Charles Farrell era agente musical e desportivo. Mais concretamente, de boxe. Ao longo da sua carreira – para além de representar cinco campeões do mundo – encenou vários resultados. Neste texto escrito para a Deadspin explica porquê.
I fixed a lot of fights over the years. In two I didn’t fix but should have, people paid heavily for my carelessness. Even though I set up Mitch “Blood” Green and Leon Spinks cushion-soft in their comeback fights, I managed to get one embarrassed and the other nearly killed. There had been opportunities for them, deals that came undone when they lost. It wasn’t as if the winners benefited in any tangible way either. At best their victories brought them smallish short-term bragging rights. Among boxing insiders they were objects of scorn for having won, as incompetent at their jobs as Green, Spinks, and I were at ours.
Writing about boxing sometimes adopts a heroic perspective on the sport. This seems especially common in a certain kind of popular journalism. When a boxer gets into the ring, he’s seen as entering a magic theatre of virtue and vice cut off from the rest of the world. For the fight’s duration his actions assume a kind of moral transparency, defining him as noble or ignoble. But when it’s over and he steps outside the ring, becoming just a person again, the aura sticks. To participate in fight fixing therefore defines him morally not only as a professional fighter, but as a person. Lost in this vision of things is any awareness of the way boxing actually works as a business, and the racially and economically inflected cultures within which that business is transacted.
Why did I fix fights? I fixed fights because it was the smart thing to do.
I started managing Mitch Green in late 1991, a little more than a year before his loss to Bruce Johnson. He’d been a high-profile contender—an imposing eccentric who’d famously fought Mike Tyson twice, once in the ring and once on a Harlem street, and who with a little work could be brought back into the title picture. Our first business meeting took place at a gimmicky penthouse restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., that revolved slowly above the city. The first thing Mitch did was rise up from the table, peel down the top of his bright orange jumpsuit, flex his pecs, kiss his biceps, and invite a roomful of sedate diners to “feast your eyes on what a real heavyweight is supposed to look like.”
This bit of underground theater made me optimistic: Mitch Green could still work a room. But no sooner had the ink on our contract dried than he got shot. While idling on the corner of 129th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, Mitch slapped a man who’d been baiting him about his fights with Mike Tyson. The guy bolted into his apartment and came back blasting. I still have the blood-stained sneaker, complete with bullet hole. I keep it as a kind of macabre reminder, though I’m not sure of what.
Mitch limped six blocks to Harlem Hospital. He was X-rayed, told the bullet had passed through his leg, given a clean bill of health, and sent home. The attending doctor missed the bullet lodged behind Green’s knee. By the time Mitch called me a week later, he couldn’t walk. His femur, further traumatized by running and jumping rope, had split like a tree branch. I flew him to Boston, picked him up at Logan Airport, and took him straight to Beth Israel Hospital. The Celtics’ orthopedic surgeon, Frank Bunch, had him on an operating table within two hours. If he’d waited another day, Mitch probably would have lost his leg.
During the six months of rehab that followed, Mitch lived at a house I owned near Boston. He regularly demanded cash; had two girlfriends flown in from different parts of the country for what turned into a non-consensual threesome that ended only when my terrified downstairs tenants called the police; sent the “salary” he was getting home to his mother, who spent it on bingo trips to Atlantic City, and complained incessantly. I didn’t get it: I was knocking myself out for him and he was doing nothing for me, yet he never stopped complaining.
Visions of Don King and Mike Tyson obsessed Mitch Green, along with those of a number of black civic leaders he believed to be in cahoots with them. It was generally assumed he was paranoid, crazy, and dangerous. But consider: When Mitch was a child in Georgia, his father had been shot dead at point-blank range by a man he was simultaneously shooting dead. The men’s funerals were held in the same mortuary on the same afternoon, both families sweating through their Sunday best no more than a few feet apart. Or this: As a gang lord, Mitch presided over New York’s Black Spades, a gig that required him to maintain an aura of menace while fending off anyone insane enough to challenge him. Or this: As a young man who’d won the New York Golden Gloves heavyweight title four times in a row, he’d been given money, cars, and an assortment of flashy presents by some of boxing’s white elite, like Shelly Finkel and Lou Duva.
After sleepwalking in 1986 through a 10-round decision loss to Mike Tyson, held in Madison Square Garden and shown on HBO—for which he received $30,000—Green met his nemesis again on the street. Their brief, violent encounter made headlines. Afterward, Green dropped off the boxing map.
My job was to bring him back. Smarter men than I said it was impossible. Signing up Mitch Green even earned me 1993’s “Sucker of the Year” award in Boxing Illustrated. The only money Green ever made me came from betting Al Braverman, Don King’s director of boxing, that I’d be able to coax him back inside the ring.
I was sure I’d picked the right foil for Green’s comeback match. A gangly, knock-kneed cruiserweight, Bruce Johnson came in with a record of 8-22-1. He’d been knocked out 17 times and had never beaten a credible opponent. Johnson always arrived from out of town prepared to lose. His livelihood depended on his career going nowhere.
In the dressing room, Bruce told me he was afraid of Mitch Green, then held me up for $500 more than the price we’d agreed on. All I would have had to say for Mitch Green to win was: “You want five hundred more dollars? Get knocked out by the third round.”
I didn’t do that. I didn’t think I needed to. Mitch Green was going to kill him.
But in a tiny arena in Woodbridge, Va., on a frigid winter night when a blizzard reduced the house to nearly nothing, Mitch Green, angry that he wasn’t getting paid enough or being properly respected, got into the ring and refused to throw or block punches. Johnson was never on his radar. Mitch ignored his feeble jabs. He also ignored me, my partners Pat and Tony Petronelli, and everything but the private buzzing in his head, gazing stone-faced over Johnson’s shoulder into the middle distance. After several warnings from the referee to start punching or risk having the fight stopped, the plug was pulled in the third round as the handful of spectators hooted. Mitch “Blood” Green had thrown his future away in less than nine minutes.
I wouldn’t talk to Mitch Green after that. I’d lost a year of my life and $80,000 on him.
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