Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Havoc 1991 - An Electrifying Retrospective

As I read my brother, Matt Ward’s, piece on WCW Halloween Havoc, I became immersed with an intoxicating sense of good ’ol pro wrestling nostalgia.  I sat there and said to myself, “Bah gawd (you know you just read that in Jim Ross’ voice), Halloween Havoc was a great pay per view concept.”  You’d be treated to a stage set with a Halloween motif (granted some years the presentation in the N64 classic WCW vs. NWO Revenge looked better), some cheesy yet very appropriate Halloween music, and even some backstage interviewers dressed for the occasion. There were even instances through the years when WCW would straight up terrify the audience as was the case with the Hollywood Hogan vs. The Warrior main event from the 1998 installment of the show…if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about.

Now before I continue, sure, WCW certainly had its faults and plenty of them (after all, they’d still be in business today if they didn’t) but at the same time you could always say two things about them: 1. They never had a shortage of top tier talent on their roster and 2. As outlandish or flat out ridiculous as their ideas may have been at times, they always made the attempt to put forth cutting edge match concepts. As one looks at the long history of Halloween Havoc, which ran from 1989 through 2000, there was no shortage of the aforementioned talent or match concepts. The star-studded events included such legendary performers as Sting, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Stunning Steve Austin, Diamond Dallas Page, Cactus Jack, and the list goes on and on while the match gimmicks ranged from a “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal Match” to today’s focal point, “The Chamber of Horrors Match.”

Growing up in New Jersey, I didn’t have cable and therefore didn’t watch pay per views live. As Matt had mentioned, this left us at the mercy of our local Blockbuster or Easy Video to satiate our fix. Since WCW didn’t reach its peak until the inception of the NWO, older WCW pay-per-views were a bit more difficult to come by at these now archaic establishments (unless you live in Alaska). I remember back around 2003, I was perusing the sports entertainment selection offered by the Manahawkin, New Jersey Blockbuster Video as I stumbled across the rare gem known as WCW Halloween Havoc 1991. This event boasted the dreaded Chamber of Horrors Match, which despite its predominant billing, occurred first on the telecast.

This bout pitted two teams of four against each other inside of an ominous, weapon laden, steel cage. At this point you might be saying to yourself, “This just sounds like War Games.” Well hold on because shit’s about to get weird. Not only was there a random coffin in the cage that opened halfway through the match to release a masked gimp-like individual who just started attacking the competitors, but I haven’t yet shared with you how victory would be achieved. After the combatants fought for a few minutes, another mini-cage with an electric chair within it was lowered into the center of the ring. The goal was to trap a member of the other team in the “chair of torture,” while another member of your team flipped the massive, Dr. Frankenstein-like “fatal lever” affixed to the side of the cage thereby “electrocuting” the poor soul in the chair. Yes, all of what you just read is correct…tune in to the WWE Network if you don’t believe me.

The combatants of this match were a who’s who in sports entertainment so my guess is they were paid A LOT of money to engage in this match. Team number one was comprised of El Gigante, The Steiner Brothers, and Sting, while the members of team number two included Big Van Vader, Cactus Jack, Abdullah The Butcher, and The Diamond Studd (a young Scott Hall). This match met its conclusion as Abdullah The Butcher seemingly had Rick Steiner trapped in the chair while Cactus Jack climbed the cage wall to the “fatal lever” primed to electrocute him. Unbeknownst to the man from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Rick Steiner got the upper hand on Abdullah The Butcher and strapped him into the “chair of torture.” In what ended up a comical, yet awe inspiring, spectacle, Cactus Jack pulled the lever which caused the lights to go out in the arena as sparks illuminated the ring and engulfed the “chair of torture,” while a bloodied Abdullah The Butcher gyrated in the chair. The sparks were so abundant, they even set the ring apron on fire temporarily….like I said this is 20 minutes of must see TV.

In case you’re curious of what the rest of the card was composed of, here you go:

P.N. News & Big Josh def. The Creatures

Bobby Eaton def. Terrence Taylor w/ Alexandra York (Terri Runnels)

Johnny B. Badd (Marc Mero) w/ Theodore Long def. Jimmy Garvin w/ Michael P.S. Hayes

WCW World Television Championship

Stunning Steve Austin (c) w/ Lady Blossom vs. Dustin Rhodes - Fought to a draw as they reached the time limit.

Bill Kazmaier def. Oz

-This was another must see moment of the event as Oz, who hailed from the Emerald City, was none other than Kevin Nash with a bleach blonde flat top squaring off with Bill Kazmaier of ESPN and World’s Stongest Man fame.

