issues have particularly come to the forefront with the worldwide upsurge in the struggle against racism and white supremacy, as athletes around the world are more and more joining in this struggle.

"We are living in very, very important and historic times," he said.

"We have seen with the Black Lives Matter movement and with other causes of social justice in sports in recent times, including gender equality, that athletes will not stick to sports, that athletes are insisting that sport is truly a force for good, and that there will not only be human rights and athlete rights respected within sport, but sport will be a vehicle for social justice beyond sport."

We also discussed:

-- The hypocrisy of the International Olympic Committee, which claims it is for human rights but enforces its Rule 50 which prohibits athlete protests at its events.

-- How the human rights of Olympic and world champion runner Caster Semenya of South Africa, who has naturally high testosterone levels for a woman, are being violated by those entities which are trying to deny her the right to compete as a woman, and force her to take dangerous drugs.

-- What can be done to further the cause of human rights for athletes.

-- And much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Podcasts.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Monday, September 07, 2020

Labor Day 2020 


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Sunday, August 23, 2020

No Holds Barred: Rob Koehler on the Boom in Athlete Activism and Sports at a Crossroads 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete.

We spoke with him by phone Thursday.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic upending sports, the massive Black Lives Matter anti-racist protests since the murder of George Floyd, the uncertainty surrounding the postponed Tokyo Olympics, and a host of other relevant issues and factors, the result in recent months has been a marked increase in activism by athletes around the world. And that, said Rob Koehler, is a good thing.

"I think we're seeing some really good stuff coming from athletes," he said. "More than ever I've seen athletes speaking up on issues. They are not taking the status quo anymore. They are standing up on issues."

More and more, athletes are forming their own independent organizations.

"We're going to see it more. And the more athletes speak up, I think the more athletes will come forward, because power in numbers makes a huge difference," he said.

"Everyone wants to see sports succeed," he noted, while pointing out what else needs to be done.

"It's time to change. We're at a real crossroads here, in terms of do we make sports look different? Do we make sports stronger? And how do we do that?" Key to that is "engaging athletes, empowering athletes to have independent collective voices."

For the future, Global Athlete has some ambitious plans.

"We're going to continue advocating and continue to work with the various athlete groups across the world that are standing up on issues," he said. "We really want to see more organizations and want to help support and assist development of more organizations like the Athletics Association, where they are operating independently. We are working with three other sports right now, athletes in three other sports, to move forward and establish a similar structure.

"So I think for us, that's the way we'd like to see things move forward, where athletes get together, they develop their own structure, and they make it a global representation on an international level. That's the way I see the future going to the mid- to short-term."

We also discussed the growing athlete opposition to the International Olympic Committee's Rule 50 which bars podium protests; why athletes are humans first and athletes second; ensuring that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is implemented and enforced in world sport; why countries with a bad human rights record should not be permitted to host international sporting events; the upcoming case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport about Russia's state-sponsored doping program and its being banned from the Olympics; how in light of the ongoing pandemic there must be a realistic roadmap for the return to training and competition in preparation for the Summer Olympics; how a cancellation of the Summer Olympics will have an adverse effect on athletes; and much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Podcasts.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

No Holds Barred: Nate Jackson on the Founding of the Black Wrestling Association 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Nate Jackson, a two-time All-American wrestler at Indiana, a current assistant coach at Princeton wrestling, and a founder and president of the Black Wrestling Association (BWA).

We spoke with him by phone Thursday.

The founding of the Black Wrestling Association is a direct product of the mass anti-racist uprisings in America and the world following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and other Black people. This led to several Black wrestlers including Nate Jackson having discussions about how to respond.

"We were kind of called together, brought together through tragedy. So after the Ahmaud Arbery murder, we sought different ways on trying to bring awareness to Black men and Black people in general being brutalized in our country through overt racists," he said.

