Everything's a promotion," said Ray Arcel, who at 82 has experienced 65 years in boxing and seems as gentle as his sport seems savage. "Somebody's always trying to hoodwink the public."
An example immediately snapped to mind:
"I handled Max Baer. When he was getting ready to fight (Max) Schmeling in 1933, someone decided it would be a great idea if the discovery was made that Baer had Jewish blood in him. The idea was a Jewish guy fighting a German. Baer probably was as Jewish as Schmeling, but they sewed a star on Max's trunks to sell the fight.
"I said to Max: 'Okay, now you're Jewish. Go out and beat him.' That kind of stuff has been going on for almost as long as there has been boxing."
Quicker than a Larry Holmes jab, we move a half-century forward to this money-sucking facade of American enterprise and the Whacko Twins, Dennis Rappaport and Mike Jones. What they're selling, Gerry Cooney, is a decent, oversized man who may become a heavyweight champion before he learns to box; how they're selling is as odorous as it is familiar.
Listen to Jones at a press conference today:
" . . . I just wanted to make one other statement. One of the things we're most concerned with, so that this (WBC title fight Friday night) doesn't turn out to be a back-alley brawl, is thumbing. In the case of Larry Holmes, and I'd be less (than) candid if I didn't make this very public, you've seen this when he fought Scott LeDoux; you saw it when he fought Mike Weaver; you saw it when he fought Earnie Shavers, who had a detached retina and it was discovered sometime after that (1979) fight.
"And I say to you today, and I say this in all candor, if he (Cooney) is thumbed, and the referee doesn't vigorously enforce the rules, you're gonna have a back-alley brawl. I'm gonna tell him (Cooney) to knee the other guy. And I mean this.
"Because when people are losing their eyesight, this is a sport. And if we're gonna get down, be prepared to get down as low as the other man wants to go."
Arcel and Eddie Futch, who would be the Sunshine Boys of the Holmes camp except that they get along perfectly, offered the dignified response Jones' blatant hype tripe hardly merited. Futch did trip toward the gutter when he said:
"This seems to be a preamble to the use of elbows and forearms, and other foul tactics that have been ascribed to Cooney's style. I think he (Jones) is trying to clear the way, trying to make excuses before the fact. And I think it's uncalled for at this time."
Arcel, 82, sliced Jones, 36, up, down and sideways inside three minutes, saying: "This is a throwback to the old days, when they didn't wear gloves . . . Larry Holmes is a masterful boxer. . . Usually, when a fella is defeated, he comes out with a million excuses. I've been in the corner of hundreds and hundreds of fighters, and I've never accused anyone of using foul tactics . . . there have been very few fighters who have deliberately tried to thumb an opponent . . .
"Accidents have happened, because I've seen them happen, but you can rest assured that nobody that ever boxed Larry Holmes was ever thumbed. I never heard of the reports; I don't know where Mr. Rappaport got his information from, but I know very well that it's unfair for a man to get up and make these accusations.
"But then ya have to forgive Mr. Rappaport, because, truly, he's not an experienced boxing man . . . "
Real estate was his line. And insurance. Until he met Jones in a poker game six or seven years ago and they decided to take a fling at their mutual passion: boxing. Their stunts would cause promoters of another generation to roll over in their graves--in applause.
They tried to break into Rahway Prison once for a fight; they sued--and lost--to allow a black fighter recently converted to Judaism to wear his yarmulke in the ring; they turned "something less than a gorilla, but not a man in a gorilla suit" loose inside Madison Square Garden, the wilder Whacko, Rappaport, said.
He was knocked out of "The $64,000 Question" by Dr. Joyce Brothers.
"They felt that a female psychologist was more of a novelty," Rappaport said, "than a young punk."
The Whacko Twins tag Rappaport wears "as a badge of honor."
"We were very vocal against a lot of things we thought were unconscionable going on in boxing," he said. "One of them was options, where a man who presumably sweat and bled for the opportunity to fight for the title would blindly sign away his rights to some of the big . . . ah, ah. I'm going to use the euphemism. I was going to say parasites, but let me say some of the big promoters in boxing.
"We said that when Gerry Cooney fights for the title he's gonna be his own man, not blindly sign anything away. Let's face it, that diminishes his value. The promoters make the bucks; the fighters go on relief.
"The way you handle someone that you view as a threat is to try to ridicule him at the beginning."
Presumably, the way to sell tickets to a fight between a champion who has fought everybody but beaten nobody and a challenger with only 86 professional rounds is to get the public and the fighters incensed about all manner of contrived issues. Race. Dirty tactics. Don King and the Whackos are as disgusting as their fighters are agreeable.
"Frankly," Rappaport said, "we had no contacts in boxing. We weren't part of the establishment. So when nothing is left, what you try to do is come up with some innovative approaches to get some press."
As a teen-ager, Rappaport's father fought bootleg fights in the fur markets of New York. The son fought some, and says the first magazine he ever read was Ring.
He first saw a raw Cooney whip a grizzled Soviet in '76; he now says of Cooney: "In 30 days, he'll be the single most recognizable figure in the world . . . truly, the first billion-dollar superstar."
Truly, during that youthful infatuation with boxing, Rappaport learned a whole lot more than trivia.