Guys, It's Time to Throw in the Towel By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 17, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
In about two weeks, Shane Mosley faces Floyd Mayweather in what is the biggest fight of his storied career. Yet, much of the talk currently centering on Mosley is about what took place all the way back in 2003. I’m sure, by now, you’ve at least heard about this YouTube clip that was released by Victor Conte on Thursday afternoon:
Conte, who spearheaded BALCO, the epicenter of perhaps the biggest doping scandal in American sports history, is embroiled in a multi-million-dollar defamation suit against the fighter, who consulted with him prior to his rematch with Oscar De La Hoya in 2003.
This should be old news. Long forgotten about. Problem is, it’s not.
We all know what happened to Conte, who spent time in a federal prison for the role he played with various athletes, including disgraced Olympians Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Mosley, for the most part, went unscathed throughout the years. Unlike Barry Bonds (another athlete associated with Conte and BALCO), he enjoyed a “good guy” rep with the public and media and, for the most part, was seemingly given a free pass for his transgressions.
But the problem is, what Mosley said during grand jury testimony and depositions, differed with what he told the public. He claimed that he was somehow misled or tricked into ingesting banned substances. And the funny thing is, all they had to do was keep moving forward and stick with their party line, because it was working.
More than one person, either via email or my Twitter page, has stated that this was old news and that everyone should move on. Yet, ironically, it was Mosley’s inability to do exactly such that has them in this position. If you go back, it was a few weeks before Mosley’s bout in 2007 against Miguel Cotto in New York when he stated to Tim Smith of the New York Daily News that, "We were misled by Conte; I guess I got the ’cream’ and the ‘clear.’" Conte responded, "I’ve never misled or deceived any athlete. I’ve always been a man of full disclosure."
With that comment, we have come to this point. Funny thing is, back then, Conte was the ultimate pariah, considered to have no credibility. If they would’ve just let Conte have the last word with Smith, everyone would’ve just moved on. But as the subsequent years have passed, Conte, for all his past indiscretions, has proven to be very credible, ala Jose Canseco. You may not like him, but he has been forthcoming and accurate about the past, whether we liked what we heard or not. And now, it’s Mosley’s credibility that looks shakier and shakier as time goes on.
With the release of the video, you heard the usual fire-and-brimstone and rattling of sabers from Mosley’s high-powered attorney, Judd Burstein. It’s gotten to a point where Burstein is now logging onto boxing message boards and posting his own clips of the same deposition. He is crying bloody murder and will clear his client’s name. Instead of letting this thing quietly slip into the night, he’s fanning the flames and making it a lingering issue.
(I did remind you that Mosley- who is being made to go through Olympic-style testing by his foe- has a pretty big fight coming up, right?)
Burstein reminds me of that corner that keeps sending his fighter out there, round after round to take a beating. By continuing to push the issue, all he does is bring back the past. Not for nothing, but the pattern here is awfully familiar to Marion Jones, isn’t it? (Who spent a good chunk of time in Club Fed for perjury) Why would Burstein not pull his guy out of this fight? Because win or lose, it’s a battle that will come at a high cost.
Burstein and his client can tell you all they want that things were taken out of context and that he had no knowledge of anything illegal taking place. But let’s be honest, athletes who went and consulted with Conte/BALCO between 2000 and 2003 knew they weren’t going there to pick up Flintstone vitamins or Joe Weider protein powders. And they can keep throwing Daryl Hudson, who was back then Mosley’s strength-and-conditioning coach, under the bus time and time again, but, essentially, Hudson was the mule: there to do a pick-up and delivery with his boss.
What perhaps Burstein didn’t fully comprehend was that Conte was a man who had already hit rock-bottom, in terms of his reputation, yet armed and ready to come clean about his sordid past. He didn’t care about how the public perceived him. He laid himself on the sword. Conte didn’t have a pristine profile to protect and nurture; he talked openly about his history and the role he played in shaping sports during that stretch. In short, he didn’t give a damn.
And that’s precisely what made Conte dangerous. Like a suicide bomber, he was willing to blow himself up, yet, this time, all over again.