Then on May 25 George Floyd was murdered, with the excruciating scene captured on video which was seen by millions around the world. That led to a series of protests, which are still ongoing, against racism, white supremacy, and police violence and murders, which have had the widest support and participation than any such protests since at least the 1960s and perhaps even more than occurred then.

For Nate Jackson and the Black wrestlers with whom he was already speaking, more decisive discussions took place.

"George Floyd's murder was a paradigm shifter, especially in public discussions, just because everyone that I talked to and that I saw around the Internet, everybody reacted the same way. Everybody was in shock," he said.

Now the circle of people participating in these discussions widened.

"We devised a call. And on that call there was about 60 other wrestlers of influence, wrestlers that we thought should be on that call. And this call was facilitated by myself, and we had moderators, most of the founding members. And we had just open discussion," he said.

"And at the end of the call, guess what? We all felt exactly the same about these issues. And in feeling the same, we had a responsibility to do something.

"So after that call came and went, the founding members -- myself, Kerry McCoy, Kevin Jackson, J'den Cox, Kenny Monday, James Green, Gabriel Townsell, B.J. Futrell, Kyven Gadson, and Mark Hall -- we decided to create the BWA.

"And our mission is to inspire, to connect, empower Black wrestlers and allies to grow wrestling through representation, equality, and opportunity," he said.

That was in June. In the brief time since, the Black Wrestling Association has been developing plans to build and strengthen its organization.

We discussed more of what those plans are; how they plan to use their platform as wrestlers to change wrestling and the world; how Black wrestlers need more representation in what is "a pretty insulated sport"; how they are involving some of the Black wrestlers of the past as well as college and high school wrestlers while creating role models for the youth; working to grow the sport of wrestling while striving to do all this; the priority of involving women wrestlers in the BWA; the sad recent passing of wrestling legend Carlton Haselrig; and much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

No Holds Barred: Steve Nelson on Shootfighting, Sambo, and Wrestling 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Steve Nelson, who fought in and ran the Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation (USWF). In the 1990s, the USWF ran a series of successful events, mainly in Amarillo, Texas, using shoot wrestling rules which allowed open-handed strikes, submissions, kicks, and knees.

Steve Nelson wrestled at Oklahoma State, won two world silver medals in sambo, had a judo background, came from a family of pro wrestlers, and fought in MMA. He was also the longtime head wrestling coach for both the boys' and girls' wrestling teams at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo.

We spoke with him by phone Wednesday.

Some two decades after USWF stopped running shows, there has been a recent revival of interest in it.

"All of a sudden we've got this revival of the USWF. People are wanting to write books on the USWF, write books on Evan Tanner," he said, referring to the USWF heavyweight champion, Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament winner, and later UFC middleweight champion.

"Gong Magazine just did a six-page layout on myself and the USWF in Japan," he added.

While he finds it "hard to believe" that so many people are interested in a fight company that ceased to exist so long ago, he did offer some insight into why USWF remains intriguing to people.

"I think a lot of people miss it," he said, "and it might have to do with some of the stuff that's going on now and how the USWF was handled. We tried to be a company with class, and you don't always see that in today's companies. That's how we tried to handle the USWF because I knew all those guys were role models."

While there are no plans to revive the USWF or its style, he is interested in recent developments in the sport of sambo.

"I'm surprised that sambo hasn't grown more than it has," he said, especially in the U.S. That, however, may start to change. He noted that there are three sambo schools in the Arlington-Dallas, Texas, area, with plans to establish a professional sambo league. If problems such as lack of funding and the need for more sambo schools are resolved, "I think the United States would be in a very high level of everybody else if all this was funded," he noted.

We also discussed more on the history and legacy of USWF, the many obstacles to sambo being included on the Olympic program, and much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Friday, July 10, 2020

No Holds Barred: Chris Baldwin on Training in the Pandemic, All Black Lives Matter, and Athlete Activism 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Chris Baldwin AKA the Fight Goddess.

We spoke with her by phone Thursday.

