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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Floyd wasn’t The Greatest, but he’ll be missed

Floyd Mayweather Jr. speaks during a post fight news conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, 2007. Mayweather considered by many the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, announced his retirement on Friday. Floyd Mayweather Jr. speaks du…

By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports
Yahoo! Sports

A cherub-faced Floyd Mayweather Jr. sat beaming at a conference table a little more than nine years ago, not long after he stunned the boxing world by decimating highly respected super welterweight champion Genaro Hernandez.

Mayweather was one of a number of fighters signed to exclusive multi-fight contracts with HBO, but he was the youngest and the least proven. Mayweather vowed he would be, as he would remind friends frequently over the years, the last man in the group with an unblemished record.

And, as it turns out, he was.

Mayweather walked away from boxing and a potential eight-figure payday for a Sept. 20 fight against Oscar De La Hoya, announcing his retirement at 31 on Friday while he was at the peak of his athletic and earning powers.

He boasted a record of 39-0 and was, as he promised a reporter during a heartfelt talk around that conference table almost 10 years earlier, the last of the old group who was unbeaten. He outlasted Roy Jones and Shane Mosley, both of whom were regarded as the best fighters in the world before he usurped that position.

He made it longer than Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, who were then the biggest names in the welterweight division, one he would come to rule at the end of his career. And he even outlasted the classy heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who, like Mayweather, walked away from the game at a time when he could have made millions and beaten any man alive.

Mayweather’s extraordinary hand and foot speed and defensive instincts made him nearly unbeatable during his peak.

But Mayweather didn’t want to be judged against the competition of his day, but rather against the greats of the game like Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Henry Armstrong. He wanted to be remembered as not only the best of his era but as the best of all-time.

That spot remains Robinson’s and, despite wins over quality fighters like De La Hoya, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Ricky Hatton, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez, Genaro Hernandez, Goyo Vargas, Angel Manfredy, Justin Juuko and Arturo Gatti, Mayweather was never remotely close to challenging Robinson’s dominance.

As brilliant as Mayweather was, he never had the challenger who could bring out the best in him like Thomas Hearns did for Leonard or like Leonard did for Roberto Duran.

Mayweather was the most physically gifted fighter of his era and had no one in his weight classes who was truly close.

But without the foil who could push him, who could force him to raise his game or require him to battle back from adversity to win, Mayweather suffers by comparison to the sport’s elite.

He failed to meet several quality fighters – men like Joel Casamayor and Acelino Freitas at super featherweight, Mosley at both lightweight and welterweight, Kostya Tszyu at super lightweight and Miguel Cotto at welterweight – who could have given him the foil he needed to convince the doubters.

He was hounded by skeptics and critics in the latter half of his career who blasted him for picking on patsies and avoiding the tough fights.

But Mayweather never buckled to the desires of others and let his career unfurl the way he wanted to see it.

“He accomplished all he wanted to in this business and he did it his way and no other,” said his close friend and de facto manager, Leonard Ellerbe. “He beat everybody in his era. He’s walking away as a six-time champion in five weight classes. He was his own man from the start and he is his own man as he goes into retirement.”

Mayweather retired in his own way, too, only months before a planned rematch of the most lucrative fight of all-time. He issued a six-paragraph news release that came out while he was on vacation with his children.

The man whose fleet of sports cars and ostentatious jewelry earned him the moniker, “Money,” passed on an elaborate retirement ceremony and retired quietly and with dignity.

In this  Dec. 8, 2007 file photo, Floyd Mayweather Jr., sits on the stool in his corner during a WBC welterweight boxing title fight against Ricky Hatton, of Great Britain, at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Mayweather, an Olympic bronze medalist who has won belts in five weight classes, made the abrupt announcement of his retirement in a letter to select media members on Friday, June 6, 2008.
In this Dec. 8, 2007 file pho…
AP - Jun 6, 8:26 pm EDT

And though nearly every fighter who retires comes back, Ellerbe is convinced Mayweather has thrown his last punch for pay.

“He’s been going back and forth about this for some time and it’s not really a surprise to anyone who’s been around him at all,” Ellerbe said. “He’s thought about it and he’s been in boxing since he was a kid. He’s never had a job. All he’s done since he was a young kid was to fight. He’s thought about this and he wanted to make the right decision and I’m convinced he’s done. I believe that 100 percent in my heart. And I support his decision totally.”

Mayweather broke down in tears after defeating Carlos Baldomir at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in 2006, embracing HBO executive Kery Davis as he said he’d fought his last bout.

But the lure of challenging, and big-money, bouts against De La Hoya and Hatton were too much for him to resist and he fought on. Retirement talk, though, was a recurring theme at any Mayweather news conference during the last 18 months of his career.

