THE KING'S REIGN
Boxing sages say that the troubled sport will never change as
long as promoter Don King is alive. In the aftermath of
Holyfield-Tyson II, King's vital signs appeared seriously
weakened: his rhetoric reduced to a few meek words, his assets
dwindled, his gloriously erect mane conspicuously gray.
For all his seeming omnipotence, King has relied mainly on the
marketability of Tyson for nine years to maintain huge leverage
in the fight game. With Tyson having been suspended last
week--on Wednesday the Nevada State Athletic Commission was to
announce the length of the ban, which was expected to be for at
least 18 months--King has little to fall back on. His
second-highest-profile client, Oliver McCall, is likely to
receive a one-year suspension from the Nevada commission for
quitting during the fifth round of his Feb. 7 fight with Lennox
Lewis. That leaves King's stable of boxers without an important
heavyweight (sorry, Francois Botha fans); his top draws are
35-year-old Julio Cesar Chavez, the once great but now
over-the-hill lightweight whose 100th victory on the
Tyson-Holyfield undercard was barely noted, and Christy Martin,
the woman boxer whose standard payday has been $100,000. The
last time King was without Tyson--a four-year span encompassing
Tyson's prosecution, conviction and imprisonment for rape--he
had McCall, a younger Chavez, heavyweight Razor Ruddock and
several other fairly good draws to help him.
After Holyfield-Tyson II, King offered little defense of Tyson
in a few brief and uncharacteristically soft-spoken interviews
before disappearing from public view. Yet after more than a
quarter century of fight promoting, King, who has beaten
tax-evasion charges and countless allegations of contract fraud
over the years, is nothing if not resourceful. It was he, for
example, who orchestrated Tyson's public apology on June 30 for
biting Holyfield. King knows that while Tyson may never command
anything close to the $30 million he got for fighting Holyfield
last month, the former champ still might generate millions when
he's allowed back into the ring. The apology was intended to
make the date of that return as early as possible.
King has also been spending a lot of time assuaging the powers
at MGM and in television who were upset by Tyson's actions. "Don
is being very calm; he's acting in a very methodical and
thoughtful manner," said Showtime executive Jay Larkin last
week. "I think he realizes he has a significant problem on his
A REVOLUTION AFOOT
Two years ago at the World Track and Field Championships in
Goteborg, Sweden, U.S. distance runner Todd Williams, then a
three-time national champion in the 10,000 meters, surveyed the
international landscape in his event and concluded that he would
have to move up to the marathon to avoid becoming the victim of
a record-breaking revolution. "Who knows, they'll probably be
running 26:30 in the 10 soon," Williams said. He laughed when he
said it, but it turns out he was dead right.
At the time Williams spoke, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia had
recently run a 26:43.53, knocking a stunning 8.7 seconds off the
year-old world record of William Sigei of Kenya. Then, last
August, Salah Hissou of Morocco ran a 26:38.08. Last Friday, in
the magical atmosphere of Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway,
Gebrselassie reclaimed the record by running a 26:31.32, an
average of 4:16 per mile for 6.2 miles, even though he ran alone
after passing his pacesetter barely 3,000 meters into the race.
There is no indication that the assault is finished.
Gebrselassie is only 25 years old. Hissou is also 25, and he
will surely attempt to take the record back. Then there looms
21-year-old Daniel Komen of Kenya, who last summer ran a
stunning 7:20.67 for 3,000 meters (a 3:57 mile pace for just
under two miles) to break the world record of Algeria's
Noureddine Morceli by more than four seconds. This came two
weeks after he narrowly missed Gebrselassie's 1995 world mark of
12:44.39 in the 5,000, a record that once looked safe--but like
all the others, now seems ripe for the taking and taking again.
LEAK OF FAITH
Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo has talent (he's the No. 1 player
in the world), youth (he's only 20), riches (he will make about
$15 million in salary and endorsements this year), companionship
(he dates well-known Brazilian runway model Susana Werner,
herself a soccer player) and a major nocturnal problem. In a
segment that Jerry Springer or Jenny Jones would have killed
for, Ronaldo, a dashing striker who recently left Barcelona to
sign with Inter Milan, went public on a Brazilian TV show with
the admission that he is a bed wetter. "I have this recurring
dream where I'm going to the bathroom to pass water," Ronaldo
told the show's host, Xuxa, who happens to be Pele's former
girlfriend. "The next thing I know, my bed is all wet." Ronaldo
also made headlines during the Atlanta Olympics when, during
Brazil's 3-1 win over Hungary, he relieved himself on the field,
shielding his privates with the ball.