Van Hammer def. Doug Somers

WCW Light Heavyweight Championship

Brian Pillman def. Richard Morton w/ Alexandra York

The WCW Phantom def. The Z-Man

-While The Phantom was not unmasked during this contest, he did defeat The Z-Man with The Rude Awakening-I think you can figure this one out.

WCW World Tag Team Championship

The Enforcers (Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko) (c) def. The Patriots (Todd Champion & Firebreaker Chip)

Interview Segment

Eric Bischoff (dressed up as Count Dracula) interviewed Paul E. Dangerously w/ Madusa as he revealed the WCW Phantom to be Ravishing Rick Rude.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship

Lex Luger (c) w/ Harley Race & Mr. Hughes def. Ron Simmons w/ Dusty Rhodes

-Prior to this match, highlights of Ron Simmons at his alma mater, Florida State, completing football drills, lifting weights, and running bleachers was shown. As I watched, all I could think of was how appropriate it would have been if the song “Montage” from the movie Team America played in the background.

If you’re ever in the mood for a healthy dose of early 90’s pro wrestling entertainment complete with a ref wearing a helmet called the “refer-eye cam” (almost forgot that part), then you could certainly do worse than WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 available on demand on the WWE Network. 

Happy Halloween!!!





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Monday, October 29, 2018

HBO results: Daniel Jacobs defeats Sergiy Derevyanchenko

Luis Cortes' report from Daniel Jacobs vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday night from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden:

HBO results: Daniel Jacobs defeats Sergiy Derevyanchenko





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Sunday, October 28, 2018

WWE Evolution Recap

WWE emanated from the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York with their first ever pay-per-view comprised of all female competitors. This truly was a landmark event for the WWE who, despite the inclusion of women wrestlers for decades, have evolved to the point where the ladies have been afforded an ever growing spotlight with the company in recent years, no longer being utilized as valets or in bra and panty gimmick matches. WWE pooled together an impressive collection of talent for the event with only a couple glaring omissions such as Terri Runnels and Jacqueline. While I can certainly appreciate the women of WWE being given a well-deserved spot on this grand stage, I only had one gripe with the event. As much as I love the WWE, they sometimes present themselves like they are the only pro wrestling company on the planet and so much of what they do is unprecedented. 

While this was certainly the first all-woman pay-per-view in WWE history, it is certainly not the first time this concept has come to fruition. The Shimmer promotion, which has regularly worked with Ring of Honor since it’s inception in 2005, has a roster comprised exclusively of women and has produced pay-per-views, albeit iPPV. Additionally, many of you may recall the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling or GLOW founded back in 1986 which is the source material for the popular Netflix series. This was an all-female roster of sports entertainers that could be seen on national television on a weekly basis in the late eighties before pay-per-view became widespread. One could say the WWE did pay homage to this company, albeit in a very roundabout way, with the inclusion of WWE Hall of Famer Ivory on the show. Ivory was one of the original members of the GLOW promotion when she successfully auditioned in 1986 (Yes, you read that correctly… Ivory is now 56 and looks nowhere close to it) and became know as Tina Ferrari. It also appeared, quite regrettably, that this event did not sell well because the lighting on the audience appeared much darker than normal, which was a shame because this was a very entertaining event.

Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox
Winners: Trish Stratus & Lita

Mickie James was originally supposed to tag with Alexa Bliss, however, a last minute change was implemented as a result of an injury The Goddess sustained at a WWE Live event last weekend. This was a great match to open the show with as the two legends, Stratus and Lita, immediately got the crowd involved with “You still got it” chants. Their opponents presented an interesting dynamic to the match as well with Fox being the current longest tenured woman on the roster and James, who originally debuted as Trish’s stalkerish admirer. This bout saw it’s conclusion with a Lita-sault on both James and Fox followed by a Chick-kick on Mickie to seal the victory and leave the crowd "Stratusfied."