For all the legal machinations and maneuverings of Burstein, Conte would bend, but he would not break. As long as there was a chance that an inaccurate history would be written as it related to him and Mosley, he would not go quietly into the night. And in the short time I’ve known Mr. Conte, I know this much: he is pugnacious, intelligent and incredibly detailed and meticulous.
Yet, Burstein won’t throw in the towel.
Of Burstein, even his most ardent critics and enemies (of which there are quite a bit of), admit that he is a gifted and talented attorney. I know firsthand, having been one of the witnesses in the infamous lawsuit between Lou DiBella and Bernard Hopkins in 2002. But he’s also armed with a healthy bit of ego (some would say megalomania) and he believes he can lawyer his way out of almost anything for his client. It’s like a Kobe Bryant, who can miss 20 straight shots, but still wants to rock the end of a tight game. It’s this type of hubris and ability that make individuals like this successful. No matter the odds, they believe when it’s all said and done, they will come out winners.
But too many times in the recent past, Burstein has engaged in some behavior that, if not illegal, is certainly ethically challenged or, at the very least, questionable. Such as working for Don King, after labeling him a “cancer,” after winning a huge sum of money on behalf of Terry Norris against the promoter. It wasn’t long ago Burstein was representing Manny Pacquiao with great skill and acumen, yet now, he’s on the opposite side of his former client in his defamation suit against Golden Boy Promotions. I’ve thought for awhile that if Al-Qaeda put him on retainer, he’d represent Osama Bin Laden.
(And who can forget the press release he put on questioning Lamon Brewster’s knockout of Wladimir Klitschko back in 2004, as he tried to get into the Klitschko business on a full-time basis.)
Perhaps, it’s the money. It’s not a secret that Burstein does not come cheap (I’ve heard up to a thousand dollars an hour) and maybe Mosley, who can be played like a puppet, is like a living, breathing ATM to Burstein, who told me via email on Friday that money is not his motive and that he has done over a million dollars worth of work without any compensation and that he is on a “partial contingency” with his client. Of course, this is predicated on them winning this case. I’d like to take him at face value but in talking to his past clients (in and out of boxing), they unanimously find that impossible to believe. One former client even told me, “Judd would charge you ten bucks to spit in your face.”
Perhaps this is more about power and putting another notch on his belt. But thus far, Conte has been a foil who has not backed down and doesn’t give any indication of doing so in the near future. But shouldn’t this really be about doing what’s best for your client?
In the process of trying to clear Mosley’s name, they have instead, done just the opposite.
In an ironic quote, regarding the return of Antonio Margarito, prior to his fight with Mosley in January of 2009, Burstein told Fanhouse.com, "I personally had believed that Margarito had done his time, and should be permitted to fight again. Now, however, in light of his representative’s absolute and undoubtedly knowing misrepresentation about the true facts, he has demonstrated that he’s not ready to rejoin the sport."
There is more than a tinge of irony to this statement.
But this is about moving on. Let’s be clear about this: Conte and Hudson are not martyrs. They, alongside Mosley, all played a part in something that was wrong and dangerous. But they have all been honest about the roles they played. It’s Mosley, along with the prodding of his attorney, who has tried to rewrite history. Hudson, after a tough stretch, where his own defamation suit against Mosley was thrown out, has rebounded to continue to work with world-class fighters, despite the repeated attempts to besmirch him. Conte, who some will never forgive, is now trying his best to become an agent of change and, ironically, is becoming a bigger and bigger presence in the sport of boxing.
Mosley? Well, while he should be looking ahead to May 1st. Instead, many are now looking back to the summer of 2003.
One thing I’ve learned about our culture is that we are an incredibly forgiving society- especially if you perform well, or at least come clean about past sins. Should Mosley beat Mayweather, then nobody will give a damn about any of this. That’s just the way it is. We love winners. As for sinners, well, as is the case with one Mark McGwire (who got grilled just a few months ago after his admission to using steroids and the like to fuel his historic home run tear in the mid-to-late 90’s), well, everything has died down. He’s settled in nicely as the batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.