Boxing, as Lou Benson, Baltimore's fighting sheriff, discovered, can be a strange business.
"One minute I'm telling the media I want to fight Mike Tyson in prison," he said. "The next minute I'm telling you I couldn't beat the 10-count."
Benson's dream of challenging former heavyweight champion Tyson, who is serving a six-year sentence in Indiana for rape, was exposed as a hoax last night when he was knocked out by youthful Virginia cruiserweight Jason Waller after 45 seconds of the ninth round of their co-feature before 1,600 at the Pikesville Armory.
Benson, 32, caught a looping right by Waller (13-4, nine knockouts) under his right ear and dropped to one knee. He appeared to regain his feet at the count of nine, but referee Karl Milligan signaled the fight was over.
"That's the first time since I started fighting as an amateur 17 years ago that I've been counted out, and I thought this was a quick count," said Benson (18-9, eight KOs). "I didn't see the punch coming, and when it caught me, I lost my balance."
Benson's young daughter, Lauren, pointed nervously to a swelling mouse under her father's right eye after the fight. And his son, Parker, looked ready to cry.
"Will I quit now?" he said. "I promised my wife I would if I lost. Now, I have to go home and sleep on it."
In a 10-round co-feature, Baltimore welterweight Eddie Van Kirk (25-7-2), still hoping for a title shot, narrowly won a split decision over Edwin Curet of Chelsea, Mass.
Van Kirk suffered a gash along his left eye in the seventh round. The ring doctor had to be summoned twice to check the wound and allow the fight to continue. With the fight slipping away, Van Kirk, 28, began charging and forcing Curet to the ropes. His body shots apparently swayed the judges. Curet (26-12), a 10-year veteran who had lost fights to former champions Livingston Bramble, Tyrone Crawley and Robin Blake, protested the verdict and was supported by a majority of fans.
Rockville middleweight Les Johnson boosted his record to 16-1 with a unanimous verdict over Timmy Knight (13-6) of Norfolk, Va., in another controversial decision. Knight landed more punches, but Johnson's body shots were more telling.
Part of the problem with the officiating was due to the absence of one of the regular judges. This necessitated the referee to be the third judge.
On the undercard, former kick-boxing champion Dana Rosenblattof Boston made an impressive transition to boxing by stopping Tyrone Griffin (1-5) of Pasadena at 2:58 of the second round of their scheduled four-round middleweight match; Elvis Deloatch (1-1) of Lynchburg, Va., won a four-round lightweight bout against Jeff Graffius (3-7) of Pittsburgh; lightweight Reggie Green (2-0) of Clinton needed only 45 seconds to spoil the pro debut of Herb Milligan of Philadelphia; and Baltimore welterweight Robert Taylor overcame a cut right eye to win a split decision over Derrick Wilson of Patterson, N.J.