At least if his difficulties become an official issue, Ronaldo
may have an ally in FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body. The
general secretary of that organization is one Sepp Blatter.
LUNATICS 1, ASYLUM 0
If you have any doubts as to who runs sport in the 1990s,
consider the merry madhouse known as the Buffalo Sabres. The
Sabres, who won the Northeast Division last season, have decided
to entrust their future to $4 million-a-year goaltender Dominik
Hasek, the league's most valuable player, instead of the NHL's
coach of the year, Ted Nolan. During the playoffs the volatile
Hasek attacked a Buffalo columnist who questioned the severity
of an injury that had kept him out of two postseason games (SI,
May 5); Hasek later made it clear that he wanted Nolan out of
town, saying he did not respect him. Nolan, whose contract
expired on June 30, had the support of nearly every other
Buffalo player, but management listened to Hasek. "I honestly
don't know what made Dom feel the way he does," Nolan said last
week. "I tried to treat everybody fairly, but as far as kissing
up to players, I'm not one of those guys."
General manager Darcy Regier, who was hired only last month,
took a slap at Nolan when, at a June 26 press conference, he
offered him just a one-year contract for an undisclosed amount.
Nolan instantly rejected the offer, which was subsequently
withdrawn. In the two days after the press conference, there
were a pair of pro-Nolan rallies in Buffalo, each of which drew
hundreds of fans. Jean Knox, widow of the franchise's founder,
Seymour Knox, attended one. "This never would have happened if
Seymour were alive today," she says of Buffalo's failure to
re-sign Nolan. "Ted Nolan would have a long-term contract."
Nolan has no immediate job prospects. The Jack Adams Award as
the top coach is a splendid line on a resume, but there aren't
many NHL coaching opportunities available. Moreover, Nolan's
feud with former Sabres general manager John Muckler, whom team
president Larry Quinn fired after the playoffs, might make
potential employers queasy. "There could be that perception of
me [as a G.M. killer]," the 39-year-old Nolan said, "but I've
had a pretty good history of working with people."
If Scott Bowman retires as coach and general manager of the
Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, Nolan would be a strong
candidate to take over behind the bench in Detroit. Another Red
Wings coaching possibility: Muckler.
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson was in the Orioles'
locker room last week cradling Chris Hoiles's 14-month-old son,
Dalton. When Anderson, a bachelor, drew quizzical stares from
the Baltimore beat writers, he had a ready explanation. "You
make two straight All-Star games," he said, "they give you a
A DIFFERENT ROAD
Sports car racing is not widely thought of as an urban pursuit,
at least not outside the streets of Monte Carlo. But thanks to
driver Dave Rosenblum, some 100 teenagers from poverty-torn
North Philadelphia have gotten a taste of the track. In 1984
Rosenblum, 48, a Munich-born and Philadelphia-bred haberdasher,
founded the Inner City Youth (ICY) Racing Team, which competes
on the professional Sports Car Club of America World Challenge
Circuit. Each year the program gives eight to 10 students from
Philadelphia's Edison High, which is located near Rosenblum's
clothing store, a chance to learn about cars--and about an
environment beyond their own neighborhoods--as a member of a pit
crew. The kids, who must maintain good grades to stay on the
team, take turns traveling to races across the country. Many
"graduates" of the program have gone on to automotive careers,
from working at car dealerships to becoming military mechanics.
All of them, in a world where to do so is not common, have
finished high school.
"The average person involved in racing has no idea what these
kids' lives are like--the poverty, the drugs, the crime, the
challenges they face every day to stay out of trouble," says
Rosenblum. "This program gives them something to work for and a
chance to see what else is out there."
Rosenblum, who divides his time among working in his Northy
Philly clothing store, racing and making promotional appearances
for ICY Racing sponsors Saturn and Quaker State, often appears
to move faster outside of his cars than in; as someone who 15
years ago kicked a cocaine habit, Rosenblum believes his
frenetic work schedule is well worthwhile if it helps turn
around a life. Says Kris Skavnes, who along with Rosenblum
drives the ICY Racing Saturns on the 10-race circuit, "A lot of
guys in the racing community say Dave pushes too hard, but I'll
tell you, he's straight up. He gives these kids a chance."
