Column: A night everybody is guaranteed to lose
There have been only a few simultaneous knockouts in the history of boxing. Fortunately, there's still time to pray for another one Saturday night when Jose Canseco steps back into the celebrity ring against Lenny Dykstra in Hollywood.
Seriously, who are you supposed to root for? The superstar-turned-snitch who's always low on money and already beyond embarrassment? Or the superstar-turned-swindler who's under indictment for grand theft auto, drug possession and indecent exposure and possibly on his way to the slammer for a very long time?
And that's just the main event!
In what could be an evening-long orgy of faux-celebrity self-destruction, the undercard also matches convicted felon Joey Buttafuoco against Lou Bellera, husband of his former lover and current porn actress Amy Fisher, who went to prison as an 18-year-old in 1992 for shooting Buttafuoco's then-wife, Mary Jo, in the head; plus the "Long Island Lolita" herself, taking on "Octomom" Nadya Suleman; and Tareq Salahi, half of the White House party-crashing couple, squaring off against former O.J. Simpson guest-house squatter Kato Kaelin.
This thing is wrong on so many levels that anyone who shells out $19.95 for the pay-per-view should get a free towel for the shower they're going to need afterward. The cast of characters reads like a remake of "The Grifters." Then again, if it catches on, think of the possibilities: Shaq vs. Kobe, Frank McCourt vs. Bud Selig; Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo; Barry Bonds against the world. Sure, FOX tried to make a go with a "Celebrity Boxing" show in 2002, but it lasted only two episodes before cancellation. Despite that small sampling, it managed a sixth-place finish on TV Guide's 50 worst all-time shows list.
"It's an interesting card, a battle of train wrecks," is how promoter Damon Feldman described the upcoming event to the Philadelphia Daily News, and he should know. Feldman just happens to be the go-to promoter for down-on-their-luck celebrities, having previously staged fights between Rodney King and a retired cop as well as Tonya Harding and a waitress, among others.
Feldman also pleaded no-contest earlier this year to charges of staging some of those bouts without a license, but why let details get in the way of a story about redemption? Feldman won't — despite the fact that the last time he lined up a fight for Canseco, the disgraced slugger sent his identical twin, Ozzie, INSTEAD and the promotion blew up in everyone's face. Maybe Feldman should have known better, because Canseco also bought Ozzie an identical Porsche for Christmas one year — back in the days when he had cash to throw around — on the dubious premise that it would cut his odds of getting ticketed for speeding by half (when all it really did was double Ozzie's chances).
But hucksters have to make their living ahead of the curve. So let's assume everyone actually shows up ready to rumble. What then?
At 48, Dykstra is giving away a year and almost 6 inches to the 6-foot-3 Canseco. Yet Dykstra wasn't nicknamed "Nails" during his playing days for nothing. In 1991, the year after he started the All-Star game and led the National League in hits, Dykstra crashed his car into a tree while driving drunk, suffering fractured ribs, and a broken cheekbone and collarbone and was forced to sit out two months. Any notion that he would change his face-first playing style quickly disappeared upon his return that August, when Dykstra crashed into an outfield wall in Cincinnati and broke his collarbone again.
That kind of self-inflicted punishment turned out to be preparation for the hard knocks that came later in life as a businessman. Once profiled as a successful, high-flying investor catering to the luxury tastes of professional athletes, Dykstra ran a succession of businesses into the ground and by August, 2009, he was living in his car. Depending on the outcome of several pending trials, he could be looking at a maximum of 80 years in prison.
Canseco's criminal record, impressive as it might be, is still no match for Dykstra's. But Canseco has a decisive edge in what is probably the most important category in celebrity boxing's tale of the tape. Canseco is so good, and so experienced at humiliating himself, that providing an opponent is almost overkill. That's why the prediction here is Dykstra by KO in the second of three scheduled rounds — unless, of course, Ozzie shows up, in which case all bets are off.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org. Follow him at http://Twitter.com/JimLitke