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said he first learned of Mayweather’s plans about a week earlier from Mayweather’s advisor, Al Haymon. The timing caught Schaefer off guard but not the decision itself.

He said De La Hoya was surprised by the news, but said he was still committed to fighting in September. Schaefer wouldn’t name any potential opponents, but given that Cotto is fighting Antonio Margarito on July 26, the most likely man may be Mayweather’s last victim, super lightweight Hatton.

Hatton has a promotional deal with Golden Boy in place and De La Hoya has spoken of a fight against Hatton. Another possibility would be Manny Pacquiao, who has a June 28 lightweight title bid against David Diaz in Las Vegas, but who would have time to move up.

Pacquiao is significantly smaller than De La Hoya and began his career at 106 pounds, but Schaefer, who declined Friday to discuss potential replacement opponents, has said in the past that a De La Hoya-Pacquiao bout made sense.

But nothing that can be made will attract the attention of a De La Hoya-Mayweather bout. De La Hoya has long been the sport’s biggest drawing card, while Mayweather, who had long been its best fighter, began to close ground on him.

The sport will survive, just as it survived the retirements of icons like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano.

Boxing just won’t be as fun these next few years without Mayweather, though.

Some loved him, many more hated him, but he was a guy one had to watch.

He’ll be missed.

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Sources: Owens placed in 'reasonable cause' testing program

T.O. Placed In 'Reasonable Cause' Testing Program

On the same day the Dallas Cowboys announced that wide receiver Terrell Owens had agreed to a contract extension with $13 million in guaranteed money, Owens was in New York meeting with NFL officials after being placed in the league's "reasonable cause" testing program for performance-enhancing drugs, sources told ESPN.

Owens was placed in the program because he missed day-of telephone calls to set up random tests, the sources said. A player who misses a test can be subject to disciplinary action, but because Owens had a "plausible" explanation, league administrators decided he would not be suspended or fined.

Owens acknowledged Monday having missed the test several weeks ago, blaming it on a "communication problem involving cell phone numbers."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Owens said: "I'm not really worried about anything. It's not a big deal. Anything I do is going to grab headlines. I have nothing to hide. I've made a statement and that's it. It's basically a dead issue."

Earlier he issued a statement that read: "It was openly discussed and cleared up in a meeting that I had at the NFL office last week. I have been in the NFL for over 12 years and have never had a positive test for substance of any kind. That includes tests that took place as recently as last month. The matter was resolved to everyone's satisfaction last Tuesday, and everyone has moved on."

Owens can now be randomly tested for performance enhancers up to a maximum of 24 annual screenings, and these additional screenings can be required, if the NFL chooses to do so, for the remainder of his NFL career.

Terrell Owens


"Before I ever extended Terrell's contract, I knew that he had communciation issues with the league but, trust me, I also know firsthand who he is and what he's all about," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Monday. "Because of that, I didn't hesitate to give him [$27 million] and I negotiated that while this was going on. Anybody who knows me knows I would never under any circumstance give away that kind of money if I had any suspicion or evidence that there was some kind of risk like that involved. There is no risk with Terrell." An NFL spokesman said the league would have no comment because of the confidentiality restrictions of the program. Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was unavailable for comment, but his partner and brother, Jason Rosenhaus, said: "We're not allowed to comment on anything pertaining to that topic." After receiving a letter from the NFL informing him of the action, Owens met with NFL officials on the morning of June 3 because he was in the New York area. Owens has since passed a test for performance enhancers, the sources said. The sources added that Owens has never had a positive test for any illegal substance. Owens was warned that he risks a suspension if administrators experience a similar roadblock as they did when they attempted to reach him two weeks ago. On one occasion, the primary phone number Owens provided was that of Drew Rosenhaus. Subsequently, the sources said, the alternate phone number Owens provided went unanswered, except for an automated message that said: "The voice mailbox for this user is full." Owens told the league that his phone had not shown any record of its missed calls. The testing program requires players to make themselves accessible and communicate their specific location when they are contacted for a test. It was late in the afternoon of June 3 when Owens and the Cowboys held a news conference at the Cowboys' headquarters at Valley Ranch to announce the receiver's new three-year, $27 million contract extension with $13 million of new guaranteed money. Chris Mortensen is an NFL reporter for ESPN. Information from's Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Griffey joins exclusive 600-HR club

Manager Dusty Baker was among the first to congratulate Ken Griffey Jr.
Manager Dusty Baker was among the first to congratulate Ken Griffey Jr.

MIAMI (AP) -- Ken Griffey Jr. completed his perfect power stroke and admired the arc of his 600th homer before rounding the bases.

Who could blame him for taking a little longer to watch this home run? The journey to the milestone took a lot longer than anyone expected.

