Sunday, March 11, 2007


By Charles Farrell

This is going to get me in trouble. I’ll write it anyway.

In 2004, in an entirely cynical move, my friend John Carlo and I spent a couple of thousand dollars in advance money to put together a competition that we called “Tougher Than Tough” in Worcester, Massachusetts .

As a competition, “Tougher Than Tough” fell somewhere between being a Toughman contest and an MMA event. We roped in about thirty suckers (all of whom paid entrance fees) for a two day tournament.

It was a motley group.

Some were experienced MMA fighters who’d had international experience. Some were street thugs. More were young men with self-esteem issues who needed to prove something to themselves, but who—although they wouldn’t admit it—probably understood at some level that, once they were destroyed by more experienced fighters, they would only reconfirm their own senses of inferiority. When these men called to enter the tournament, fear dripped from their voices. I could feel them sweating on the other end of the phone line. They couldn’t stop asking stupid questions.

As I said, it was a cynical and probably bad thing for John and me to do.

Still, we did the advertising, rented a hotel ballroom, had tickets printed and posters made up (these last being truly hilarious), got an ex-WWF wrestler who was a friend of mine to act as referee and enforcer (the guy was a legit shooter), and in general took the necessary steps for getting the show together.

It wouldn’t have made us a lot of money. We probably would have netted about thirty thousand dollars from the two nights. It was just an attempt at getting our feet wet.

Two days before the event, I got a voice message on my answering machine at seven o’clock in the morning.

“This is Nick Manzello, Mass boxing commissioner. I wanna know what you’re tryin’ to pull. We don’t have this here in our state. You better call me back right away. What is this thing you’re tryin’ to run anyway?”

Obviously it was none of Manzello’s business since I wasn’t running a boxing show. But I’d recently applied for a boxing promoter’s license, so I figured I’d better call him back.

To make a long story short, the mayor of Worcester , Massachusetts had seen the advertisements for my show and he’d panicked. He called Manzello, Manzello called the Commission lawyer, and they all decided to file an injunction stopping the show. Manzello then asked if I’d meet with the Boxing Commission to discuss the matter.
My lawyer thought I should fight the thing, but I didn’t. The injunction would stop the show regardless of what I did. I could then sue a bunch of different individuals and agencies and would probably win, but that would be a long process with little in compensatory reward.

So I went to the Commission hearing. They were expecting a fight. I pretended that there might be one, quickly pointing out that they had no legal jurisdiction over non-boxing related events. I was free to do as I wished as long as it wasn’t illegal.

That was just window dressing on my part. We argued back and forth for ten minutes or so, then I said, “Look, we all have to swim in the same water. And I believe that you’ll really file the injunction. So the fights aren’t going to happen anyway. I’ll withdraw the show. We might as well all stay friends here.”

I was assured that we would now be good friends forever after.

“And my promoter’s license?”

Manzello reached into a pile of papers.

“I have it right here. It’s already been signed.”

And we had a deal.

I try not to take fights I can’t win. I was handed my now-approved Massachusetts promoter’s license. There were smiles, handshakes, and even hugs all around. They were good guys. I was now a good guy. They were crusaders, and although I didn’t qualify for that title, I hadn’t hampered their crusade. Everybody in the room loved me.

The mayor of Worcester, so concerned with public safety, apparently loved me too. I don’t know for sure; the motherfucker wasn’t at the meeting.

All this took place about three years ago. You might think I’m being facetious about these guys being my friends. I’m not—I liked all of them. Even the lawyer—whose name escapes me at the moment—was a nice guy with whom I had a pleasant phone conversation about music the next day.

But they cost me a bundle of money, which I was willing to let go without comment. Then I heard about what follows.

Two days before you read this—a sad fifty year old man, now with a professional with a professional boxing record of 4-4 (all of his wins and two of his three losses coming against winless opponents) will have been knocked into oblivion by a man with a 77-7-4 record. You will have already inferred that this bout is taking place in Worcester, Massachusetts and has been approved by the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission.

