Promoter should take it on the chin when big bout bombs

October 30, 1990|By Stan Hochman | Stan Hochman,Philadelphia Daily News

BLUSTER Douglas stank out the joint, fat and foolish, listless and gutless.

Stank out the joint defending his heavyweight championship. Sprawled there on the canvas, rubbing his nose with his gloves, staring at the gloves, looking for what? Blood? Sweat? Tears?

The joint belonged to Steve Wynn.

When it was over, Wynn wanted to toss Douglas into that chintzy fake volcano outside his joint, wanted to change the murky rules of boxing.

"We break our neck to give the public a great evening and to keep the promise, which is why we have a beautiful stadium, Wynton Marsalis [playing the national anthem], Sugar Ray Leonard [introducing the fighters], and fireworks," Wynn said.

"We compliment Evander Holyfield for coming into the ring well-prepared to keep that promise. However, our attitude is that fight purses should be more along the lines of winner-take-all so that the only incentive is for victory."

Douglas stank out the joint and it was Wynn's joint so he was humiliated. If Wynn was looking for someone to blame all he had to do was look in one of those mirrors Siegfried and Roy use in their Mirage magic act.

Marsalis, a magnificent trumpeter, chose to play the anthem on something that looked like a Civil War bugle and hit an earful of clinkers.

Leonard was an embarrassment, awkward as a sheepish kid called upon to recite poetry at a family reunion.

The fireworks were too long.

My attitude is that boxing ought to be promoter-loses-all, and that if his headliner stinks out the joint, there ought to be refunds.

Isn't Wynn the promoter who referred to Holyfield demeaningly as "the other guy" before the fight? Isn't Wynn the promoter who agreed to pay Douglas $24 million?

Isn't Wynn the guy who pampered Douglas in the months preceding the fight, offering RFB (room, food, booze)?

For $24 million (minus the $5 million Douglas had to pay Don King and Donald Trump to stay away), couldn't Wynn have inserted a weight clause? Maybe a million less for every pound Douglas weighed more than he weighed in Tokyo against Mike Tyson?

You pay an inflated purse, you get an inflated fighter, so who's to blame?

Wynn wants winner-take-all. How about bare knuckles? How about fighting to a finish to eliminate the chance of a lousy decision?

Wynn opened his joint with Leonard against a washed-up Roberto Duran. That one stank so bad, the pina colada scent on his fake volcano couldn't chase the odor.

There was enough dog in Douglas' past performances to make the buyer (Wynn) beware. The promoter has to do more than nail up the posters (in this case $2 million worth of television ads

showing a grim, determined Douglas).

Where was the truth in the "moment of truth" advertising?

Now, scorched, embarrassed, Wynn advocates winner-take-all. What about the dedicated boxer who trains hard, who waits his turn patiently, who brings his skill and courage into the ring, yet takes a beating from someone just as skillful, a flicker quicker?

Wynn wants him to go home empty-handed, like so many of the people he's trying to lure to his gambling joint with a $32 million fight and Wynton Marsalis and Ray Leonard and RFB for the high rollers?

There are 38 slots on a roulette wheel. You put $1 on number 17 and it hits, you don't get 38-to-1, the real odds. You get 35-to-1.

Play long enough and the house percentage will leave you with nothing but lint in your pockets. Casino operators need the glitter of Sinatra or half-naked chorus girls or a heavyweight title fight to lure the suckers.

Wynn is part of the cause of boxing's sickness, not the cure.

The memory of Douglas sprawled there, staring at the Nevada sky, unable or unwilling to get up, was still with me on Saturday, the darkest day in racing history.

Go for Wand, the brilliant filly, eyeball-to-eyeball with Bayakoa down the Belmont backstretch, around the sweeping turn, into the shadowy stretch, and then, 70 yards from the wire, Go for Wand's right ankle shatters, jockey Randy Romero topples to the track, the crowd of 51,000 shrieks in anguish.

Go for Wand struggles to her feet, the right front hoof dangling pitifully. She staggers toward the finish line, painfully, instinctively.

Humanely destroyed moments later, behind a blue nylon screen to shield the spectators from further trauma.

The wife of Ron McAnally, Bayakoa's trainer, tried to put the tragedy in perspective.

"They give their lives," she said, "for our enjoyment."

It was a softer, kinder reaction than the aftermath of Ruffian's death 15 years ago.

Leroy Jolley, the taciturn trainer of Foolish Pleasure, that day said, "You don't play this game in short pants."

The great ones are so vulnerable because they try so hard, racing through pain, thrashing along at 35 mph, 1,100 pounds on spindly, fragile ankles.

The thoroughbred horse has no choice. Humans can choose.

Somebody needs to tell Steve Wynn that if he wants to promote fistfights, he can't play the game in short pants.

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