20-Woman Battle Royal
Winner: Nia Jax

The star studded battle royal held the coveted prize of a future women’s title shot on the line. Legends such as Alundra Blayze, Ivory, Michelle McCool, Molly Holly, and Torrie Wilson were included among the participants. I was most impressed with the showings by Michelle McCool, who displayed phenomenal conditioning, and WWE Hall of Famer, Ivory, who made it to the final five before she was eliminated by Asuka. The final four were Asuka, Nia Jax, Tamina Snuka, and Ember Moon. Asuka was the first to go as she was shockingly eliminated by Ember Moon. Moon then dumped Snuka over the top rope after she hit the Eclipse on her. This left us with Moon and “The Irresistible Force” Nia Jax as the final two combatants-or so we thought. As Moon and Jax struggled on the ring apron, Zelina Vega snuck up on the two and believed she dumped them over the top rope. As Vega prematurely celebrated, Nia Jax lifted her up over her head and launched her out of the ring. Jax then manhandled Ember Moon with a two handed choke slam and tossed her over the top rope for the victory.

Mae Young Classic Finals
Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai
Winner: Toni Storm

The culmination of the second annual Mae Young Classic arrived this evening as Japan’s Io Shirai squared off with 22-year-old British grappler Toni Storm. The conclusion of this bout arrived after Shirai went for broke with an Asai Moonsault only to be unceremoniously met with knees to her back. Storm quickly recovered and hit her finisher the Storm Zero, essentially a double under-hook sit-down powerbomb, for the pinfall victory.

Six Woman Tag Team Match
The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan) vs. Sasha Banks, Natalya, & Bayley
Winners: Sasha Banks, Natalya, & Bayley

The Riott Squad worked as a cohesive unit and dominated the majority of this match as they utilized several tandem offensive maneuvers and continued to keep a fresh person in the ring with regular tags. Natalya, however, was able to turn the tides as she broke Liv Morgan in half with a power bomb that was followed by a well executed Frogsplash by Banks for the victory.

NXT Women’s Championship
Kairi Sane (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Winner: Shayna Baszler

Inaugural Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane squared off with Four Horsewomen member Shayna Baszler in a rematch of their battle at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. These proficient strikers put on a very entertaining match that ended in controversy. Two of the other Four Horsewomen were present at ringside and made their presence felt at the end of the match as they distracted Sane enough for Baszler to get the upper hand and lock in the dreaded Kirifuda Clutch. The referee called a stop to the action as it didn’t take long for Sane to lose consciousness. With the victory, The Queen of Spades became NXT Women’s Champion for an unprecedented second time.

Smackdown Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Winner: Becky Lynch

This match, a continuation of their ongoing feud, was contested as a Last Woman Standing Match. Becky has held the title since the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view last month when she was able to defeat Flair. The intensity of this match quickly progressed to another level as the ladies introduced several weapons into the match. Lynch and Flair even earned an ECW chant from the crowd as they supplied a moment of nostalgia when they stood outside of opposite sides of the ring and proceeded to throw chairs into the ring until there was a pile of roughly ten of them. Another highlight of the visceral carnage of this bout came when Becky was sprawled out across a table as Flair ascended to the top rope and broke Lynch and the table in half with a punishing Senton. As the action spilled out of the ring, Becky Lynch proceeded to one-up Flair as she laid Flair out on the German announce table, climbed a ladder she set next to it, and delivered a devastating leg drop from the top of it. This match reached it’s conclusion as Flair attempted to put the final nail in the metaphorical coffin of Becky’s title reign. With another table set up outside the ring and Becky Lynch laid upon it, seemingly in the final moments of her reign, Flair climbed to the top turnbuckle most likely to attempt a moonsault. Flair’s attempt was thwarted, however, as Becky intercepted her and power-bombed her from the top turnbuckle down through the table below. Flair was unable to answer the referee’s ten count as Becky Lynch retained her title.

RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nikki Bella
Winner: Ronda Rousey

The first few minutes of this bout left the impression that this could have been a squash match as Rousey put on a clinic of her judo abilities. This was short lived, however, as the numbers game quickly came to fruition. Brie Bella promptly established her presence as she helped her sister level the playing field and surprisingly turned this into a very competitive and entertaining contest. The end of this bout arrived as Rousey engaged Bella in a small package takedown from the top turnbuckle that she seamlessly transitioned into her armbar submission which Nikki frantically tapped out to.




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Saturday, October 27, 2018

‘Tis the boxing season in the Northeast

Check out Luis Cortes' preview of upcoming boxing shows in the Northeast United States on UCNLive.com

‘Tis the boxing season in the Northeast

Eddie Hearn and Daniel Jacobs - Photo UCNLive.com



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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Best of Halloween Havoc - WWE Top 10

In the spirit of Halloween, and some of our unhealthy obsessions with pro wrestling (*cough* Steve Ward *cough*), I ( more like the WWE Network and YouTube...) bring you the Best of Halloween Havoc. This highly entertaining WCW pay-per-view had its run between 1989 and 2000... My brother Steve and I have probably watched every one of these shows... Not live, but on VHS thanks to our local Aberdeen and Manahawkin, New Jersey Blockbuster stores back in the day. 

