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Friday, January 26, 2018

No Holds Barred: Raul Ramirez on Catch Wrestling 2018 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Raul Ramirez of the Catch Wrestling Alliance.

We focused on the plans for catch wrestling for 2018. We spoke with Raul Ramirez by phone Thursday.

This year, a key part of the plan is for "a lot more outreach, but then also trying to get more youth involved, but not exactly in pure catch-as-catch can with all the really painful submission holds," he said.

"Traditionally it was always seen as something a little bit too dangerous for children. But so we want to try to bring back what we call amateur catch-as-catch-can. We want to really try to get kids into that."

This amateur catch wrestling would have no submissions or points. Matches would have time limits, with victory either by pin, or if there is no pin, by judges determining the winner by who controlled the match and went for the pin the most.

We discussed plans to hold the first of these amateur tournaments in April; plans to appear at the 2018 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships and WIN Memorabilia Show in March in Cleveland; plans for a third annual Frank Gotch Tournament in the summer in a new location; training in Singapore along with the Kapap Academy; the close connections and historical links between catch wrestling, grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and judo; why catch wrestling is "most ideal" for self-defense; why Chinese kickboxing (sanda) is also important both for sport and self-defense; and much more.

(Photo by Phil Monson, courtesy of Catch Wrestling Alliance.)

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 through iTunes.

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:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

Trans Boxing, organizing boxing training for transgender and gender non-conforming people, for fitness and self-defense. For more information, go to TransBoxing.org.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Downlow on Showtime's Boxing Upfront 

by Eddie Goldman

10 Marquee Events Across First Half Of 2018!
12 World Champions! 14 Undefeated Fighters!
12 World Championship Fights!

But amidst all the gushing over the premium network Showtime's private boxing "upfront" event Wednesday, which was live streamed and held at the bourgie Cipriani's 42nd Street in New York, here is what is missing from most of the discussion I have seen:

Notably absent at this event was the most popular fighter in the world, heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. His fights have been shown by Showtime in the U.S. of late, and Showtime apparently can match any offer to show his March 31 title unification fight with Joseph Parker. HBO, with a budget unburdened by contracts with Top Rank fighters and lightened by the retirements of Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko, already tried to grab Joshua when he fought Carlos Takam this past October, and aired his classic fight with Klitschko in April on same-day tape-delay. With Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn dealing primarily with HBO through his new Matchroom Boxing USA, will Joshua soon be jumping to HBO?

Note also that with one exception, all the fights announced by Showtime for the first half of 2018 are in the U.S., with only the May 19 Adonis Stevenson-Badou Jack fight scheduled for just north of the border in Canada. No other international fights have been announced, although they always can be added. In the past few years Showtime has aired some fights from the U.K., which are shown live in the afternoons in the U.S. So far nothing.

For all the glitz of this announcement, there are only a few fighters in this lineup who are widely accepted as being the tops in their divisions. While this, of course, is a subjective judgment, arguably only Leo Santa Cruz at featherweight, Keith Thurman at welterweight, and Erislandy Lara at junior middleweight would get my vote for number one in their respective weight classes in an honest, independent poll. Again, this can be debated, but it does show that there may be less in this announcement than meets the eye.

Besides the lack of any international fights and anything outside North America, once again the talent-rich World Boxing Super Series is snubbed. The semis and finals of their cruiserweight and super middleweight tournaments take place this year, and thus far for these highly-anticipated fights, it looks like the American TV suits have their American heads in the sand (or maybe stuck up somewhere else).

And there are also no women's fights listed, although Showtime has featured Claressa Shields on their Friday night ShoBox series.

Perhaps most telling was what this says about the PBC, Premier Boxing Champions. This series was supposed to bring top fights back to free TV in the U.S. by first buying time to air these fights on the non-pay networks. But PBC's top fighters and fights are featured in Showtime's schedule, thus signaling that PBC is likely throwing in the towel on its hopes of ever getting a major TV rights deal from a non-premium network.

There were plenty of fools and shills for rival boxing groups who declared PBC dead-on-arrival when it started in 2015, but PBC did manage to show the fights with the largest audiences in the U.S. these past few years. However, inconsistent matchmaking, failure to understand the Internet and social media, typical boxing paranoia about being a transparent organization, impossible to follow TV scheduling, endless postponing or just not making the right fights where the best fight the best, and more seem to have returned this venture from whence it sprung: pay TV, on Showtime.

