Tuesday, March 16, 1999 at 4 a.m.
Funny how Madison Square Garden brass love to trumpet that tired, return-of- "big-time"- boxing refrain with every ordinary title fight they land. "If you know the history," George Foreman told the Times (re: MSG, pre Holyfield-Lewis fiasco), "the hype is right." Oh, really? A half-century's random sampling of Garden earthly delights:
November 14, 1947: Jake LaMotta dumps the middleweight title bout to soft-hitting Billy Fox as savvy ringsiders scream, "Fix!"
August 5, 1965: Rioting fans heave the arena's pipe organ from the mezzanine in protest over Frankie Narvaez's unpopular decision loss to junior lightweight champ Flash Elorde.
December 13, 1986: First-round TKO by awkward North Carolina prison guard Bonecrusher Smith over WBA heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon (who raises nary a glove in self-defense) spawns collective yawn among the few thousand in attendance. Witherspoon blames problems with promoter Don King for the abysmal showing.
February 6, 1993: Journeyman heavy Jesse Ferguson decisions top contender Ray Mercer. He later claims that the out-of-shape Mercer tried to bribe him during the battle.
July 11, 1996: Andrew Golata's seventh-round disqualification for below-the-belt attack on Riddick Bowe sets off furious brawl between partisans, overwhelming the understaffed MSG security.
Suggested promo for future Garden bouts: "This Time It's Different!"
A Game of Survivors
"Tests revealed a cancerous tumor, but doctors are optimistic about a full recovery." These words seem to be about as common on SportsCenter these days as " . . . which touches NOTHing but the bottom of the net." In the wake of Joe Torre's diagnosis with prostate cancer last week, it occurred to us that there have been enough cases to make up an all-cancer baseball team. And, with more than a little guilt over our tastelessness, that's exactly what we did. As we filled out our lineup cards a few things came into focus. Why do five of the players on the team have New York connections? We'll leave that to the experts over at Sloan-Kettering. But the other side is that with the exception of Danny Thompson, all the players on our team can count themselves as cancer survivors, and all except Ed Hearn returned to the game.
1. CF Brett Butler (throat)
2. 2B Mike Gallego (testicular)
3. DH John Kruk (testicular)
4. 1B Andres Galaragga (lymphoma)
5. RF Eric Davis (colon)
6. LF Darryl Strawberry (colon)
7. 3B Mike Lowell (testicular)
8. C Ed Hearn (Hodgkin's disease)
9. SS Danny Thompson (leukemia)
P Scott Radinsky (Hodgkin's disease)
MGR Joe Torre (prostate)
Now that the Nyets have fired coach John Calipari, if the Knicks sack their head man and then win the tug-of-war over Phil Jackson, will New Jersey hire Jeff Van Gundy? . . .
The magic wasn't working Saturday for the NYU women, who were bounced from the NCAA Division III basketball tournament by fellow No. 1 seed Scranton. Trying to reclaim their 1997 championship, the Violets were crushed by the Royals 81-60 at Scranton's John Long Center. NYU finishes at 24-4, while Scranton (28-2) moves on to play Washington University (28-0) in the Final Four. . . .
While Jockbeat makes sure not to root for any school that boasts a "Touchdown Jesus" as part of its athletic tradition, we have to give Notre Dame its due for taking a stand against sweatshops and then backing it up. Two years ago, the university banned the licensing of its logo on any product made in a sweatshop. This largely symbolic act was emulated by a lot of schools Georgetown, Duke, and Harvard among them. But the Fighting Irish were the first to put teeth into their policy when earlier this month they hired consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to randomly inspect production sites worldwide. So we're assuming that, from this day on, we will never see an item with both that little leprechaun and a Nike swoosh on it. . . .
At the Garden for the heavyweight disunification fight Saturday was Arizona senator John McCain, author of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The act would give the attorney general the power to go after promoters of such dubious events, and the fight gives McCain a high-profile plank in his presidential platform. . . .
The day after another whining apology by our pinko prez this time to Guatemala for American support of a so-called "death squad" government the true patriots on the U.S. soccer squad restored our honor with a 3-1 drubbing of the Guats in the U.S. Cup. Take that, compañeros!
contributors: John Stravinsky, Allen St. John, Jay Wilkins, Howard Unger, Nathan Ward, Ramona Debs, Simon Kandwala
sports editor: Miles D. Seligman