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30 JULY 2014

 

Hauser’s Fourteen


 Ward (left and Gatti(right) provided the muscle for Hauser's fourteen
Ward (left and Gatti(right) provided the muscle for Hauser's fourteen

By Thomas Hauser

In April 2001, I was in Las Vegas for the fight between Naseem Hamed and Marco Antonio Barrera. Meanwhile, in the days before their encounter, the arena at the MGM Grand was taken over by Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and company, who were filming a remake of Ocean’s Eleven.

The original Ocean’s Eleven starred Frank Sinatra and involved a plot to rob a Las Vegas casino by causing a power blackout on New Year’s Eve. The 2001 remake contemplated a similar robbery during a heavyweight championship fight. On the last day of filming, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko stood in ring center. Thousands of extras were in the arena. Women to die for were herded around like cattle. All for scant seconds in the final cut.

It got me thinking. All boxing people have larceny in their heart. I realized that I could make a lot of money by robbing a Las Vegas casino. Discretion being the better part of valor, I put the idea aside. But with the release of Ocean’s Twelve in 2004 and Ocean’s Thirteen this year, I started thinking again. All I had to do was put together a group of co-conspirators whom I could trust. Hauser’s Fourteen followed.

In truth, it was hard to find thirteen people in boxing I could rely upon to be honest comrades in arms. But finally, I gathered a pretty good team together.

The first person I recruited to join me was Jerry Izenberg. Jerry is a genius. He bucks the system. And I like working with Jerry.

Lou DiBella was drawn to the project by the notion that he could give his share of the take to indigent boxers.

Cedric Kushner came onboard because there’s nothing he likes more than a night out with the boys. I should add that Cedric was a particularly valuable addition to the team for a reason that very few people know about. For a long time, Cedric has led a double life as a government agent. In fact, several years ago, he was secretly knighted by the Queen of England for his role in recovering the Crown Jewels, which had been stolen from the Tower of London. He is now "Sir Cedric" and is rumored to have engaged in a romantic tryst with the Queen.

We needed muscle to implement the plot. Therefore, we added Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward; universally recognized as honest fighters we could trust.

We also needed someone who knows the casinos well and is welcome in them. MGM Mirage vice president Scott Ghertner was a possibility, but we were afraid that might constitute a conflict of interest since we were planning to rob Mandalay Bay. Thus, we settled on Michael Buffer. Another reason we chose Buffer was that we liked the idea of meeting for the final time before going off to rob the casino and hearing Buffer intone, "Okay, gang. Let’s get ready to rumble."

Bob Sheridan was included on the theory that, if we got in trouble, the Colonel would give us a good chance of talking our way out of it.

LeRoy Neiman became the ninth member of Hauser’s Fourteen. His diagramming of the crime scene in advance proved to be invaluable.

It was important to have someone from law enforcement with us so we could anticipate what the authorities might do to thwart our efforts. Former New York City police detective Joe Dwyer (now NABF championship chairman) was perfect for the job.

Nikolay Valuev agreed to serve as an attention-diverting decoy while the heist was underway.

On the chance that feminine wiles would be needed, we recruited HBO production coordinator Tami Cotel and Dr. Margaret Goodman. Tami is the best production coordinator in the business. And we thought it would be helpful to have a doctor in case anyone got shot.

Finally, it occurred to us that it was a good idea to have a lawyer. After all, we might get caught. After considerable negotiation, Judd Burstein took the case on a contingency-fee basis and agreed to one-fourteenth of the haul instead of his customary one-third.

I can’t tell you precisely how we implemented the plot. That’s because, if the authorities come looking for us, we plan to deny any involvement. However, I will say that twenty million dollars in cash is missing from Mandalay Bay. And the next time Tami Cotel works a fight for HBO, she’ll be wearing a Dolce & Gabbana gown and a diamond tiara.

* * *

On a more serious note –

On February 28, 2007, the Legal Committee of the Association of Boxing Commissions ruled that the acceptance by a state athletic commission employee of a stipend from a sanctioning organization to cover the cost of hotel, meals, and other travel-related expenses incurred while attending a seminar sponsored by the sanctioning body is unlawful. More specifically, the ABC ruled that such conduct is a conflict of interest in direct violation of the Professional Boxing Safety Act, which further provides, “Any member or employee of a boxing commission who knowingly violates section 17(a) of this Act shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $20,000, or both.”

Thereafter, from April 24th through April 29th, more than three hundred ring physicians and other state athletic commission personnel attended the WBC’s World Medical Congress in Cancun, Mexico. In addition to the medical agenda, those present enjoyed fine dining, cocktail parties, golf, and other forms of entertainment.

On May 2, 2007, the ABC Legal Committee acted upon information it had received indicating that the executive directors of two state athletic commissions had attended the WBC medical congress and accepted money from the WBC to cover hotel room charges, meals, and other costs. It had also been brought to the attention of the committee that the same two executive directors might have stayed at the hotel at WBC expense for an additional two days following the close of the medical congress. The matter was referred to the ABC Disciplinary Committee, which will meet in mid-July to discuss it. A number of ring physicians are thought to have benefited from similar “stipends”.

“This is a real problem,” ABC president Tim Lueckenhoff told Secondsout last week. “One of the executive directors in question has provided us with records indicating that he paid his own way. The other has not been responsive to our inquiries. Obviously, the issue goes far beyond these two individuals, and I’m troubled by it. We have this law we’re trying to uphold. It’s a federal law, and the federal government isn’t backing us up on it. We’re getting no help whatsoever from U.S. Attorneys around the country on this or any other matter. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

* * *

On the literary front –

Tiger Flowers has been largely forgotten. The Georgia native was the first African-American boxer to hold the world middleweight championship and the first after Jack Johnson who was allowed to fight for a world title in any weight division.