The gushers were also noting that the January 20 Showtime card headlined by the Errol Spence Jr.-Lamont Peterson fight drew a relatively good average audience of 637,000. But that was less than the average of the UFC prelims on FS1, which was 905,000, and the Bellator MMA card on Paramount (formerly Spike) of 770,000, both on around the same time. (http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/showbuzzdailys-top-150-saturday-cable-originals-network-finals-1-20-2018.html)

For Showtime, which relies on subscriber revenue and has no outside advertising, this number might be good. But for PBC's stated goal of showcasing the fighters in front of a large general audience, it is bad.

Hiding these fights behind a pay TV wall has its effects. The print edition of Sunday's New York Daily News, which long had been known for providing the major boxing coverage in New York, only ran an AP wire service story about this fight, and even after the show ended relatively early for boxing, before 11:30 PM EST. Also, if you search the web sites of both The New York Times and New York Daily News, you will find nothing on Showtime's Wednesday event. Such are not exactly endorsements of their media strategies.

Top Rank's move to ESPN last year has been accompanied by boasting of how well they are already doing. According to a Top Rank and ESPN press release, their shows in primetime were said to have averaged 1,575,000 viewers on ESPN and 95,000 on ESPN Deportes. They also said the 12 most-viewed fights on U.S. cable in 2017 were Top Rank on ESPN fights. But they also are reportedly planning on running pay-per-view fights soon, so here comes the paywall again for the top fights.

So will the recent revival of boxing in the U.S. see a race to the top, or once again a race to the bottom? Sun Tzu noted in The Art of War in the fifth century B.C.E. that: "All warfare is based on deception." Keep this in mind when you read all these cheery announcements.

The full Showtime-PBC press release can be read at http://www.premierboxingchampions.com/news/showtime-sports-and-premier-boxing-champions-announce-industry-leading-all-star-boxing-schedule.

(Photo by Amanda Westcott/Showtime.)

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Anthony Joshua Is A Star, But Not Yet A Hero 


by Eddie Goldman

About a year ago, on January 31, 2017, Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko held a press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York to announce what turned out to be their classic fight on April 29 of that year. Many boxing media types, including several from outside the U.S., covered it. Before the press conference formally started, I was chatting with Gareth Davies of the Telegraph of the U.K., and he asked me what I thought of Joshua, whose career he had been covering for some time. I told him that Joshua had the potential to become as popular as Muhammad Ali was, and his eyes lit up. What an analysis from an American, it appeared he was thinking, about the Briton Joshua, who still has never fought in the U.S. Most of the American media there seemed more concerned by the absence of a buffet at the press conference than the world historical potential of this fight. What I said made headlines in the U.K. and elsewhere, as it laid out the possibility of a major cultural development for boxing and for Joshua and his career.

Reflecting back a year later, we have learned much more about Anthony Joshua, both in and out of the ring, and are in a better position to evaluate that prediction.

It should be obvious that in 2017, Anthony Joshua became universally recognized as a star in boxing. His fight with Klitschko established him in virtually everyone's eyes as the top heavyweight in the world today, and thus, the baddest man on the planet. By defeating Klitschko, Joshua became a unified heavyweight champion, adding the WBA belt to his IBF belt. This fight, almost universally celebrated as the 2017 fight of the year, drew 90,000 fans to Wembley Stadium in London, set pay-per-view records in the U.K., and had widespread international TV coverage including in Germany and in the U.S., where both Showtime and HBO aired it, with the latter showing it on same-day, tape-delay. His next fight, on October 28 against late replacement Carlos Takam, also was seen by 78,000 fans at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, which is where he will return March 31 for a title unification fight against unbeaten WBO champ Joseph Parker of New Zealand. Besides being a pay-per-view staple in the U.K., both Showtime and HBO are bidding against one another to air his fights in America.

But being a star is not the same as being as popular as Muhammad Ali, who very clearly valued his influence and accomplishments outside the ring more than what he did inside the ring. Joshua seems to share that view, although he has not yet fully and publicly shared his views on broader issues outside of boxing. And because Joshua has established himself as a sports star does not mean that, even if he unifies all the major heavyweight titles, that he will be regarded as Ali was.

