One of a Kind
Jorge Paez has had a rough month. Last Friday night in Las Vegas, the former featherweight champion was knocked out in the second round by rising star Oscar De La Hoya. "I've never been hit that hard by a punch before," Paez said after being revived.
An even harder blow may have been the one landed to his ego a few weeks earlier. The self-styled Clown Prince of Boxing, Paez has long been one of the most, well...distinctive fighters in Southern California, as famous for his sequined trunks, Mohawk 'do and in-ring backflips as for his by-now faded fistic prowess. Hoping perhaps to cash in on Paez's celebrity, promoters at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood recently held a Paez look-alike contest. They even brought the Clown Prince himself in as a judge.
But maybe Paez is a little too distinctive. Nobody entered.
White Cliffs of Rover
First came Caesar and his centurions. Then came Hitler and his V bombs. The next foreigners to launch an assault on Britain may be Ted Erikson and his mutt, Umbra the Wonder Dog. Erikson wants to be the oldest human—and the only one with a dog—to swim the English Channel.
Erikson, a 66-year-old retired chemist from Chicago, already has three 21-mile Channel crossings under his Speedo. In 1965 he set the record for a double crossing: 30 hours, three minutes. The mark stood for 10 years, until it was broken by his son, Jon. "Umbra carries on a family tradition," Erikson says, adding, "I don't know if dogs were made for swimming, but they do have webbed feet."
The 4-year-old Labrador-greyhound mix was rescued—if that's the word—as a stray in 1992 and has been splashing around with her master ever since. In fact, Erikson claims, the Channel crossing was Umbra's idea. "She wants to see if she can swim as far as I can," he says. "Her only limitation on distance is me. I have trouble keeping up with the sucker."
With the proposed plunge still a year away, Erikson and Umbra are training with daily 2½-mile sets—he swimming freestyle, she using the doggie paddle. So far their longest open-water swim has been 5.5 miles, a distance they completed in two hours, 40 minutes. Erikson says he feeds Umbra glucose pills when she looks fatigued. But what if she were to sink? "That's a good question," Erikson says. "I don't know."
Not surprisingly, Erikson's plan has its opponents. More formidable than unpredictable seas or stinging jellyfish are animal-rights groups that have taken umbrage at the treatment of Umbra. They're joined by the Channel Swimming Association, which refuses to sanction the crossing, and the British Coast Guard, which has a special ministry to deal with "unauthorized and unorthodox crossings."