Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - This past summer, it came to light that Bobby Riggs may have been involved in a "fixed match" in his legendary "Battle of the Sexes" highly heralded encounter with Billie Jean King in 1973.
Riggs, who died in 1995, got whipped by King, 26 years his junior at the time, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, that September 20th night more than 40 years ago. Interestingly enough, this took place after he had dismantled then-world No. 1 ranked woman, Margaret Court, 6-2, 6-1, four months earlier in the original, Battle of the Sexes confrontation.
Did Riggs intentionally throw the match against King? Did he need to do it in order to repay a reported $100,000 gambling debt to the "mob?"
I sure don't know (and I am not aware of anyone that actually does), but we do have an opinion by our resident tennis guru, Vic Braden.
I filmed our last celebration with Bobby Riggs and many of his past, and famous, opponents. I don't think anyone knows Riggs as well as Lornie Kuhle.
Lornie runs the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club and Museum and he thinks the accusations are totally false. It's important to understand how Bobby worked the crowd. He was still taking bets on himself while the match was being played. Bobby liked to keep people guessing. One thing is certain, Bobby bet a lot of money on the match. He did look noticeably exhausted in the match and Billie looked more than ready throughout.
Until someone shows me some real evidence, I don't think Bobby would have endured losing to anyone. Simply not his style. He didn't want to die having people think of him as a loser, and when the doctors told him he was close to death it was no secret that he would never consider giving credence to those rumors that have outlived him. Even in the celebration party, Ted Schroeder made a statement that irritated Bobby and Bobby was quick to defend himself. He was so angry that he stood up and no one knew where that might have led but, happily for all, the great Pancho Gonzales quickly sat Bobby down as we were all told, as quietly and discreetly as possible, that Riggs could die at any moment.
He was just not the kind of guy who would throw a match to a woman after easily defeating Margaret Court earlier. The report stated that a person overheard Bobby promise gamblers he would lose so that they could place the proper bets to gain more than the $100,000 Riggs allegedly owed them. But, if Bobby was so confident about the match, why wouldn't he have placed big bets on himself, paid back the money and kept his fame.
Bobby had told others at that get-together that he threw the match, but most of his friends felt Bobby was messing with them again and the smiles usually attendant to such a statement were well disguised. Feeding the rumor mill and the public's mentality of the moment was more of a game to him than the one he played on the tennis courts.
Once, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, I played in a doubles match against Bobby. We lost, but a few years later I understood that my partner was in on a scheme to intentionally lose to Riggs and his celebrity friend. It was apparent that Bobby would do anything to win, so why would he want to go out as a loser in the midst of all these tittle-tattle tennis tales, the gossip and canards? He would not.
One thing is certain, Bobby wanted to keep people guessing and the best way he knew was to stir the flames and "tell" anyone within a whisper, literally, that he threw the match. Frankly, too little credit is given to Billie Jean King who played pretty darn good tennis that night and the spotlight switched to Bobby, who lost the match. He likely planned it that way.
So Bobby wins again: he has me, he has all of us, guessing, smiling down.