With the coronavirus pandemic still raging and cases of Covid-19 continuing to surge in many places in the U.S., including in Southern California, she has had to change how she conducts personal training.

"I had a mobile training business for the last 12 years here in Los Angeles, and that business came to a screeching halt once the lockdown order came from my Governer Newsom," she said, a lockdown, by the way, which she supports. She thus has had to shift gears and focus more on her Skullz punching bag product.

"Now I've had to do more virtual training," mainly outside, she said.

"It's taken a toll. It's definitely mentally, physically, emotionally, it's definitely taken a toll."

While the pandemic has yet to subside, and there are still a record number of new cases in the U.S. almost every day now, the fight against racism, white supremacy, and police murders and brutality has mushroomed to all parts of the U.S. and around the world. One of the largest and most important of these marches and rallies took place on June 14 under the slogan "All Black Lives Matter," which she attended. The march focused on both the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the fight for LGBTQ rights.

The "All Black Lives Matter" slogan was chosen for an "emphasis even not on LGB, but on the T. So our transgender family members are being murdered, our brothers and sisters are being murdered every single day at an astronomical rate."

While some in this growing Black Lives Matter movement exclude transgender people or even are offensive to them, she opposes such a stance.

"We can't have that," she said. "Your values, our values need to be aligned with unity."

We also discussed the call by unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua for athletes to form a union to fight racism; the recent formation of the Players Alliance by over 100 Black current and former pro baseball players to fight racism and white supremacy inside and outside of baseball; how viable are sports without fans present; the controversy around a proposed Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua fight being arranged by accused gangster Daniel Kinahan; and much, much more.

(Photo by Marna Deitch.)

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

No Holds Barred: Declan Hill on the Kinahan Gang and Boxing's Latest Scandal 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with investigative journalist, academic, consultant, and expert on match-fixing and corruption in international sports, Declan Hill.

He is also an associate professor in the Investigations Department at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven in New Haven, Connecticut.

We spoke with him by phone Tuesday.

The news broke in June that Daniel Kinahan would be playing a key role in arranging a potential heavyweight title unification fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, the two top fighters in the division and holders between them of all the major belts. But not many outside Kinahan's native Ireland knew who he was or his history.

Soon stories appeared in the Irish media explaining that Kinahan, now based in Dubai, headed a notorious international gang which engaged in drug and arms smuggling. Officials from the then-Irish prime minister to members of rival Irish political parties all condemned his attempt to rebrand himself as simply a boxing promoter or advisor. Many in the U.K. media as well as a few in the boxing media then reported on this story. Even so, Kinahan continued to receive praise from Tyson Fury, Bob Arum, and other prominent boxing people. While Kinahan has since been said to be withdrawing from publicly engaging in boxing negotiations, his ties to many fighters remain, at best, unclear.

"This story is like something out of Hollywood, and I have absolutely no doubt that there will be a movie made of this at some point," said Declan Hill.

"This is the Kinahan Gang and it's their long-standing blood feud with the Hutch Gang."

We discussed in depth the Irish government's long battle against these feuding drug gangs, the role of the media in this story, how this fits in with boxing's long history of association with organized crime, and much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Monday, June 08, 2020

Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic and Protests Against Racism and Police Violence, Who Will Still Watch Boxing? 


by Eddie Goldman

Much ado -- as much as anyone makes about boxing these days anyway -- is being made about the return of live televised boxing this Tuesday, June 9, on ESPN in the U.S. It will take place in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Conference Center Grand Ballroom, a room much smaller than the MGM Grand Garden Arena where major fights are held.

The significance of this fight card is not that it is so spectacular, but that it is happening at all. This will be the first step in resuming major professional fights since most sports were shut down in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The card is purposely a modest one, designed to dip boxing's toes back in the water and iron out any kinks as bigger shows are planned for the future. Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank said on the fight's prefight media conference call and in numerous interviews that no title fights were planned for it so as to avoid complications of involving the sanctioning bodies, including presumably having their officials at the fight.