Chris Persaud, for one, has seized that chance. Persaud, 22,
joined the ICY program six years ago, when he was a ninth-grader
at Edison, and now works full time as an assistant operations
manager. "When I started, I had a bad attitude," he says, "but I
learned quick that that wouldn't get me anywhere. This is about
HE SHOULD STAND PAT
New York Knicks fans were heartened last week by the news that
All-Star center Patrick Ewing, 34, had signed a four-year, $65
million contract. But there's a downside to Ewing's guaranteed
deal: He offered a guarantee with it, saying, "I fully expect
we'll win a championship next year." Why should that worry
Knicks fans? Let us count the ways:
April 3, 1994. The promise: "This is our year," Ewing announces
in anticipation of the postseason. The payoff: Knicks reach Game
7 of the Finals, but the Houston Rockets win 90-84.
Feb. 27, 1995. The promise: "We're going to win," Ewing says
before the Knicks face the Magic in Orlando in an Atlantic
Division showdown. The payoff: Shaquille O'Neal outplays Ewing
as the Magic cruises 118-106.
May 18, 1995. The promise: "I'll see you on Sunday," Ewing says
before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Indiana.
The payoff: New York does survive until Sunday's Game 7,
whereupon the Pacers wave goodbye to the Knicks, 97-95, after
Ewing misses a layup in the closing seconds.
May 17, 1997. The promise: Ewing tells reporters, "See you in
Chicago," before Game 7 of the conference semis. The payoff: The
Miami Heat blasts the Knicks 101-90 and goes on to face the
Bulls. Ewing does get to the Eastern finals, but with a ticket
and in mufti.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: VICTOR JUHASZ With Tyson out of the ring, King's grip on boxing is limited to the aging Chavez and a top female, Martin. [Drawing of Julio Cesar Chavez, Don King, and Christy Martin]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION [Seattle Seahawks' hawk-head logo]
COLOR PHOTO: BJHOERN SIGURDSOEN/AP Gebrselassie stepped up the all-out assault on the 10,000. [Haile Gebrselassie running]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [Tony Gwynn batting]
COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA [Wade Boggs batting]
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Knicks fans hope the re-signed Ewing won't fade on his latest promise. [Patrick Ewing and others in game]
Income, in dollars, that Atlanta's Olympic organizing committee
had taken in when it ceased operations, some $600 million more
than it had projected in its bid--but barely enough to cover
Minutes that irate New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner
was stuck in the jam-packed Yankee Stadium VIP parking lot one
night last week, prompting him to work in the lot directing
traffic the next day.
Male opponents, among the five she faced, who were pinned by
12-year-old, 100-pound Teresa Gordon-Dick as she became the
first female titlist in a co-ed bracket at the USA Wrestling
Kids National Greco-Roman Championships.
Votes received by the nine Milwaukee Brewers on the All-Star
ballot, a lower total than those of 42 individual players.
Price, in dollars, of some upper-deck seats for a Seattle
Seahawks game under new owner Paul Allen, a reduction of as much
as $23 from last year that makes it the NFL's cheapest seat.
New York Yankee Wade Boggs and San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn, the
best pure hitters of their time, seem headed in opposite ways.
While Gwynn, 37, was voted to this week's All-Star Game, Boggs,
39, pondered life as a Yanks sub. Here are the yearly averages
(those in red indicate league leader) that should get them both
1982 .349 .289
1983 .361[*] .309
1984 .325 .351[*]
1985 .368[*] .317
1986 .357[*] .329
1987 .363[*] .370[*]
1988 .366[*] .313[*]
1989 .330 .336[*]
1990 .302 .309
1991 .332 .317
1992 .259 .317
1993 .302 .358
1994 .342 .394[*]
1995 .324 .368[*]
1996 .311 .353[*]
1997 .240 .394
Career .331 .339
Averages for 1997 through Sunday.
[* League leader]
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Manager Mitch Zwolensky of the Minot Mallards in the independent
Prairie League protested a game against the Regina Cyclones
because his players were denied additional warmup time after
waiting for their just-washed uniforms to dry.
THEY SAID IT
Forty-one-year-old kicker, on his status after being released by
the New York Jets in February: "I'm not really a free agent, but
I'm very affordable."