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The Rumble at the Roxy 

You don't have to go to Vegas for a ringside seat

Page 2 of 3

To learn the ropes, Oblas has worked for $50 a match as a boxing "inspector," checking that fighters obey pre-match rules. He says he watched others fail and learned the lessons. His talk sounds more like describing a fighter's strategy than a business deal -- he didn't want to expose himself too much, he had to get his timing right.

And then Oblas threw his punch, locking in the night at the Roxy. He put together a series of fights with names the cadre of boxing fans and amateur fighters will recognize -- Thompson, Homer Gibbins, Paul Delgado and, especially, Bell.

O'Neil Bell looks the part. Toughness cubed. His professional record says it all: 18-1-1, 17 knock outs. But the Jamaican native is no Tyson. For a start, he's a thoroughly nice guy. "O'Neil only agreed to the fight because he could carry his friends with him, make sure they got a payday," Oblas says, adding that paydays for most Atlanta boxers are few and small.

Bell, at a compact 194 pounds last week (he has to shed 4 pounds before the fight), has a perpetually concerned look on his face. When asked about being too serious, he smiles and says, "This is important to me. It's perfecting my art."

It's not about smashing your opponent's face to the consistency of grits?

"Oh, no. People think of this as a blood sport. It isn't. Sure you can get hurt, but you can get hurt doing lots of things. This, to me, is focusing all my skills to be the best I can be."

Sounds like the Army, champ, only with better pay, right? "Someday," he responds.

Bell, at 27, is poised for the big time. In the five major boxing associations, he's rated between third and seventh in the lists of cruiserweight challengers. He's thinking about taking the jump to heavyweight. For now, Bell is making about $50,000 a year now, but in a few more fights he could be making millions. Maybe.

"Am I in it for the money?" he muses. "Definitely not. Not saying money isn't a motivator. But I just want to be champ for the glory of being the best."

AJC takes drubbing, gets ethical (maybe)
Last week, I took the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the woodshed for purloining other newspapers' stories without giving credit. The issue is more than a matter of pride-- few institutions have as much impact on public life and private lives as do daily newspapers. If an institution is going to be a self-appointed arbiter of public morals, its own should be on the table for examination.

Most of my column focused on the admirable reporting by Walter Woods and Sarah Rubenstein at the Atlanta Business Chronicle on conflicts of interest among those who will decide the fate of the Northern Arc. The AJC has committed serial theft of the Chronicle's stories.

On June 14, the Chronicle made another investigative disclosure -- about Atlanta Regional Commission member Richard Chandler Jr. A day later, the AJC cribbed the story without credit.

My column came out three days after the AJC's latest rip-off.

Then, last Friday, the AJC ran the Chandler story again, slightly longer this time and with an absolutely stunning admission: "Chandler's ... conflicts of interest were first reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle."

"You've shamed the AJC," Chronicle Editor David Allison tells me. "They are so bad. But your column made them wake up to their ethical lapses."

Since my disclosure of the AJC's ethical black hole, I've received a score of emails from former and current staffers at the daily. All but two supported my column. For example, the AJC's former political editor, Rick Allen, wrote from Montana, saying, "I wanted to commend you for calling the aces at the daily for theft of intellectual property."

Several AJCers commented on the philosophy of Editor Ron Martin and recently deposed Executive Editor John Walter -- that they mainly wanted their staff to "write what people are talking about."

A reporter told me: "God knows how many times reporters and editors have heard that in meetings: 'What are people talking about?' The idea of writing stories that would get them talking was alien, and antithetical to Martin's and Walter's belief that the best audience was a known audience. If people were already interested in the story, then they would read it."

Put another way, such a philosophy reduces news judgment to a marketing strategy.

Meanwhile, the AJC's new maximum editor, Julia Wallace, has not returned our phone calls and e-mails. In case you're a public official or corporate exec tired of getting calls from the daily's reporters, just tell the scribes to buzz off and say, "Hey, I learned stonewalling from your boss."

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