This video brings back a ton of memories revolving around the "cheesy" Halloween gimmick matches like "unknown masked men" interfering in matches, electric chair bouts, and monster truck battles. It feels like just yesterday my brothers and I were watching WCW and beating the crap out of each other on Sunday afternoon after church at our grandma's house. I know... Nothing goes better with Roman Catholic religious ceremonies than juiced up men and women performing sports entertainment theater for millions of viewers, some of whom certainly lived in their parents' basements well into their 30s and collected Pok√©mon cards (*cough* Justin Dohnson *cough*). 

That being said, I'm sure I speak for everyone at The Weigh-In when I say, Happy Halloween! Make sure to check your candy to ensure it has not been messed with... Justin Dohnson is still out there, and rumor has it, he is still angry about his fellow Irishman, Conor McGregor, losing recently... Who knows what he will do after having a good cry, drinking a bottle of Schnapps Sour Apple Pucker, and eating a box of Bon Bons... Don't say I didn't warn you! 






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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Top Rank on ESPN+ Presents Murata vs. Brant Recap

Top Rank Boxing emanated from the Park Theater located within the lush confines of the Park MGM Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stacked, nine fight, card was headlined by two title fights-Ryota Murata vs. Rob Brant for the WBA World Middleweight Title and Antonio DeMarco vs. Maxim Dadashev for the NABF Super Lightweight Title. In case you missed the action on ESPN+, here’s a recap of all the action!

Noah LaCoste (2-0, 2 KOs) vs. David Kaminsky (2-0, 1 KO)
Four Rounds, Middleweights
Decision: David Kaminsky via TKO in round 2

Adam Lopez (10-1, 4 KOs) vs. Hector Ambriz (12-7-2, 6 KOs)
Eight Rounds, Featherweights
Decision: Adam Lopez via TKO in round 8

Joseph Adorno (9-0, 9 KOs) vs. Kevin Cruz (8-0, 5 KOs)
Six Rounds, Lightweights
Decision: Joseph Adorno via UD

Vladimir Nikitin (1-0, 0 KOs) vs. Clay Burns (5-4-2, 4 KOs)
Six Rounds, Featherweights
Decision: Vladimir Nikitin via UD (59-55, 59-55, 59-55)

Nicola Cipolletta (14-6-2, 4 KOs) vs. Michael Conlan (8-0, 5 KOs)
Eight Rounds, Featherweights
Decision: Michael Conlan via TKO in round 7

This bout featured 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlan, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Conlan proved to be every bit the Olympic caliber athlete for the duration of the fight as he simply outclassed Cipolletta. Conlan continuously cut off the ring and the little offense that Cipolletta attempted to mount was reciprocated with Conlan’s vicious counter-punching ability. The referee finally called a stop to the action in round seven as Conlan had Cipolletta against the ropes mounting a devastating assault to his body-as he had done for the majority of the fight. In a brief, albeit unnecessary, display of showmanship, Cipolletta decided to do some push-ups in the middle of the ring followed by a short shadow boxing display…perhaps he should have used this excess energy to put forth some offense.

Guido Pitto (25-5-2, 8 KOs) vs. Esquiva Falcao (21-0, 15 KOs)
Ten Rounds, Middleweights
Decision: Esquiva Falcao via UD (100-90, 100-90, 100-90)

This contest pitted Esquiva Falcao, who won the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, for his home country of Brazil against Guido Pitto, a veteran of 32 professional fights. The pace of this fight was quite pedestrian for the first eight rounds as the fighters held an extended feeling out process with each other. Rounds nine and ten finally saw the fighters exchange some effective combos with a slight edge on the side of Falcao. Apparently the few flashes of action displayed by Falcao in the final rounds were enough for the judges to warrant a unanimous decision for him.

NABF Super Lightweight Title
Antonio DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KOs) vs. Maxim Dadashev (11-0, 10 KOs)
Ten Rounds, Super Lightweights
Decision: Maxim Dadashev via UD (97-93, 96-94, 98-92)

The co-feature of this card pitted Maxim Dadashev (11-0, 10 KOs), as he made the first defense of his NABF Super Lightweight Title, against ring veteran Antonio DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KOs). This contest marked Dadashev’s first title defense since he earned the then vacant title by way of a tenth round TKO of Darleys Perez back in June. DeMarco entered this bout on a two fight win streak-a unanimous decision over Luis Solis in February 2017 and a first round knockout of Eddie Ramirez in October 2017. It should be noted, however, that DeMarco was on the wrong side of three consecutive unanimous decisions prior to those victories albeit in the form of top level contenders that included Omar Figueroa Jr. and Jessie Vargas. 