It is well-known, and thus not worth repeating in detail, that at the peak of his career, Ali was illegally stripped of his title and banned from fighting in the U.S. because of his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army on the grounds of being a conscientious objector and Muslim minister. He became a symbol of resistance to the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam, and also for the Black Liberation, civil rights, and anti-war movements in general. Ali was thus lauded as "The People's Champion". When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction and he was allowed to fight again, his matches, especially with rivals Joe Frazier and George Foreman, became major international cultural and even political events.

Joshua, who is 28 years old, is now 20-0 with 20 KOs, Ali's 20th fight, at just 22 years of age, was in 1964 and his first victory over Sonny Liston. It is still a source of controversy as many continue to assert that Liston took a dive in that fight and also their rematch. It was after that first fight with Liston that Ali announced he had changed his name from Cassius Clay, and was a member of the Nation of Islam. Accompanying him to the fight were Malcolm X, football great and activist Jim Brown, and the legendary rock 'n' roll and soul singer Sam Cooke, who also had his own beef with the record industry.

While Joshua has not been embroiled in the type of controversies the Ali-Liston fights had, he also has not taken as radical a path as Ali. While today's political situation does have some parallels to the 1960s, there are not the same types of broad mass radical movements in the West as there were then.

But there still is plenty of protest in sports, especially in the past couple of years. In the U.S., the "take-a-knee" movement initiated by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick against racist police killings and brutality has garnered wide support as well as wide opposition. Other American athletes from the NFL and NBA, and especially women basketball players from the WNBA, have shown their support of it. And even in boxing there has been some open support. WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder, who one day soon may face Joshua in a unification bout, spoke about how he might, too, take a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, or at least express some type of support for this movement. Former welterweight champion Andre Berto has been outspoken on these issues, as have other fighters, and even on occasion Trump supporter Don King.

The charade that sports and politics are and always have been completely separate has largely ended in the U.S., but not as much in the U.K. Still Joshua has given some clues as to his political leanings, albeit short and incomplete analyses.

He was recently interviewed by the U.K.'s ITV News and said he would like to play a role in politics, although he added, "I'm not trying to run the country." He indicated he wants to change the tax system to allow people who pay high taxes to have more of a direct say over how their money is spent. Where this even puts him on the U.K. political spectrum is as unclear as is how to implement this suggestion.

The brief interview also included a comment on the U.K.'s NHS, its National Health Service. The NHS has had a major crisis, especially this winter, with years of underfunding, cuts, and privatization leading to the cancellation of tens of thousands of operations and outpatient appointments until at least the end of January, and major overcrowding in hospitals. But Joshua did not address these types of fundamental issues. Instead he implied that a key problem facing the NHS was people flooding its emergency resources over very minor problems, like simply cutting a finger, and thus there is a need to "educate" them about what the NHS is used for.

This is hardly a platform that would make Joshua the next Darcus Howe, the late British Black radical leader and media personality. And we also have no idea just what Joshua thinks on some of the top issues in the U.K., such as Brexit, immigration, and the economy.

What we have so far seen of Joshua in the cultural sphere is quite tame and respectable as well. He has hob-nobbed with England's Prince Harry, writing on social media only half-jokingly that he would like to be his best man at his wedding. He frequently appears on the BBC late night comedy talk show hosted by Graham Norton, where he also schmoozed with American actor Tom Hanks. In November he was in Dubai for the Dubai Fitness Challenge. And he has a growing list of mainstream sponsors.

In his press conference last week to announce the Parker fight, Joshua was a bit more agitated and less respectful than he has been previously. Parker and his camp had trash talked him beforehand, saying he had a glass jaw and was a "king of steroids", thus leading Joshua to respond, although again he did not descend to the level of trash talking.

Joshua said, "It will take more than a human to stop me from where I'm destined to be." He explained just when he had been knocked down and knocked out as an amateur, including in 2011 against British fighter David Price, the same day, he said, he had just "come out of a police cell", in the tail end of the days when Joshua was still getting in trouble with the law. Later promoter Eddie Hearn listed the numerous random drug tests Joshua has taken and still is subject to, in none of which he has tested positive for PEDs.