Flowers threw punches in bunches from a southpaw stance. He won his crown by defeating Harry Greb at Madison Square Garden on a 15-round decision in February 1926; beat Greb again six months later; and lost the title to Mickey Walker in December on what most observers agreed was an unusually bad decision.

Flowers was hailed by black Americans for his ring triumphs and embraced by white southerners because he was a “good Negro”. That is, he was viewed as “a harmless man-child; cheerful, unobtrusive, and loyal, who knew his place.” Following his untimely death in 1927 (caused by surgery to remove scar tissue from around his eyes), the Atlanta Constitution reported, “Many thousands of white and colored citizens assembled to assist in the funeral services. No greater and more impressive obsequies for a colored citizen have ever been witnessed in the south.”

The Pussycat of Prizefighting by Andrew M. Kaye (University of Georgia Press) treats Flowers’s career as a prism through which to understand the racial climate and customs of the early twentieth-century South. The writing is often dry with the flavor of a doctoral dissertation. Also, one of the sources that Kaye relies upon is the notoriously inaccurate “autobiography” of Muhammad Ali (written by Richard Durham). That raises nagging questions regarding the reliability of some of his other sources.

But the book is thought-provoking and intelligent. That’s particularly true of the Introduction, which reflects on the role of prizefighting in American society and posits, “No nation has extracted as much meaning from prizefighting as the United States. The direct confrontation of two men with different backgrounds held before vast partisan audiences has on occasion graphically converted a conflict of values into a palpable physical struggle.”

* * *

Also in the literary arena –

God In My Corner (Thomas Nelson Publishers) is George Foreman’s guide for living within the context of his religious beliefs.

I’ve interviewed George with regard to values on numerous occasions. The most notable of these interviews was recounted in the second half of an article entitled Two Conversations With George Foreman that I wrote six years ago. In it, I noted, “We live in an age when many believers of all faiths assert that their way is the only road to heaven. George has a contrary view.”

I then quoted George as saying, “Someone who has no faith in God should be embraced, not with doctrine, but with love . . . A preacher can preach without a tongue and without a Bible by simply doing good works . . . Good is good, whether or not one believes in Jesus. To be good is to be saved . . . If I treat everybody nice, that’s religion."

George was criticized in some circles for voicing those thoughts. The next time I saw him, he thanked me for writing the article. “I had something I wanted to get off my chest and I’m glad I said it,” he told me. “No one religion has a monopoly on God’s love.”

I’ll leave the evaluation of the religious views expressed in God In My Corner to others. As an aside, I’ll add that I’m skeptical of George’s claim (voiced in the book) that he lost to Muhammad Ali in Zaire because he was drugged by his trainer.

But I don’t question the sincerity of George’s religious beliefs. And God In My Corner contains thoughts that are worth reading; some because they’ll make a reader reflect seriously, others because they’ll bring a smile. A few of my favorites are:

* “I grew up believing that hamburgers were only for rich people.”

* “Mom told me it was better to walk away from a street fight than to get killed. She often cautioned, ‘It’s better to say “There he goes,” than “There he lays.”’”

* “I believed in God. I just didn’t believe in religion. I didn’t love anybody but myself.”

* “People will pull out a cigarette and ask, ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’ But I’ve never heard anyone ask, ‘Do you mind if I cuss?’ You can’t ask to be seated in a cursing or non-cursing section at a restaurant.”

* “Phonies and hypocrits will always be involved in religion, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t real.”

* “Life is a privilege.”

* * *

And last --

In a March 31st column, I congratulated HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg for declining to buy the July 7th fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Lamon Brewster and wrote, “Brewster hasn’t fought in more than a year, hasn’t won a fight since 2005, has undergone eye surgery three times, and has gone up and down in weight like a balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

So what happened? Greenburg reversed course and bought the match-up for HBO. The subsequent May 5th kick-off press conference was a perfect metaphor for the fight that followed. The press conference was held at a steak house; they served hamburgers.

As a challenger for the IBF heavyweight title, Brewster was like a used car that has been in a wreck. You shouldn’t buy it without a test drive (i.e. an interim fight against a legitimate opponent).

Against Klitschko, Lamon showed up in the ring but didn’t do much else. Maybe he was in shape; but it wasn’t fighting shape, given the fact that he was tired after six minutes of combat. Klitschko dominated with his jab and won every minute of every round. Brewster never mounted an assault or did anything else that seemed calculated to win. Buddy McGirt (Lamon’s trainer) called a halt to the proceedings after six rounds.

HBO could have taken money it spent on the license fee and production costs for Klitschko-Brewster and applied it to some meaningful competitive fights. Instead, the network now finds itself in a situation where overspending on non-competitive match-ups has drained its budget for the rest of the year.

Sources say that Boxing After Dark will probably be absent from the screen for three months this autumn for budgetary reasons. More significantly, after HBO’s July 14th welterweight tripleheader, there most likely will be an eleven-week gap between World Championship Boxing fights. WCB is the anchor for HBO Sports. This hiatus is not good.

Meanwhile, insiders say that HBO is leaning toward televising Wladimir Klitschko versus Hasim Rahman in November, although rumors of a Klitschko-Holyfield match-up have surfaced. Klitschko is probably the best heavyweight in the world right now, but he won’t prove it by fighting Holyfield or Rahman.


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com



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