In a former life I once interviewed the colorful middleweight champion, Rocky Graziano. As only the late Rocky could do, he regaled me with his street-toughened formula for success in the squared circle.

"I (expletive) hit the ‘udda’ guy before he started hittin’ me."

Sage advice to be sure, either in the ring, or in a public forum.

It would appear that New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has deployed Graziano’s ring tactics in his battle with current Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt.

In an effort to crack down on Wall Street, Spitzer has implied that Pitt has been rather lax in spearheading the commission’s oversight efforts, not just for the accounting profession, but for research analysts and banks, as well.

Spitzer, as have a roster of Pitt’s critics, cited the chairman’s former ties to Wall Street during his tenure as a private securities lawyer and claimed that those relationships inherently restrict Pitt’s ability to function as an effective regulator.

He also hammered the SEC’s new rules designed to eliminate conflicts of interest between analysts and investment bankers as being at worst, inadequate, and at best, merely a stopgap measure.

The SEC’s new rules, which are to be phased in over a six-month period, would bar analysts from profiting from their stock recommendations and would require more detailed disclosures.

In a somewhat more radical proposal, Spitzer has proposed to separate the stock research and investment banking businesses at wirehouse Merrill Lynch & Co. in a strategy to settle claims by his office that "biased research" by the brokerage giant had misled investors.

Pitt threw a well-timed counter punch by telling attendees at a recent SEC-sponsored investor conference that Spitzer’s proposal was "drastic" and should be considered only as a last resort.

Smart money is that even when the SEC’s new rules are phased in, Pitt vs. Spitzer will continue into the later rounds over regulatory issues, unless of course, Pitt steps down, or Spitzer loses his bid for re-election.

On June 8, pay-per-view TV will broadcast the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis heavyweight championship, charging viewers $54.99 for the privilege.

I say, save your money. There’s a far better fight going on in Washington and New York.

Even Rocky woulda been proud.

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