Parker later apologized for his steroid accusation, and at the press conference Joshua reversed an earlier statement saying he would refuse to shake Parker's hand after their fight. Thus the temptation to follow the path of WWE, UFC, and the rest has been avoided for now.

The British tabloids continue to write about Joshua, almost every day. He is also often a hot topic in the African media, although some articles reflect such low journalistic standards that they incorrectly say Joshua was born in Nigeria, when he was born in Watford, England. Nigeria is where he did live for some time as a child, where his mother was born, and where his father, who is of Nigerian and Irish descent, still lives.

Taken together, all this makes Anthony Joshua an international star and a celebrity, but not yet a hero.

Muhammad Ali achieved iconic status not simply by becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. He did it by risking all that fame and fortune by standing up for what he believed in, and thus had his boxing career taken away from him at its height and when he was in his prime. Ali later was vindicated, but not before facing a barrage of scorn, demonization, and opposition far greater that even Colin Kaepernick has had. Ali was also abandoned by almost all the so-called great boxing and sports journalists of his era, with the notable exception of Howard Cosell and a few others.

We just do not know publicly what Joshua's views are on the major issues of the day in the U.K. and the world.

There was a minor controversy in December about a series of private messages attributed to Joshua by former heavyweight title challenger Eddie Chambers, which were posted online. They appeared to come from Joshua's social media accounts, and denounced Chambers as a "bum" and a "Disgrace to the superior black race".

None of this has ever been fully explained by Joshua or his camp. We do know that these messages were sent while Joshua was still on vacation in Dubai. If he did send these himself, was he just joking, trolling, being an asshole, or serious? Or did someone else send these messages, and with or without Joshua's knowledge and permission? Do they indicate that Joshua secretly is a Black nationalist of some sort, or just messing with Chambers in an unsettling way?

On the other hand, we also know that in the past, Joshua has publicly called himself to journalist Oma Akatugba a "citizen of the world" and punctuated his comments by saying: "One love. Peace".

Whatever all this indicates, if anything, it does mean that Joshua the star and celebrity has a long way to go if he ever will become a hero and an outspoken foe of injustice and oppression like Ali was.

That, by the way, is merely an observation and not a criticism. There is not today the kind of mass movement which supported Ali when he was attacked and vilified. This mass movement even helped give birth to Ali's one-time radicalism, which he did not publicly reveal until after the first Liston fight.

Does Joshua share any of these types of views, or is he perhaps less political than Ali and even pretty mainstream in his views? Or is there something brewing there that will one day come out of a fighter, whose right shoulder bears a tattoo of the map of Africa with Nigeria's borders outlined, and the word "Wisdom" written above it? And what exactly can Joshua do and say today without jeopardizing and even killing his boxing career, at a time when vindication may be even less certain than it was for Ali?

And always be aware that while notable individuals can and do certainly influence events and history, it is primarily the times that make the people, and not vice versa.

Anthony Joshua has taken the first steps to ensuring worldwide stardom. We shall see whether or not out-of-the-ring heroism follows.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Twitter and the Fight Against Russian Trolls (with update) 


by Eddie Goldman

Friday evening, never the best time to contact someone, I got an official email from Twitter noting that I had been following an account linked to the notorious "Internet Research Agency", the troll factory linked to the criminal Putin regime. Most likely this referred to the "Black Fist" scam account, Russia's failed COINTELPRO operation against the Black community in America, about which I have written, talked, and discussed many times recently. Twitter took action against these fake accounts, explaining:


"As previously announced, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

"Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available....

"We have identified an additional 1,062 accounts associated with the IRA. We have suspended all of these accounts for Terms of Service violations, primarily spam, and all but a few accounts, which were restored to legitimate users, remain suspended. At the request of congressional investigators, we are also sharing those account handles with Congress. In total, during the time period we investigated, the 3,814 identified IRA-linked accounts posted 175,993 Tweets, approximately 8.4% of which were election-related."


The fight against all those who try to sabotage freedom of expression, be they in Washington, Moscow, or anywhere else, must continue and be stepped up.

The full post by Twitter can be read at: https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/topics/company/2018/2016-election-update.html.

