By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
When Hamer is announced, his small army of more than 100 friends—the majority of whom are in the $150 ringside VIP seats—stand and yell. It's the biggest response of the entire night.
Hamer's opponent is Joe Rabotte, a lumbering giant who outweighs Hamer by 40 pounds and has come up from South Carolina with a professional record of two wins and three losses. Sight unseen, Hamer had sized him up as a "tomato can" a couple of days earlier: "He's a guy who woke up one day and decided to try boxing. You ever see the first Rocky, where he's fighting in the smoky bar? That is the definition of a tomato can."
The bell rings for the first round, and Hamer charges from his corner, light on his toes. Rabotte has a heavier step. They exchange jabs and body blows. Tor angles his body low and manages to work in the very same slip-jabs his trainer had stressed days before.
Then Hamer unleashes two straight right hands, putting Rabotte on the canvas and into the ropes. Hamer hits him with another vicious right, and the bell rings.
The boxing reporters compare notes, liking what they see. Tor's attacks, they say, are tiring out Rabotte quickly.
At the bell for the second round, Hamer is dancing again. He sends a left hook into Rabotte's torso. Another left hook, a right jab, another left.
Rabotte's down again. And the referee ends the fight.
Hamer wins his first pro fight on a TKO.
His father, Irving, jumps to his feet and takes a bow. Hamer's friends hug and cheer.
Forty-four seconds into the second round of a match that was scheduled to last four rounds, Tor Hamer is now an undefeated professional heavyweight boxer.
A day later, DiBella tells the Voice, "One of the things that is missing is a heavyweight American that people can believe in. Tor isn't well enough known and has only had one pro fight, but I think a year from now, a lot more people are going to know who he is."
DiBella says his plan is to expose Tor in additional four-round fights, eventually getting him up to 10–12 rounders. "That's when you can make money."
A guy like Hamer, he says, can help an industry that's ailing. "Right now, boxing isn't at its high point," he says. DiBella was the former head of programming for HBO Sports before he left to start his own company in 2000. "If you look at ESPN—when I was young, it was paying $50,000 to $60,000 for a show. Now, they pay $20,000 to a promoter for a boxing show. The boxer is getting a $5,000 to $6,000 total purse to split with his people and to put his health at risk. All we need is for one heavyweight in the United States to become a champion, and that will give boxing a big lift."
And DiBella believes Tor has that kind of potential. "Being a college grad, he has a different fan base. He has a different core group than the guys from the 'hood. He has things that can transcend."
Hamer himself, as always, is philosophical. He's ready for the countless jabs he'll have to absorb if he's going to become a household name. But he's already got that plan about taking over Gleason's. And, anyway, money's not really that important: "It's not so much about becoming rich. My ambitions aren't that bold. I just want success," he says.
"And a world title."
See more photos of Tor Hamer in action, taken by photographer Willie Davis.