Antonio DeMarco looked hungry for this fight and was the aggressor for the first eight rounds as Dadashev seemed uncomfortable in the ring with the southpaw. DeMarco displayed some signs of fatigue in the final two rounds as Dadashev capitalized by finally landing some power punches that DeMarco had no answer for. This appeared to be an extremely close fight where a split decision would have been plausible. Surprisingly, and much to the chagrin of the clearly pro-DeMarco crowd, Dadashev was awarded the unanimous decision to retain his title.

WBA World Middleweight Title
Rob Brant (23-1, 16 KOs) vs. Ryota Murata (14-1, 11 KOs)
Twelve Rounds, Middleweights
Decision: Rob Brant via UD (118-110, 119-109, 119-109)

The main event of the evening featured 2012 gold medalist Ryota Murata (14-1, 11 KOs) as he made the second defense of his WBA World Middleweight title against Rob Brant (23-1, 16KOs). Murata earned the title in October 2017 when he was victorious over Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, a rematch of their May 2017 encounter which N’Dam N’Jikam took by split decision. Murata’s opponent, Rob Brant, entered the fight on the heels of a first round knockout of Colby Courter back in March of this year prior to which he suffered the only setback of his career-a unanimous decision loss to Juergen Braehmer in October 2017.

The first two rounds of this fight saw Rob Brant attempt to maintain a frenetic pace like he consumed a case of Red Bull in the locker room. Brant without a doubt threw a significantly greater number of punches than Murata as he attempted to establish the jab but Murata’s guard stood up well to this flurry. In rounds three and four we witnessed Brant slow his tempo down as Murata began to land crisp combos that Brant was unable to guard against. As we entered round five, arguably the best of the encounter, both fighters stood toe to toe landing several head-snapping power punches that showed each combatant to have a cast iron chin. Rounds six through ten were more evenly contested as Brant’s feverish pace slowed slightly, however, the championship rounds seemed to be the final nails in the coffin of Murata’s title reign. Brant repeatedly broke through Murata’s guard as he landed several stiff rights with sniper-like precision. The judges obviously appreciated how busy Brant was, or even at times only appeared to be when he could not break through Murata’s guard, as he won a rather lopsided unanimous decision to become the new WBA Middleweight Champion.

Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (5-0, 2 KOs) vs. Wilberth Lopez (23-9, 15 KOs)
Eight Rounds, Super Lightweights
Decision: Fazliddin Gaibnazarov via TKO in round 2

Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, winner of the 2016 gold medal for his native Uzbekistan, squared off with Tucson, Arizona’s own Wilberth Lopez in the final bout of the evening after the ESPN+ broadcast concluded. Gaibnazarov was simply too much for Lopez to handle as he wouldn’t allow him any breathing room repeatedly cornering him. The bout came to it’s rapid conclusion as the referee stepped in to save Lopez from any additional abuse in round two.




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Friday, October 19, 2018

Top Rank on ESPN+ Presents Murata vs. Brant Preview

Top Rank Boxing returns to Sin City this Saturday night with a nine bout card headlined by Ryota Murata vs. Rob Brant for the WBA Middleweight World Title. The event will emanate from the Park Theater within the Park MGM Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The action will kick off on ESPN+ at 10:30 pm ET.

The main event of the evening will feature Ryota Murata (14-1, 11 KOs) making the second defense of his WBA World Middleweight title against Rob Brant (23-1, 16KOs). Murata has held the title since October 2017 when he was victorious over Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in a rematch of their May 2017 encounter which N’Dam N’Jikam took by split decision. Murata’s opponent, Rob Brant, enters this fight on the heels of a first round knockout of Colby Courter back in March of this year prior to which he suffered the only setback of his career-a unanimous decision loss to Juergen Braehmer in October 2017.