Update:

It ain't over till it's over. From the Washington Post:

As the effort lead by some Republicans to curtail special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the election meddling has heated up, Russian-linked accounts helped amplify a Twitter hashtag calling for the release of a memo the group hopes will help discredit Mueller's work, according to Hamilton 68, a research firm that tracks the malicious accounts. The #releasethememo hashtag was tweeted by these accounts nearly 4,000 times in the last couple of days, the firm said....

Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, who studies the effects of the disinformation campaign on social media, said that some of the memes and misinformation spread by these fake accounts live on the site, after being reposted by other less-prominent accounts, in contradiction of Twitter’s assertion that all the content had been removed.

“That is patently false. The way these accounts posts have circulated and then spread back into Twitter means they’re still around,” he said. “The fact that there are thousands of posts that are easily findable is concerning.”

Albright said during a recent study he identified 3,746 tweets he said were from IRA-linked accounts that were still live on the service.

http://wapo.st/2mTaH8Y

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Friday, January 19, 2018

The “Black Fist” Affair: Russia’s Failed COINTELPRO Operation Against the Black Community in America 


My piece on the "Black Fist" Russian troll scam has been posted on the web site of the National Writers Union, of which I am a member.

The “Black Fist” Affair: Russia’s Failed COINTELPRO Operation Against the Black Community in America, by Eddie Goldman
https://nwu.org/the-black-fist-affair-russias-failed-cointelpro-operation-against-the-black-community-in-america



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Monday, January 15, 2018

2018, The Year Of The Heavyweights 


by Eddie Goldman

Welcome to 2018, which is shaping up to be the year of the heavyweights.

Two heavyweight title mega-fights were just officially announced, as you may already know. And while neither was a surprise and both were long reported to be in the works, the timing of these announcements was curious, to say the least.

On Friday afternoon Eastern Time, right before a long weekend in the U.S., with Monday being a national holiday to mark the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was officially announced,that March 3 in Brooklyn, New York, the 32-year-old American, WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder, 39-0 with 38 KOs, would finally face the ageless Cuban Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, 28-0 with 24 KOs.

Then on Sunday morning U.K. time, and still before sunrise in the U.S., came the official news that on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales, the 28-year-old Anthony Joshua of the U.K., the IBF and WBA super champion, with a record of 20-0 with all 20 wins coming by knockout, would face the 26-year-old WBO heavyweight champ Joseph Parker of New Zealand, who has a record of 24-0 with 18 KOs, in a title unification bout.

It almost seemed like these two announcements were made for fights competing with one another. In reality, they could signify the first round of a series of historic fights which could not only eventually lead to the crowning of one undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but the elevation of such a champion to the status of being the top and most intriguing athlete in the world, not seen since the heydays of fighters like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. And, of course, such developments could lift the sport, if you can call it that, of boxing further out of its self-imposed marginalized status, assuming that for a little while at least the people running it can avoid barreling down a self-destructive path.

Not a lot of people are expecting Joseph Parker to defeat Anthony Joshua. Though both are undefeated, Parker has not looked like a world-beater in his last several fights. In December 2016 he won a close majority decision against then-unbeaten Andy Ruiz Jr. to win the WBO belt. He was also taken the distance against late replacement Razvan Cojanu in May of last year, and won another majority decision in September in a terrible fight against the then-unbeaten and highly awkward Hughie Fury, the younger cousin of former champ Tyson Fury. Parker had been knocking most of his opponents out before those three fights, and they raised questions about both his power, speed, and ability to adapt to higher-level competition.

Parker's signature win, so far, was a controversial third-round knockout in the fight right before those three decisions, in October 2016 when he stopped perennial contender Alexander Dimitrenko. Even though Parker sometimes looked sloppy in this fight, he repeatedly hurt the taller Dimitrenko, who is an inch taller than Anthony Joshua. But the final, and fourth knockdown of the fight, in just the third round, appeared to take place when Dimitrenko had been pushed down to the canvas and was on a knee, and Parker landed a hard body shot after a clearly legal one. The referee, the late Marlon Wright, originally signaled that there was no knockdown. But when Dimitrenko stayed on the canvas writhing in pain and spitting out his mouthpiece, Wright counted him out, for this non-knockdown. Still, Parker was dominating the fight and Dimitrenko was never in it. And if you think Parker just beat up a washed-up bum, remember that in his two most recent fights, Dimitrenko has scored victories over previously-unbeaten opponents, including a first-round knockout of the highly-touted Adrian Granat.

