Feldman pays celebs from $1,500 to $10,000 for three one-minute rounds wearing headgear and puffy gloves. There’s no shortage of prospects. On cable, being unembarrassed has become a growth industry. Undergoing rehab for substance abuse is a gig — usually the start of a comeback. And the Internet makes sure no one ever is truly forgotten. These days, so many schnooks and hopefuls are poking tiny dings on the Wall of Fame that it’s impossible to keep track, and if someone tells you Here’s a guy who stars in this show you’ve kinda heard of, well, you grin and accept it.
It would be parochial to suggest celebrity boxing could work only in Philadelphia. For starters, it doesn’t always work. “One event you may make good money, another you might lose five thou,” Feldman says. Surely our lack of actual celebs in town is why Feldman is a boldface name in our biggest newspapers. And it’s surprising how many of his celebs have local roots: Bonaduce is from Broomall, Margera is from West Chester, Gervase Peterson lives in Willingboro. But then, that’s no coincidence. One thing Feldman knows is a good hook.
He believes the momentum is building. And Rodney King has been getting such huge media. Maybe this will be the big one.
IT’S BEEN DRIZZLING all day before the King fight — not good for attendance. There’s a Phillies home game, plus a legit boxing show at the Blue Horizon. Also, it’s September 11th, though that’s just weird iconic convergence; the fight had been scheduled for September 12th, but there was a snafu with the original venue, and Feldman had to scramble to relocate.
Just now, he’s in the hallway outside the Ramada ballroom, pacing between the seated crowd and the entrance, his arms folded tightly. “I thought it would be more,” he says. “A lot of traffic out there?”
King comes down from his room and mingles, posing for pictures with fans and Tinicum Township police. The room is set up to hold about 900 people, but maybe 400 are here. “If I take a minus on this, fuck it, it’s paying my dues,” Feldman says quietly.
In the hotel kitchen, which is being used as a dressing room, King gets ready. He’s in a white Everlast robe and trunks, and sitting backwards on a chair. Marty Feldman leans in and gives him some last advice.
“I told him to keep his hands up and his ass off the floor,” the old trainer says.
Now they’re up in the ring, and there’s the bell. Either ex-cop Aouad is a lot more bark than bite, or he’s not bringing 100 percent. In the third round, King swivels him with a left hook to the head, then nearly knocks him down. And it’s over. King wins by decision. In the ring, he’s awarded the Celebrity Boxing Federation heavyweight title belt.