The co-feature of this card will pit Maxim Dadashev (11-0, 10 KOs), as he makes the first defense of his NABF Super Lightweight Title, against ring veteran Antonio DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KOs). This contest will mark Dadashev’s first title defense since he earned the then vacant title by way of a tenth round TKO of Darleys Perez back in June. DeMarco enters this contest on a two fight win streak-a unanimous decision over Luis Solis in February 2017 and a first round knockout of Eddie Ramirez in October 2017. It should be noted, however, that DeMarco was on the wrong side of three consecutive unanimous decisions prior to those victories albeit in the form of top level contenders that included Omar Figueroa Jr. and Jessie Vargas. It will be interesting to see if DeMarco will have any ring rust to shake off after a one year layoff but his ring experience, if nothing more, should prove to be a formidable test for Dadashev.

Make sure to catch all of the action tomorrow night on ESPN+ and return to The Weigh-In: Your Home For Combat Sports for a complete recap of all the action!





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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Making of the First Great Boxing Promoter: Tex Rickard

George Lewis “Tex” Rickard was one of boxing’s greatest promoters. In the early years, he ushered in the golden age of prizefighting, the period from the 1920s through 1950s. He was a gambler who would wager on anything.
Tex Rickard
In 1921, the sporting world had its first million-dollar gate. It was a boxing match held in Jersey City, New Jersey. The public paid $1,789,238 to watch Jack Dempsey retain the world heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout over world light heavyweight champion Frenchman Georges Carpentier. Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926, his manager, Jack “Doc” Kearns, and promoter Tex Rickard, grossed $8,400,000 in five fights between 1921 and 1927. Rickard would also form the National Hockey League, which included his New York Ranges, named after the lawmen from his home state—the Texas Rangers.

Rickard was a slender, finely dressed man. His attire included a vested suit with a pocket watch chain above the belt, hat, and cane. He was thin lipped with a half-smoked, chewed cigar protruding from the corner of his mouth. He thrived on exhilaration, saying, “… I’ve never been far away from excitement …” His stoic expression was unmistakable on his lined, weathered face. It showed the wear as a cowboy from the Midwestern plains of his youth. He had an imperturbable disposition. He neither laughed, except for a fake forced laugh, nor wept. Rickard acquired these traits during his years as a boy and young adult.

He was born on January 2, 1870, in Kansas City, Missouri, to a poor family. He had the infamous outlaws Frank and Jesse James, along with their mother, as his next-door neighbors. He was four years old, but Rickard remembered the James brothers and Jesse’s thick, rough beard. They would flip coins to Rickard and other kids.

His family moved to Sherman, Texas, when Rickard was still a child. When he was eleven, his father died. He took a job as a cowboy on the plains of Texas with the East Ranch to support his mother and many brothers and sisters. By the age of fifteen, he had ridden through fifteen states on horseback working for the ranch. Not long after, word spread that Rickard was one of the best shots in Texas. An injury from a longhorn ended Rickard’s days as a cowboy. At the age of twenty-three, he became the marshal of Henrietta, Texas, and gained the nickname “Tex.” In 1894, he married and had a child. Both his wife and child died within a year. Many of his siblings died shortly after. With nothing to keep him in Texas, he went to Alaska. It possessed the potential of fortune that he desired—the gold rush in the Klondike.

In Alaska, Rickard and a partner, George Cormack, claimed an area, which they sold. Rickard received $60,000 in gold dust. “I thought I was fixed for life,” Rickard said many years later. Rickard opened a saloon with Tom Turner, and it became the biggest saloon and gambling house in Dawson City. After four months, his gambling took his fortune. In four hours, he lost $150,000, which included the saloon. In St. Michaels, he met Jim White and opened a new saloon in Nome. Here, Rickard promoted his first fight as entertainment for his patrons. After they attracted a packed house, Rickard saw the potential in the sport.

Rickard had recouped almost everything he lost in Dawson City. He left Alaska and went to San Francisco where he accepted a job of promoting the world lightweight title fight between Battling Nelson and the champion Joe Gans. Rickard chose the Casino Amphitheatre in Goldfield, Nevada, to stage the fight. Rickard acted as Gans’ manager. He had heated discussions with Nelson’s manager, Nolan, about the purse distribution. Rickard never held fight managers in high regard after this. When the townspeople heard what was happening, they gave their support to Gans. Nelson’s popularity waned. They guaranteed manager Nolan that if Nelson did not fight, Nolan would be going home horizontally. Nolan withdrew his demands and settled for $22,500. That allowed Rickard to pay Gans $11,000. He would have received nothing if not for Rickard. As much disdain as Rickard had for managers, he sympathized with the prizefighters. In later years, when Gans had no money, Rickard staked him, so he could fight. Rickard would repeat the practice with other prizefighters throughout his career.