There has been much discussion about the safety protocols to prevent spread of the coronavirus, especially since no vaccine exists and none is expected to be available for some time. These protocols were devised in cooperation with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

On the June 9 show, there will be no fans or media allowed. The fighters were tested for the virus when they arrived in Las Vegas and then quarantined in their hotel rooms until the results came back. Already one fighter, 2016 Olympian and unbeaten super featherweight Mikaela Mayer, tested positive. Her fight against Helen Joseph, billed as the show's co-feature, had to be cancelled. There are no other reports of positive coronavirus tests, but what these tests of participants and crew show after the event is over will be instructive in assessing how effective these safety measures were.

The main event features a fighter Top Rank is pushing hard, 2016 Olympic silver medalist and undefeated WBO featherweight champ Shakur Stevenson. His fight, at super featherweight, will see him face the relatively unknown Felix Caraballo, who has never before fought outside Puerto Rico. Stevenson said on the prefight media conference call that he might remain at super featherweight after this fight. While this is certainly a showcase fight which is expected to be one-sided, few are complaining since this first effort back on TV is partially an experiment in getting all these safety procedures right while producing something people will want to watch.

And therein lies a problem and challenge with this show which few are discussing. It takes place while the global coronavirus pandemic is still going on. And it takes place after about two weeks of massive demonstrations in every corner of the U.S. and in dozens of countries against the police murder of George Floyd, systematic racism and white supremacy, and continuing police brutality and killings.

Even though there are few live sports on TV, who under these conditions will want to resume watching the hurt business while so much of the world is hurting?

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Monday morning, June 8, there are 7,049,649 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world and 409,816 deaths. In the U.S., there are 1,946,144 confirmed cases and 116,929 deaths, the most of any country in the world. The total figures are likely much higher, since many cases and deaths from the virus have not been reported as such.

You likely know someone who has had this terrible disease, or died, or even had it yourself. Much of the world remains in mourning.

Since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, which was captured on a gruesome video, a mixture of outrage, grief, disbelief, and pent-up anger at the four centuries of white supremacy and violence against Black people has burst forth in an almost unprecedented and unending wave of demonstrations. As you are reading this, there are still more planned.

The slogan Black Lives Matter has now become mainstream. All over America, discussion and debate are occurring about slashing police budgets, completely reforming police practices, and punishing and firing the many law-breaking cops and their superiors who have attacked the public and acted like they are paid mercenaries. Trump threatened to unleash the military on American protesters, although this great uprising has forced him to retreat on that fascistic threat. It is no exaggeration to note that the very existence of American democracy appears to be at stake in this crisis.

With these twin crises involving death and violence, the coronavirus pandemic and the battles over policing and racism in America, how will the public receive the return of the violent sport of boxing?

The culture in these crises is quite different from what it was immediately after 9/11. Then most of the world was fighting angry at a cowardly shadowy enemy of fanatical and lunatic mass murdering terrorists. The atmosphere at the Bernard Hopkins-Felix "Tito" Trinidad fight at Madison Square Garden a few weeks after 9/11 was one of defiance. Here we can be angry at the politicians, corrupt and incompetent, who allowed this virus and police brutality to spread. But even this odious lot did not actually cause the virus to exist, as much as they failed to halt its spread, and not all of them were the rabid defenders of police violence and racism.

Right now there is a prevailing culture of peace, especially after all the deaths caused by these twin crises. The anti-racist demonstrations, while including a small minority of riotous provocateurs, have chiefly emphasized reconciliation.

How, then, in this culture of peace, sadness, fear, despair, isolation, uncertainty, and ill health, can we expect sports like boxing quickly to regain their audiences once they begin to be shown again on TV and streamed? The issue is not fights with no audience, which will undoubtedly change the tone of the events, because other, non-combat sports like baseball and soccer/football are also returning with no fans. The issue is the fights themselves.

