It was supposed to be your typical everyday boxing press conference, no muss, no fuss, an opportunity for the media to meet the stars of Warrior Boxing’s “Global Warfare” – heavyweights Sultan Ibragimov and Lance “Mount” Whitaker. The two giants were in New York City to hype their December 15 show at the Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood, Fla.
Instead, they hyped boxing’s mayhem.
The scene was the genteel environs of Gallagher’s Steak House in midtown Manhattan. You can’t miss Gallagher’s. It’s on West 52nd Street, right across the street from Roseland Ballroom. They’ve got a big show window filled with frozen sides of beef in a freezer just dying to be eaten. That meat is so fresh, you can almost hear it moo. Go through the revolving doors … and you enter into another world.
A grandmotherly hatcheck girl smiles reassuringly. A patterned tin ceiling is graced by slowly moving fans. Walk a little further and there’s the 3-sided bar to beat all bars, made of the finest wood known to man. Brass sconces are everywhere, bathing the New York landmark in soft, compelling light. The restaurant is dotted with well dressed clientele. Polite conversation fills the air. The waiters are old school. Gallagher’s is old world. The walls are adorned with framed drawings and photos of the one-time famous but now forgotten, a who’s who of deceased diners, a fuzzy Shangri-La of musty privilege.
Gallagher’s has been hosting boxing press conferences for as long as anyone can remember and there never was a problem before.
Well, there’s a first time for everything.
The same old usual crew was on hand, the somebodies, the nobodies, the wannabes, the it’s-not-like-the-old-days gang, all joined democratically by the boxing beast, like small birds riding on the back of a rhino.
The boxing press – TV, radio, fourth estate, magazines, internet – came to Gallagher's for its bimonthly press conference ritual to get copy, to get photos, to scarf down food, to turn that dinosaur dictum “there’s no a free lunch” on its pointy little empty head.
But what was billed as a garden variety photo op turned into a brawl.
We’ve all grown used to the stare down. It's been mucho macho from day one. And trash talk by now has begun to sound like the soundtracks to cartoons. So no one at the Gallagher's press conference expected the unexpected, though Lord knows they’d been forewarned.
Ibragimov (who carries both the baggage of being a boxer and the baggage of being Russian, which is a lot of baggage for any one man to carry) apparently overdid it and put his clenched fist one time too many to the chin and shaved head of Lance Whitaker. “Mount” Whitaker is a 6-foot 8-inch mountain of muscle who doesn’t cotton to short men playing games – and before anyone could say “may the best man win,” Whitaker threw a punch, testosterone broke over the levee, and flooded the famous steak house.
It wasn’t WWF. It wasn’t fake. Nor was it make-believe good vs. evil for the hungry wires. No, just like boxing, it was the genuine article. It looked like Ibragimov and Whitaker were trying to kill each other. Fists flew. There was choking. There was a sucker punch. It was almost as though the Marquess of Queensberry had never been born.
Amid all the commotion, amid the overturned tables and broken plates and crashing silverware and screaming tourists, Ibragimov’s agent and matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, who was trying to peel the combatants apart, got hit by both men at the same time, a double knockout of sorts, and lay unconscious on the floor for several minutes.
He is said to be recovering.
Let's hope Ibragimov and Whitaker bring all that pent-up malice with them into the ring when touch down in Hollywood, Fla. The fans, needless to say, want their money’s worth.
Also on the “Global Warfare” card, heavyweight Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter returns to the ring for the first time since his competitive but crushing loss to Wladimir Klitschko last September to face tough hombre Robert Hawkins in a 10-rounder.
The undercard spotlights two rising stars, undefeated junior welterweight Juan Urango and the knockout artist from the Emerald Isle, Derry’s own “Irish” John Duddy.
“Global Warfare” will air live on pay-per-view from the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood, Florida. Suggested retail price is $19.95. Tickets are priced at $150, $100, and $50. For more information call 954.523.3309, or visit www.ticketmaster.com and www.warriorsboxing.com.
Doors open at 6:30pm and the first bell rings at 7:30pm.