But for Parker to be even competitive with Joshua, he will have to show more speed, better footwork, and more accurate punching than in his last three fights. It is obvious that Joshua has the advantages in power and size, and Parker does not have the power Klitschko had to take advantage of a mistake by Joshua when he knocked him down last year and came close to stopping him. Parker has said that he thinks Joshua has a glass jaw, which obviously is hyperbole, although his chin is one vulnerability Parker will seek to exploit.

If Parker fights like he did, though, in his recent fights, Joshua will have no trouble finding him, hurting him, and stopping him. Expect a competitive fight with impressive moments for both guys, but Joshua remains a prohibitive favorite for logical reasons. Even after Joshua's less-than-impressive performance against late replacement Carlos Takam in his most recent fight, he still dominated that entire fight. But if Joshua gets distracted by all the glitz and business side of things during his training, he could underestimate Parker and take a win as a given, which can never be done, especially in heavyweight boxing.

The business side of this fight also may indicate some important changes for Joshua. He and Klitschko were extremely respectful of each other in the lead-up to their fight, with both, of course, promising victory. The Joshua-Parker fight has already descended into nastiness, with Parker's promoter David Higgins lacing into Joshua, Parker joining the chorus, and Joshua vowing not to shake Parker's hand after the fight after his expected victory. This is how they are building this fight, as if they need this rubbish to sell it.

If this fight is to elevate boxing to must-see status around the world, it cannot be viewed as akin to the fake "wrestling". It should be sold as a unification fight of major heavyweight titles, and a prelude to the winner fighting to unify all the major belts. That would be historic, so the hysterics are both self-defeating and unnecessary. But this is professional boxing, which has always skirted the law and laughed at decency, and appears to be quite ready to squander the prestige and even glamour it achieved after the Joshua-Klitschko fight.

If the favorite Joshua wins and then holds three of the major four belts, it is far from a given that he will try to win the one he doesn't have, the WBC belt, this year. Holding multiple titles means having multiple mandatory contenders, which can range from being an annoyance, a farce, or a fair way to guarantee that top contenders are not locked out of having a title shot for political or business reasons. But Joshua satisfied his obligation to fight the IBF mandatory by beating Takam, and may be able to take care of two mandatories at once by facing Alexander Povetkin. He has been announced as the WBA mandatory, and also knocked off the WBO number one contender, Christian Hammer, with a lopsided unanimous decision in December. That fight would free up Joshua for another unification fight afterward.

It does make sense for a victorious Joshua to face Povetkin after Parker, rather than WBC champ Deontay Wilder. The Russian Povetkin, who has also fought several times in Germany but never outside Europe, is better known in Europe, which is Joshua's home base, than the American Wilder. Wilder is also not a big draw in the U.S. or on U.S. TV, at least so far, so there is not even a business urgency for Joshua to plan to fight him.

There is also another wrinkle to having a Joshua-Wilder fight. Wilder is contracted with Al Haymon, with his premium cable fights on Showtime. Joshua's TV home in the U.K. is Sky Sports, which airs his fights on pay-per-view. Joshua has had a deal with Showtime for U.S. TV, but that reportedly has only one more fight left on it, with Showtime having the ability to match any offer from a rival network, as they did with the Takam fight when HBO tried to step in. HBO also aired the Joshua-Klitschko fight on same-day tape-delay after Showtime aired it live in the afternoon U.S. time, and had expressed an interest in signing Joshua as its own boxing program has been sinking of late.

Also, Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, started Matchroom Boxing USA last year, and has a deal with HBO to televise those shows in the U.S. So will Hearn, who now has fights on HBO, Showtime, and ESPN, try to take Joshua with him to HBO? Or will he just play the networks against each other to get the most lucrative deal? It should also be noted that the announcement of the Joshua-Parker fight listed no other TV than Sky Sports Box Office, meaning the American network which will show it, in the afternoon of March 31 in the U.S., has not been determined yet.

Another wild card in all of this is CBS, the broadcast network which is part of the parent company of Showtime. If CBS wants to air Joshua-Wilder thinking that Wilder will win, and that fight is held in the U.S., in either New York or Las Vegas, there may be too much money, coverage, and publicity involved to turn it down.