Joe Siciliano is a fifty year old cop. He’s 5’10” and weighs nearly 300 pounds. He wants to be a fighter. Obviously he’s got some of the same toughguy issues as the would-be aspirants to my tournament.

It was indisputably unsafe for him to get into the ring even against Butterbean, the celebrity clown who administered the beating. It was unsafe for the ref too, considering that he had to try to steer clear of seven hundred pounds of clutching, heaving, sweating blubber.

However, that’s not my business; it’s Siciliano’s and I guess it’s the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission’s. My job isn’t to monitor the behavior of imbeciles.

But a week ago this past Saturday, a former world champion and genuine fighter named Victor Burgos was beaten so badly in his attempt to win a version of the flyweight championship from Vic Darchinyan that he was rushed to a hospital where emergency surgery was performed to relieve bleeding on his brain. Burgos is currently in a medically induced coma.

Let me say this again; this is something that happened to a real fighter, not to a fat middle-aged man with delusions.

And I know what the counter-argument in favor of the Butterbean-Siciliano fight will be: “The referee has been instructed to keep a close eye on things and stop the fight at the first sign of trouble.”

That’s not professional boxing. That’s exactly what I was trying to do with my little shindig. It’s exactly the same money-making scam. I suppose if I’d made all the misguided aspirants who’d wanted to enter my show get boxing licenses, I could have made the thing work. But those guys wouldn’t have been any more qualified to be boxers than Joe Siciliano is. Or, truth be told, than Butterbean is.

And that brings us to the question of why a double standard exists for that tub of lard. Why is a fighter with a 76-7-4 record allowed to fight guys who are 1-3 or 2-5?

We all know the answer. It’s because everyone knows he’s not really a fighter at all. And that opens up a real Pandora’s Box of questions.

Here’s something from Fox written by Ken Maquire.

‘And if 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone can get back in the ring _ as the fictional "Rocky Balboa" _ then why not Siciliano?

"He's never been knocked out," he said, referring to Butterbean. "I'd like to be the first one to do it."

In some respects, Siciliano represents the ultimate weekend warrior. He's past his prime. He's not pretty. But boxing provides an avenue other sports don't. Middle-aged Red Sox fans can't take the field at Fenway Park, nor would anyone pay to see them.

In this case, however, the journeyman fighter with professional record of 4-3 expects to sell out the 2,500-seat Palladium in Worcester for a four-round fight.

He's not alone among unlikely pugilists. Rick Rushton, a Worcester city councilor who turns 40 this year, is fighting on the same card as Siciliano. The former college basketball player first boxed in a local charity event five years ago, and caught the bug.

"There's nobody that can save you. It tests your manhood every time you go in there," said Rushton, who also is running for mayor of Worcester to replace Tim Murray, the new lieutenant governor.’

Where do we start with this foolishness?

Sylvester Stallone has never been in the ring. He’s an elderly actor. His boxing record is 0-0. That might make him opponent material for Joe Siciliano, but it doesn’t make him a fighter. Sylvester Stallone is anathema to boxing. He is everything that boxing is not.

And Siciliano is, of course, mistaken about Butterbean never having been knocked out. That yeoman task was performed by Mitchell Rose, a man with a pro record of 2-11-1. Which means that Butterbean is not himself an actual boxer. Although he is still good enough, as Joe will find out on Friday, to kick Siciliano’s head in.

Then we have the mentally ill city councilor who believes for some deranged reason that boxing is about testing your manhood. Champ, let me tell you something. You’re never going to feel secure about your manhood if you have to box to test it.

What’s wrong with these middle-aged privileged white men anyway?

Boxing is not a game. It’s not a sport either. Boxing is boxing, arguably the most dangerous thing a person can do. It’s not for clowns or cops or councilmen or fatties or armchair athletes or football players or rappers. It’s for a very small number of frighteningly gifted and finely trained young people.

No more crusaders please. No more good guys. I’m sick to death of hearing from them and about them. If these morons can’t see that what takes place on Friday night in Worcester , Massachusetts has nothing to do with either boxing or safety, they cede their rights to judge anybody else about anything.

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