On September 3, 1906, the fight took place. The large crowd, which included Teddy Roosevelt’s son Kermit, paid $69,715 to see the fight. They were decidedly behind the black Gans, not the white Nelson, an unusual occurrence for that time. Joe Gans, the Old Master, lived up to his ring name by out-boxing Nelson despite breaking his hand in the thirty-third round. Nelson reverted to many flagrant fouls that infuriated the crowd to near riot. After forty-two grueling rounds in the searing Nevada heat, Gans took a left hook to the groin that sent him to the canvas. He could not get up. They awarded Gans the fight by disqualification because of the foul.

With this prizefight, Rickard saw the fervor it caused among the people. Rickard did not expect to make money from the fight but had a $13,000 profit. He would be in the fight game for the rest of his life. Two philosophies that were used in the bout Rickard would apply to other fight promotions—you must provide money to make money, and it attracted attention if you promoted one fighter as the villain and the other a hero. When people would tell him he spent too much, he continued to prove them wrong with increased gates.
Joe Gans vs. Battling Nelson

Tex Rickard, now a promoter for prizefights, found that he had competition for big fights with other promoters who had realized the financial rewards from successful bouts. Rickard often conceived an angle to outmaneuver his competitors. This became clear when the Jack Johnson and Jim Jefferies fight was announced; everyone wanted to promote it. Rickard befriended Johnson, who told him the highest bid would be $100,000. The principles opened the bids in Hoboken, New Jersey, with Johnson present. A certified check accompanied each bid except one. Rickard’s bid contained $101,000 in cash. Rickard had outmaneuvered his competitors. The principles awarded him the fight. He would soon regret the victory.

From the onset, Rickard went through a barrage of protests for allowing a black man to fight a white man, despite Johnson having defended his title in America four times against whites. Given the success and complete opposite sentiment Rickard had experienced when he promoted the black Gans against the white Nelson in a lightweight championship, he did not foresee the fervor with which white America would object to the bout.

Economics overshadowed racism as cities competed to host the event. Rickard had a stadium erected in San Francisco. Governor Gillette canceled the match due to the ongoing pressure of hosting a mixed-race bout. Rickard lost the money he spent and had to refund the presales. He decided to hold the fight in Reno, Nevada, the same state he had so much success with the Gans-Nelson bout. He built another stadium, costing even more than the one in San Francisco. It became the first time someone erected an arena to hold a bout. When neither fighter could agree on a referee, someone from Johnson’s camp suggested that Rickard take the job. To Rickard’s surprise, Jeffries agreed, and Rickard with no choice became promoter and referee.

Before a crowd of 15,600 paying $275,000 on July 4, 1910, Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson entered the ring under the blazing Nevada sun. It was Jeffries’s first fight in five idle years away from boxing. At thirty-five, Jeffries lost close to a hundred pounds to get to his fighting weight. Jeffries took the shaded corner. An official reminded him that they had agreed to flip a coin to determine the corner. When Jeffries’s manager, Sam Berger, went to Johnson’s corner to flip the coin, Johnson told him, “That’s all right Sam. You just stay right where you are. This here corner’s good enough for us."

Johnson destroyed the undefeated Jeffries. Rickard stopped the scheduled forty-five-round fight in the fifteenth round while simultaneously Berger entered the ring with a towel to end it. Jeffries received $50,000 plus over $66,000 for the movie rights. Johnson received $70,600 plus another $51,000 for the movie rights. They estimated the motion picture money at $270,000.

Among those in attendance was a young fifteen-year-old by the name of William Harrison Dempsey, better known as Jack Dempsey. The youngster came via a Pullman train car for the expressed purpose of watching the championship bout. Days before the bout, he would stalk Rickard in awe of the promoter. He attended the fighters’ training camps. Many years later, the two would be formally introduced, producing an epic business association. 
Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries
In 1925, Tex Rickard built the new Madison Square Garden, which did not officially open until December 15, but held a boxing match before then. It was the third building to hold the Garden name. The current Madison Square Garden that opened in 1968 was the fourth. The Garden of 1925 was the creation of Tex Richard. He financed it with a group he called his “six hundred millionaires,” a number of wealthy friends. He built it at a cost of $4,750,000 in 249 days. The media called it the "House That Tex Built."

The new 1925 Garden held many historical events through its existence, but its main purpose was to host boxing events for which it could accommodate 18,500 fans, with seating on three levels. It measured two hundred feet by three hundred seventy-five feet. Though designed by noted architect Thomas W. Lamb, it had poor viewing for some seating. Deficient ventilation would give a hazy appearance inside, especially in the upper seats, due to permitted smoking.