But if Joshua does end up at HBO, it then seems much less likely that a fight with the Showtime-contracted Wilder would happen any time soon, and especially since it does not appear to be a fight with potential to set or even approach any TV or pay-per-view records. And if Joshua fights Povetkin and then Wilder, and wins all these fights, once again he will have four new mandatories, giving the sanctioning bodies a reason to strip him of a belt or two if he fails to fight them. So where is the urgency to unify all these belts, when almost no one cares about them anyway?

Joshua also has the potential of more lucrative fights with David Haye, if he defeats Tony Bellew in their rematch in May and manages to stay healthy. And the elephant in the room, who still almost looks like one, is former champ Tyson Fury, assuming he can get in any kind of fighting shape and avoid too many physical and mental problems. Then, perhaps in 2019, it's on to Wilder, if he still has his belt, but he also for now should be a lower priority for Joshua than Povetkin, Haye, and Fury.

The plan does seem to be for Wilder to hold onto that belt, by any means necessary. He was originally scheduled to fight Ortiz in November, but that fight was cancelled after Ortiz failed a VADA drug test due to banned substances he said was in his prescription blood pressure medication, for which he never applied for a therapeutic use exemption or even listed that medicine on his prefight medical questionnaire. For that, Ortiz was removed from that November 4 main event and replaced by then-WBC mandatory contender and former champ Bermane Stiverne. Then Stiverne lasted less than a round with Wilder, throwing a total of four punches and landing exactly zero, in a performance in which Showtime announcer Al Bernstein said euphemistically, "Bermane Stiverne was a cooperator."

It appeared very convenient that Ortiz did not face Wilder then, as many believed that in a fair fight Ortiz would clobber the awkward Wilder and ruin Wilder's chances of a massive payday in a unification fight with Joshua. That episode of boxing's brand of trickeration has been analyzed in great detail by the best boxing writers out there, Charles Farrell and Frank Lotierzo, as well as by myself. Not only is it not worth repeating all that, but the only thing that needs to be added now is that it appears that boxing's gods (or devils) will not allow Wilder to lose to Ortiz on March 3, one way or another. Otherwise, this fight will never have been made, and still may end up not taking place for one reason or another.

Friday's announcement of Wilder-Ortiz did not include any mention of who is televising it, meaning that it likely is also being pitched to CBS, since it probably has to land there or Showtime. But unlike boxing, CBS is run professionally, and these major networks usually have their sports schedules in place many months and even years in advance. For example, Super Bowl LIII is scheduled for Sunday, February 3, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia, and will be televised by CBS. The 2018 Major League Baseball World Series is scheduled to begin October 23 and be televised on Fox, even though the regular season doesn't start until March 29. So what is the likelihood that CBS will shuffle its schedule and risk annoying advertisers, who buy ads also months and sometimes years in advance, for a fight which was already cancelled once? It could be a mistake if they try such a thing.

What is likely to happen is that sometime, somewhere, there will be a WWE-style faceoff between Joshua and Wilder, especially if Joshua-Parker is televised on Showtime in the U.S. Who will be the face and who will be the heel remains to be determined, but let's at least hope that masks and steel chairs are not part of that charade.

Also likely this week are press conferences for these two fights. The Joshua-Parker one will take place Tuesday in London, with foreboding warnings of anger boiling over, and so on. As of Sunday, the date for the Wilder-Ortiz press conference has not been announced and is presumably awaiting the TV deal to be finalized. It may take place this Thursday as part of the final press conference for the January 20 Spence-Peterson card, also on Showtime and also at the Barclays Center, or possibly the day of that fight, but we shall see.

Despite all the behind-the-scenes business maneuverings and typical trickeration, we do seem to be on the cusp of another promising era in the heavyweight division. Let's just hope it doesn't get screwed up.

(Photo of Luis Ortiz and Deontay Wilder by Douglas DeFelice, Premier Boxing Champions.)