Griffey became the sixth player in history to reach 600 homers with a drive off Mark Hendrickson in the first inning of the Cincinnati Reds' 9-4 victory over the Florida Marlins. Griffey joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa as the only players to reach the mark.

"I don't think I touched any of the bases. I sort of floated around," Griffey said.

The 38-year-old Griffey homered with Jerry Hairston on third and one out. The left-handed slugger launched a 3-1 pitch 413 feet into the right-field seats.

Griffey received a standing ovation from the crowd of 16,003 and responded by coming out of the Reds dugout and waving his helmet to the fans. His 14-year-old son, Trey, joined the players in offering congratulations in the dugout.

Dusty Baker has managed the last three players to achieve the milestone: Bonds in San Francisco, Sosa in Chicago and now Griffey. He was there for Bonds' 600th, on Aug. 9, 2002.

"It's awesome every time you see a milestone like that," Baker said. "It doesn't take away from the others. It adds to it."

Controversy ensued in the stands following the home run. Justin Kimball, a 25-year-old from Miami, said he caught the home run ball, put it in a wool cap and then had the hat ripped from his hands. Kimball said someone ran off with the ball.

However, the Florida Marlins announced Major League Baseball had authenticated the home run ball for a middle-aged male fan who would only give his first name as Joe.

Paul Bako had his first career multihomer game -- three-run and two-run shots -- and Brandon Phillips added a solo homer in support of Edinson Volquez (9-2), who gave up three runs in six innings.

Griffey finished 1-for-4 with a strikeout and an intentional walk. He exited in the middle of the eighth.

Bako said he was not bothered that his performance was overshadowed by Griffey.

"That's fine with me man," Bako said. "I was really happy to be here and see it, and I'm proud to be his teammate and to get to enjoy it."

Hairston left the game in the middle of the first breaking his left thumb when stealing second. He said X-rays showed a non-displaced fracture and could miss two to four weeks.

Hendrickson (7-4) allowed six runs -- five earned -- and five hits in 2 1/3 innings. Mike Jacobs homered for the Marlins.

"I grew up watching him; I know what he did for baseball in Seattle," Hendrickson said. "It's just one of those things where I'm going to pitch to these guys and don't back down from it. You're going to give up home runs, but it came in a game where I gave up a couple others."

Still, the game will be remembered for Griffey's historic homer.

After showering and dressing quickly, Griffey faced the media with "62 text messages and 18 phone calls" on his cell phone. He mentioned he had received recent phone calls from Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, who offered encouragement.

"My father hit 152 home runs, and that's who I wanted to be like," said Griffey, whose father also played for the Reds.

Griffey, one of baseball's most prolific sluggers before injuries began to take their toll, started the season with 593 home runs.

It took 216 at-bats to make history -- his previous homer came May 31.

Griffey hit No. 597 on April 23 at Great American Ball Park, then went 90 at-bats -- the second-longest drought of his career -- before connecting again in San Diego on May 22.

He went another 29 at-bats, and even got a day off during the week to work on his swing, before hitting No. 599. Griffey went 17 at-bats between that homer and No. 600.

"I've been swinging the bat a lot better the last 10 days or so," Griffey said. "I was able to get the ball in the air. I wasn't beating the ball into the ground like I had been."

Like his 400th and 500th, this home run came on the road.

Unlike Bonds and Sosa, Griffey has stayed clear of questions about whether he came by all of his homers legitimately. His name has never come up in baseball's steroids scandal. Unlike Sosa, he's never been caught using a doctored bat.

Although Junior is linked numerically with Hammerin' Hank and the Babe, he has never been defined by the home run.

His game is so well-rounded that he was voted an All-Century outfielder with Seattle before his 30th birthday. By then, his backward cap and light-up smile were the face of baseball.

His statistics were setting the pace, too. When Griffey was traded to his hometown team before the 2000 season, he was significantly ahead of Aaron's record home run pace.

It seemed like a sure bet that when his nine-year, $116.5 million contract was wrapping up this year, he'd be the next home run king, or close to it. Then, the city would have two of its own atop baseball's revered lists -- Pete Rose as the hits king, Junior as the home run king.

It hasn't turned out that way.

Griffey hit 40 homers in his first season with the Reds, when he became the youngest to reach 400 career. Then came a succession of major injuries -- torn hamstrings, torn patella tendon, separated shoulder, torn ankle -- that knocked him way off Aaron's pace.

Nearly knocked him off the map, too.

The one-time superstar got booed in his hometown and overlooked in conversation about the game's best players. It took him more than four years to get to homer No. 500 in 2004.

It seemed he might never make it to 600.

A year later, he was back in the swing.

Griffey hit 35 homers in 2005, winning the comeback player award. He followed it with 27 homers in 2006.

Last season, he played in 144 games -- his most since 2000 -- and hit 30 homers, leaving him seven shy of No. 600. The Reds erected a countdown board at Great American Ball Park, and featured him on the cover of the 2008 media guide.