Tex Rickard arrived in Miami Beach on December 28, 1929. He was there to arrange one of his heavyweight elimination bouts between Jack Sharkey and Young Stribling and discuss with Jack Dempsey his proposed comeback. Early on New Year’s Day, he complained of pains, and the doctors rushed him to Allison Hospital for an emergency operation. On New Year’s night of 1929, Tex Rickard was operated on and his appendix removed. The next day, he showed signs of a quick recovery. Despite the early optimism of the doctors, Rickard’s health deteriorated.

“Practically the same condition existed tonight as this afternoon. Mr. Rickard’s resistance was possibly slightly lower. His temperature remained at 103, and his pulse had increased from 132 at 4 p.m. to 140 at this time.” Signed Dr. E. H. Adkins.

The hospital allowed Dempsey, who had arrived in Palm Beach, to see Rickard for a moment. When he left the hospital, he said the promoter told him, “‘Jack, I’ve got this fight licked.’”

Before lapsing into a coma from which he never rallied, he turned to his wife and friends who gathered at his bedside with the assertion that he was “getting a tough break, but I’ll fight.” Then he grasped the hand of his wife and in a concerned, feeble voice inquired about his eight-year-old daughter, Maxine. When told that Maxine was all right and wanted her father to get well, Rickard said, “Help me over this, sweetheart, I’m fighting my …” He did not finish the sentence, and in two hours the man who was not just associated with boxing, he was boxing, was dead at fifty-nine.

The body of Tex Rickard came to New York in a great $15,000 bronze casket. Jack Dempsey and Walter Fields, brother of comedic actor W. C. Fields, were among the pallbearers. The casket lay in state at Madison Square Garden, "Rickard’s own Temple to Fistiana," where Max Schmeling had fought just days before. Huge crowds came to pay their last respects.

“My sympathy goes out to Mr. Rickard’s family,” Gene Tunney said from a vacation spot. “I feel his death keenly as one of his myriad of friends. The world of sport has undoubtedly lost a genius. There probably never will be another promoter so capable of stirring the public interest. It might truly be said that whatever his hands touched turned to gold.”

“My best pal is gone!” Jack Dempsey said. “Quietly and nobly he slipped away. His greatest fight was lost … Ten minutes before the end Tex opened his eyes. His hand lay in mine. … His eyes carried the message that meant only one thing. He knew then that the battle was over … For twelve years Tex was my loyal friend.”

With the death of Rickard died any thought that Jack Dempsey would make a comeback.

“The secret pact that we had made ended with his tragic passing,” Dempsey said. “My conditional promise to fight again so that he might perhaps realize his final ambition of ‘Just one more million-dollar gate’ is automatically shattered.”

Rickard’s planned match between Sharkey and Stribling occurred on February 27, 1929, at Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Florida. Sharkey won the ten-round decision.
People line the streets of New York for Tex Rickard’s funeral
Rickard died one of the wealthiest men in sports at the time. His estate was estimated at $2,000,000. For a man who started with nothing from the Missouri plains, it was a sizable sum. The New York Trust Company, executor, refused to divulge the exact amount. The will provided for his widow, daughter, mother-in-law, sisters, nieces, nephews, and a cousin of his first wife. His estate included properties in Boston, Miami Beach, South America, securities in South American corporations, the Cattle Company of Paraguay, and brokerage accounts and bank accounts in New York and Florida.
Tex Rickard's Oil Company
Promoters thought to take Rickard’s place were Humbert Fugazy, Jim Mullen, Jimmy Johnston, and Paddy Harmen. None would obtain the stature of Rickard, but one man who had worked closely with Rickard in his biggest promotions would wield the power in boxing that Rickard had. He would not get involved in boxing promotion for another five years. When he did, it would be with absolute power. Mike Jacobs would be a man who would rival Rickard’s accomplishments.
Tex Rickard is Buried in New York


Gene Pantalone

Author of From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero Lew Jenkins

Available for pre-order on Amazon and from Rowman and Littlefield

“The life of Lew Jenkins is the stuff of boxing legend. From his Depression era upbringing and carnival barnstorming to winning a world title and squandering it all before becoming a war hero, Jenkins is an epic pulp novel come to life. In the capable hands of Gene Pantalone the story brims with all the hardscrabble detail you want in a great boxing book. This is a must-read for fans of the squared circle's history.”

-Chad Dundas, lead MMA sportswriter for the Bleacher Report and award-winning author of Champion of the World


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