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

No Holds Barred: The "Black Fist" Affair, Russia's Failed COINTELPRO Operation Against the Black Community in America 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses the "Black Fist Self-Defense Project", a Russian troll operation which paid for self-defense classes to be held in the Black community in America in 2017. Explained are the background to their engaging legitimate and unknowing people in this scam, the objectives of the Russian trolls, and how this was part of a broader campaign that was Russia's failed version of COINTELPRO, the notorious program of the American FBI to disrupt, discredit, infiltrate, and destroy numerous anti-war, Black Liberation, civil rights, women's, progressive, leftist, and revolutionary organizations in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Also explained are how the media in Russia and the U.S. exposed "Black Fist" including the Russian site RBC and the U.S. TV show "The Rundown with Robin Thede", why this scam failed, 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 through iTunes.

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:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

No Holds Barred: Gabriel Kuhn on Workers' Sport, Anti-Fascism, and Combat Sports 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with writer, activist, and athlete Gabriel Kuhn.

He is the author of several books, including two which we discussed: Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety: Forging a Militant Working-Class Culture and Playing as if the World Mattered: An Illustrated History of Activism in Sports.

We spoke with him Wednesday.

Among the accomplishments of the past that have all but been buried in history are the existence of mass workers' sports organizations and events. Based primarily in Europe, these reached their height in the 1920s and 1930s. There were even several international events known as Workers' Olympics, which drew thousands of participants and massive audiences.These were only stopped by the rise of Nazism and World War II.

However, after the defeat of the fascists and the end of the war, these organizations and events were not re-established on a large scale, with only remnants remaining. The mainstream sports, which had been characterized by the many factions of the workers' movement as "bourgeois sports", now had almost complete dominance in the sports world.

The role of the combat sports in the workers' sports movement of the past was a major one. This was linked to the need to fight the growing danger of fascism, as the Nazi movement grew and took power in many countries, and soon after launched World War II.

"Combat sports were a very important part of the workers' sports movement, especially in Austria," said Gabriel Kuhn. This was where, before the fascists came to power in 1934 in the Austrian Civil War, the idea of Wehrsport, which translates roughly as "paramilitary sport" or "defense sport", was primarily developed.

"The idea behind it was to integrate what essentially was paramilitary training for workers' militias into the workers' sports movement. And there was a very strong overlap between the militias and the workers' sports organizations. So the militias recruited actively in workers' sports organizations," he said.

"In the 1920s and '30s, the stronger the fascist danger grew, the more emphasis was put on the Wehrsport aspect in the workers' sports movement because it became clearer and clearer that the training in workers' sports was actually also an important basis for political resistance against right wing and reactionary forces."

Even though there are not large, mass workers' movements in the West as there had been, there are lessons from the workers' sports movement that can be applied in today's situation by those fighting fascism and reaction.

"Now if we take all this to today, once again you don't have these mass movements, but if you look around Europe for example, and you look at anti-fascist groups, small anti-fascist groups in different countries, that have an interest in sports, and try to kind of resurrect some of these ideas, consciously or unconsciously, that existed in the 1920s and '30s, sort of naturally, combat sports are an important part," he said.

To fight these various fascists and neo-Nazis effectively, he continued, "you got to be prepared. And one of the best ways to do that is to engage in combat sports training."

None of this means, however, that what goes on in the mainstream sports organizations and world should be ignored. The opposite, in fact, is true.

"The question of how that sports is played and organized, and which, both moral and ethical ideas and principles, and then political ideas it relates to, very much depends on the struggle on the ground of the people who participate in that sport," he said.

"So, the more people we have involved also in the mainstream organizations that are not political or maybe even leaning to the right, the more people we have involved with progressive ideas, the better it will be for the sport and the better it will be for society."

We discussed these issues in depth, plus: how the wall between sports and politics is fictitious; the take-a-knee protests in American sports against racist police killings and police brutality; how the workers' sports movement held events with tens of thousands of participants along with mass cultural events; how the workers' movement is a cultural movement as well as a political and economic one; the lack of a mass alternative sports movement today and how that relates to the decline of the workers' movement; the numerous FIFA scandals; how current anti-fascist fight clubs and events are organized around slogans like "Love MMA, Hate Fascism"; the role of German Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler and worker Werner Seelenbinder, who fought Hitler and the Nazis; the writings of Austrian socialist Julius Deutsch, who was a leader of the workers' sports movement and who also advocated complete sobriety; why people should still enjoy sports when they can while still fighting against their reactionary aspects; 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 through iTunes.

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:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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