Behind the Scenes at a Celebrity Boxing Event
Writer and TV host A.J. Benza thought that he'd seen it all in his 25 years in show business. Then he accepted an offer to commentate at a celebrity boxing event. It turns out he hadn't seen anything yet. Here is his first hand account.
It’s either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Either way, it’s a sad and sudden stop on the B, C and D lines of celebrity. And sometimes you might have to spend your last token on the transfer, which will, quite literally take you nowhere. Apparently, I was a passenger on that train last month.
The call came in from a mysterious promoter offering me $5,000 to box Long Island’s own Joey Buttafuoco on an upcoming falling-star studded fight night in Hollywood. I’m not going to lie. The 5K would come in handy and thickened up the gifts under the Christmas tree a bit. It would hang some more clothes on the kids and maybe put the wife in those Jimmy Choo shoes she’s had her longing eyes on. I don’t need much, because after all, beautiful kids and a sexy wife are the only accessories that truly matter on a man.
But if Daddy takes the dough, Daddy doesn’t work legitimately anymore. Accepting this offer is like telling the world “ring the bell” because my career was officially over. So what’s a Daddy to do?
Instead, I pitched myself as a ringside commentator. How hard could it be? It was the same amount of dough plus sharing the announcing duties with Frank Stallone – a true student of the sweet science and a man with a last name with a heavy boxing pedigree. It’s a less sleazy way to accept the payday while keeping my pride intact.
There’s little legroom on the Jet Blue flight to California, but there’s plenty of room for a man to rationalize his thoughts on accepting the gig and my connections to many of the people involved in the fights. As a journalist in 1990’s, I extensively covered Joey Buttafuoco’s affair with Amy Fisher and Kato Kaelin’s unfortunate address on the night of the O.J. Simpson murders. This night – which also featured the 'Octomom' Nadya Suleman, Tila Tequila, White House gatecrasher Tareq Salahi, Bombshell McGhee, Coolio, 'Baywatch' beefhead Jeremy Jackson, some former Mel Gibson paramour, Jose Canseco and a very game Lenny Dykstra – was surely destined to be train wreck TV. It was nothing a handful of dolls and a couple gin and tonics couldn’t get me through. In my mind, I was billing it as the 'Headshots vs. the Mugshots,' and let the teeth fall where they may.
The moment I saw the evening’s emcee, the eccentric Israeli billionaire Alki David, being carried into the ring on a fainting couch held aloft by four shirtless, oil-up boys I immediately pulled off my headset and huffed it to the Bank of America on Sunset and Vine and deposited my check. I was back in time for the opening bell of the first fight.
Octomom and the former ‘Long Island Lolita’ entered the ring with protective headgear and boxing gloves the size of Suleman’s formerly pregnant belly. To make matters worse, both of Octomom’s gloves were left-handed. It didn’t matter because the three minutes were just a silly shoving match while Alki David stayed in the ring to shout the play-by-play into a bullhorn. It was obvious by then that none of the ringside commentators – Stallone, myself and a couple guys from Playboy Radio and Radar Online – would have very much to say to the pay-per-view faithful who shelled out $29.95 for this madhouse.
Things went from sad to worse when word came in that Dykstra - currently under indictment on fraud charges and a conspiracy to distribute drugs – had cashed Alki’s $15,000 check the night earlier and flew out of L.A., leaving Canseco with no one to fight. That didn’t stop the promoters from staging an audience “shoving” match between Jose and Tareq with a subsequent trip to the ring to settle their sudden differences. By this time, all us commentators had seen enough, dropping the serious boxing talk and allowing the commentary to get a little dicey for family television. Before the bout, Tareq winked over at us, handed us his phone, dress shirt and wallet before being shoved to the ground by Jose in the second round. In that time, some of us thought it would be funny to open the contents of his wallet. We found a few $100 dollars, a hotel key and a little pill that would help Tareq perform in a different type of event if you catch my drift. I guess when your wife runs off with the guy from Journey, you ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’
In the featured match, Amy Fisher’s husband Lou Bellera belted Joey on his can a few times before that fight was stopped and Joey huffed, “I’m too old for this crap.” At ringside, Amy cried. “I don’t want to see anyone ever get hurt.” A far cry from how she felt on Mary Jo’s porch on that sunny afternoon in 1992. I guess people do change. I know I have.
After witnessing a couple kids on stilts walking around the arena, someone grabbing a headset and making a terrible remark about a 10-year-old’s vagina, a sword swallower and a crazy man that let former Hell’s Angel Chuck Zito staple $20 bills to his bloody face and forehead, I said my quick goodbyes in the ring and sped off. I had seen enough to know I’d seen too much.
I turned down Vine and cut west on Hollywood, walking on the chiseled names of the stars whom I doubt – but secretly hope – had suffered through nights like this of their own.
AJ Benza is a TV host and writer and likes to say he's an actor - although he's only been in eight films in 25 years. He lives in New York with his wife and kids, having recently escaped the phonies in Los Angeles.