Is this the time you want to see someone knocked out? Is today the day you want to see someone dropped by a body shot, or a combination in the corner, or someone fall to their knees, bleeding and about to lose consciousness? Is now when you want to see a war in the ring, no matter how artful or dramatic, while these wars rage worldwide, punctuated by endless sirens?

Sure, the hardcore fight fans will be happy to get their sport back. But will that be enough to sustain the sport financially? And how will this worldwide economic crisis, which will not end quickly, affect the spending habits of the more casual and cash-strapped fans?

There are no easy or ready-made answers. But do not expect things to be anywhere near-identical as they were before these twin crises, as sports resume, however gradually.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Kilindi Iyi, RIP 


In April, I was saddened to learn that martial arts legend and one of the main proponents of the African fighting sciences in America, Kilindi Iyi, had passed due to Covid-19. I had planned to do a tribute to him then, but my own health problems prevented that (more on that at another time). I had conducted an extensive interview with him in July 2013 for No Holds Barred, so given all the circumstances, I am reposting a link to that original show.

You can play or download this show at here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

A GoFundMe page was also set up to support his family, at https://www.gofundme.com/f/baba-kilindi.

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Friday, April 03, 2020

No Holds Barred: Rob Koehler on Athletes' Key Role in Forcing the IOC to Postpone the Olympics Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete.

We spoke with him by phone Thursday.

For weeks the International Olympic Committee and its president, Thomas Bach, insisted that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled starting in July, and even after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11. That only changed on March 24, when the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee did an abrupt about-face and announced that the Olympics would be postponed. Later on March 30, they announced that the new dates would be July 23 to August 8, 2021, for the Olympics and August 24 to September 5, 2021, for the Paralympics. But these changes were only made after many athletes and sports organizations were vociferously protesting, demanding a postponement, and saying they would not participate on the originally planned dates to protect their health.

"The International Olympic Committee and Thomas Bach, I think, really didn't manage this in a way that had the athletes' rights respected in the manner that they should have been," said Rob Koehler.

A pandemic was declared, Olympic qualifying events were being cancelled, many professional sports organizations postponed or cancelled events, training facilities and gyms were being closed, borders were being closed, people were self-isolating, positive tests and deaths from the coronavirus were mounting, and some countries instituted lockdowns. But the IOC was "telling athletes to continue to train, continue to go forward with their preparations for the Olympic Games, which for us and the athlete groups we spoke to was an out-of-touch message" that ignored the "number one thing," public health, he said.

"We rallied the troops. We worked with different sports, athletics, the different countries to look at the message we wanted to send to the International Olympic Committee. And we called very openly and very vocally for the IOC to make an announcement that they're postponing the Games. They owed the duty of care to athletes. They were acting very irresponsibly. And I think the athletes' voice, the way they spoke up, forced the IOC to make a decision that they should have made a week before, and that was to postpone the Games," he said.

"We understand it's a very difficult situation, there's a lot of moving parts, it's not an easy decision, but all athletes needed to hear was, 'it's being postponed and we'll figure things out and we'll let you know once we figure things out.'

"And the athletes forced that card on them, and I was proud of every athlete that stood up."

We also discussed how many athletes competing in professional leagues have representation while many Olympic athletes do not; various models for independent athletes' associations; the need to support athletes' mental health with the postponement of the Olympics; how it is not yet known if athletes will be able to train in time to prepare for an Olympics starting in July 2021; the fiasco of the IOC-run Olympic boxing qualifier in London which was only cancelled midway after it had started and saw several boxers and coaches test positive for coronavirus afterwards; alternatives to the Olympic movement; and much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

No Holds Barred is also available on Spotify.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

LenneHardt.com, the home of Lenne Hardt, the legendary MMA and sports announcer, voice actor, singer, actress, and comedienne. Lenne is also known for her jazz vocals with her Lenne Hardt Jazz Cabaret Band. For more information, to book her, or to order a custom message from her, go to LenneHardt.com.

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

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