Last night, deserted by my wife and unwilling to be seen alone in a top Las Vegas nightclub, I shuffled into some dive a block or so off the Strip, sat at a small table in a dark corner, and ordered two dry martinis, one for each hand. An old man who should’ve been in bed was singing “My Way,” and it wasn’t so bad, really, except I always think of Sinatra and Elvis when I hear that song. After the old man finished, the only other guy in the place, except the bartender, said, “That’s enough sadism for tonight, Bob.”
“You deserve more punishment, Don,” he said to another geezer, and joined him at a table a few steps away. I immediately knew the second guy, explosive-haired boxing promoter Don King. And after a few seconds, I recognized Bob Arum.
“Thought you guys had hated each other for forty years,” I said. “What’re you doing together?”
“Sir, please join us for a libation on me,” said King, and I happily stepped to their table. “What’ll it be?”
“One or two?”
“One’ll keep me rolling.”
King nodded at the bartender, and the young man brought my drink. Checking his coat pockets and then those of his pants, King said, “Sir, I’m most sorry, indeed, but an unscrupulous lass with whom I earlier dined has evidently lifted my wallet which I’ll soon enough find meanwhile I ask Bob to finance the slaking of your thirst.”
“This one’s going on your tab. Worldwide, that’s hundreds of millions.”
“If I were the felonious lout you and others have proclaimed then surely I would’ve at some point been convicted.”
“Out of court settlements and other shenanigans saved your ass,” said Arum.
“I’m most honored to receive the legal blessing of a Harvard Law honors graduate as well as a fellow chiseler.”
“I’m Honest Abe compared to you.”
“It’s a pleasure to talk to you guys, especially since you evidently have no current legal concerns,” I said.
“Don’s always hired bright guys like me.”
“One can enlist no finer help than that of Orthodox Jews from New York City,” King said.
“Despite your many successes,” I said, “it looks like you’ve both been eclipsed by younger and more dynamic promoters like Oscar De La Hoya.”
“Preposterous,” Arum said. “I’ve got Manny Pacquiao, the guy who battered Oscar into retirement, and plenty of other outstanding fighters. I’m still at the summit, in case you haven’t been following. But you’re right: Don King’s tumbled down the mountain because of his unsavory reputation.”
“Bob, I should thrash you for that libelous remark.”
“I think you’ve slipped as much as a brawler as you have as promoter.”
“That why you guys are here?” I ask.
“Indeed. Bob believes that despite my overwhelming advantages in height, weight, strength, experience, and residing in tough places, he can now outbox me. For decades, he’d have been terrified to even broach the subject.”
“I’m afraid no longer, Don. We’re both eighty-four and among the world’s finest specimens in the eighty and over division I propose to start and promote by winning the first heavyweight championship fight.”
“I get half the promotional action.”
“You have no part in the promotion, not even a footnote, but you do have a shot at the title, and I’m more than magnanimous in offering you that.”
“Fifty-fifty split of the fighters’ purses.”
“You get forty percent minus my promoter’s take,” Arum said.
“That’s grand larceny.”
“I knew you’d approve.”
“I won’t be degraded for money, which I have mountains more of than you.”
“Doubtful on both counts.” Arum reached into an interior coat pocket and retrieved a contract he slapped onto the table in front of King.
“I shall read it on the morrow.”
“You’ll glance at it now and sign immediately thereafter.”
King stood and said, “Don’t behave as if the Emancipation Proclamation were never signed, or I’ll whip you here for free.”
Arum arose. “You’re incapable of forfeiting the spotlight and the purse that would therein accrue.”
“En garde,” said King, who glanced at me and ordered, “You’re the referee.”
Standing to place a hand on their respective chests, I said, “Don’t be fools and give away your work here in private.”
Sometime later, I awoke in an ambulance and muttered, “What the hell?”
The EMT said, “The bartender’s phone shows Don King hit you with a right cross to the temple the same time Bob Arum nailed your other temple with a left hook.”
“They’ll give me my share of the deal, won’t they?”