There is elevator music and when there isn’t, there is elevator chatter when its occupants are going to and coming from sporting events. This journalist’s impression was that those who occupied the elevator on the way to the eighth floor of the Atheneum Hotel last night didn’t know the featured main event fighter, heavyweight Taylor Duerr, from Rootie Kazootie (a white, television puppet from the 1950s who wore his cap side-saddle fashion and thus, some theorize, was the inspiration for the fashion among homies three decades later).
The elevator occupants on the way up to last night’s event probably had little knowledge of Duerr (though I’m told that Duerr sold 120 tickets, a goodly amount for a largely unknown commodity), but they did know about Thomas Hearns, who along with Jackie Kallen and 10 Count Productions was the promotional team (along with Phil Awada and Bernard Harris working behind the scenes) putting on the show.
One of the elevator’s occupants, undoubtedly aware of Hearns’ connection with the show, said to no one in particular, but loud enough for everyone in the elevator box to hear, “I just watched the first round of Hearns’ fight with Marvin Hagler on YouTube, and I’m telling you that was a fight!” He was addressing everyone in the elevator, but focusing on one man in particular. The addressed man smiled. A man in the back of the elevator chortled, “Oh, yeah!” Perhaps with that endorsement, the man who was being addressed, responded with, “Well, I’ll have to watch it on YouTube then.” I wondered if the outspoken man watched rounds two and three of the fight. The first round had been the round of the year, but watching just the first round would be the equivalent of foreplay with no follow-through.
In the main-go, the 6-0-1 (all wins by knockout) Taylor Duerr was pitted against a tough St. Louisian, Leroy Jones, 3-3. Duerr won all six round on all three cards. Despite the shutout, the fight was reasonably competitive. When it became evident (by the third round) that Duerr could not hurt Jones, the contest settled into a reasonably good workout for Duerr. He uncorked power punches to body and head and Jones took everything and did not appear to stagger; Jones never buckled and he fought back, but his left hooks were wild and thrown from “way back there.” His technique prompted attendee and guest, former featherweight champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson, to wag his head. Predictability is the killer of a potentially good scrap.
It is unfair to compare a contest of comparative novices to Hearns-Hagler, but the presence of Hearns, who spoke at intermission from the ring, could but evoke the image of his classic brawl more than two decades ago. The man who evoked Hearns-Hagler wasn’t in the elevator I occupied on my way out, but there was another man who commented, “He needed the work,” speaking of Duerr gaining needed experience of six rounds of boxing. He repeated himself and the silence of the rest of the elevator’s occupants could have meant agreement, or it could mean that the novelty of dressing up and going to a downtown venue to watch a man who “needed work” had worn off. A nationally-televised card had been put on a few hundred strides away at the Masonic Temple, and with that in mind, the attendance was pretty good.