FELDMAN’S FIRST CELEBRITY boxing event was in 1996, when radio guy Diego Ramos beat weatherman John Bolaris at the Valley Forge Convention Center, in an event titled “Main Line Fight Night.” It was just one of a string of demented Feldman ideas. There was Foxy Boxing — girls in bikinis. There was team boxing. There was the Battle of the Midgets, and a Hottest Girl in Delaware County contest. The events often didn’t come off as planned, but newspapers and radio shows ate it up from the start.
“Damon and his events are ridiculous, and that’s why they’re perfect for the column,” says Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross, a primary source of Damon Feldman news. “I write four columns a week, and if he offers me a chance to break the news of his next pseudo-celebrity fight, I’ll take it.”
Feldman originally wanted to be a respectable promoter, but it didn’t go so well. Boxing as a business is an unsavory exercise in screwing and suing people, even when you know what you’re doing. Feldman never really got on top of it. Fighters or venues would drop out. When he e-mailed a press release saying the winner of one heavyweight bout would get to face Mike Tyson, insiders knew he was dreaming aloud. There were bookkeeping issues. A lot of boxing people felt the money didn’t flow as promised after events. A lot offered no comment for this story.
“Damon has always been more about promoting himself than his events. That’s the most accurate thing I can say about it,” Peltz says. “He’s more about the sizzle than the steak.”
The final bell for Feldman’s legitimate boxing work tolled in 2005, when an argument involving tickets and money at a pre-fight meeting itself escalated into a fight. The other promoter laid a hand on Feldman, who knocked the guy out with a single left hook. Witnesses said Feldman was in a rage, shouting that everybody was out to get him, and had to be restrained.
“I’m a bad muthafucking Jew, man,” Feldman says. “Naw, look, I’m the last guy to start trouble. But I will end it.”
After that, Pennsylvania didn’t renew his promoter’s license anymore. And so Feldman went off the grid, to redefine celebrity. He’s staged fights with Michael Lohan, Lindsay’s dad, and Phil Margera, father of TV stunt-host Bam Margera — guys who aren’t even the most famous people in their immediate families. He’s working to match up Sugar Ray Leonard Jr. and Marvin Hagler Jr., the non-athlete, adult children of the Hall of Fame boxers. He’s started the Celebrity Boxing Federation, with dreams of making it as big as World Wrestling Entertainment or the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He aims high — “Before Philadelphia signed Michael Vick, I tried to get him to fight,” he says — but gets what he gets.