Griffey was the youngest player in the majors -- still only 19 -- on April 10, 1989, when he homered off the Chicago White Sox's Eric King on the first pitch he saw at Seattle's Kingdome.

Homer No. 36 was one of his most satisfying. It came one batter after his father, Ken Sr., homered off California's Kirk McCaskill on Sept. 14, 1990, an unprecedented father-and-son moment in the majors.

Even now, Griffey says those two seasons he spent playing with his father in Seattle were the best times of his career. And he has suggested that he would like to finish his career back there.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Baseball's Other Drug Problem

Are players using an ADD diagnosis to evade the amphetamine ban?

As Major League Baseball begins to dig out from its steroids scandal, new kinds of performance-enhancing substances are sweeping big-league clubhouses: Ritalin, Adderall and other drugs designed to help with Attention-Deficit Disorder. According to records MLB officials turned over to congressional investigators as part of George Mitchell's probe into steroid use in baseball, the number of players getting "therapeutic use exemptions" from baseball's amphetamines ban jumped in one year from 28 to 103—which means that, suddenly, 7.6 percent of the 1,354 players on major-league rosters had been diagnosed with ADD.

One possible reason for this increase: in 2005 baseball banned the use of "greenies," amphetamines that help players remained focused and energetic through the rigors of a 162-game season. Amphetamines were once as common as deli spreads in big-league clubhouses—in some, greenies were used to spike the coffee. Players are now seeking doctors' prescriptions for ADD medications, usually Ritalin and Adderall, apparently to replace the now-illegal energy boosting drugs. (Ritalin is the trade name for the drug methylphenidate, and Adderall is an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine; they are both considered stimulants.)

Certainly, some of the players getting prescriptions for ADD medications may have a legitimate medical need, says David Goodman, a Johns Hopkins University doctor who has been invited to help Major League baseball develop a new strategy for amphetamines. But he calls the ADD drug spike "troubling," since it inevitably raises suspicion that players have simply found a way to evade the amphetamine ban. No cases of abuse have been reported. Determining which cases might be bogus would require a thorough study of both the prescribing doctors and the thoroughness of their examination process. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says the league is investigating the ADD diagnoses to determine which ones are legitimate medical problems and which ones might be attempts to evade the amphetamines ban.

Separating the legitimate users from the abusers won't be easy. Estimates of ADD vary widely, from as little as 4 percent among adults to as much as 16 percent among adolescents and young adults. A diagnostician needs to assess a variety of behaviors—some of which may seem like ADD but in fact be other conditions. (The medical establishment often uses the term ADHD—attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—interchangeably with ADD). A diagnosis of ADD requires not only evaluating an adult's behavior and mental state but also looking into the individual's childhood and family background. ADD is a genetic condition that makes its first appearance early in life. The symptoms of other conditions—bipolar disease, anxiety disorder, depression, developmental or learning differences—can make ADD diagnoses tricky and subjective.

Complicating the issue is that sports can both strengthen and undermine a person's mental well-being. The intense physical activity fosters a level of focus and commitment that helps the athlete improve the functioning of the brain. In fact, athletic competition can be the best cure for ADD, says Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain." Ratey has treated athletes who suddenly displayed the symptoms of ADD after injuries sidelined them. He prescribed medications during the down time, then weaned the athlete once he got back into action.

On the other hand, the lifestyle of professional athletes—constant travel, bad food, abuse of alcohol and drugs, irregular sleep patterns—can scramble the brain, undoing all the good effects of the exercise. Improper drug use often masks real needs. "People with ADD often look for a way to self-medicate and they're more susceptible to using [illegal drugs] that promise to sustain their effort," says Dr. Sanford J. Silverman of the Center for Attention Deficit and Learning Disorders in Scottsdale, Ariz. New therapies go far beyond exercise. Silverman uses neurofeedback to improve brain functioning. Patients wear a helmet that tracks brain activity. Visualizing and physical exercises help to stimulate the underactive parts and tamp down the overactive parts. ADD requires customized treatments, Goodman notes. "The effect of exercise is variable from athlete to athlete," he says. "Some do better with medications and some do better with exercise."

With the steroids scandal still rippling through baseball, MLB is under particular pressure not to allow a new drug controversy to develop. Management faces a twin challenge: preventing the use of drugs that give some players unfair advantages by souping up their bodies like race cars while not denying medication and other assistance to an athlete suffering from a legitimate malady. Ultimately, experts say, the best way to identify both legitimate medical conditions and illicit drug use is to devise top-to-bottom systems that track a player's progress on a number of dimensions. To know a player is to know when he might be heading off course.

Euchner, a lecturer in English at Yale University, is completing a book about suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge.

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