Strauss got $500 more than the scheduled bum was supposed to receive and, under another of his aliases, got knocked out in the third round.
Strauss will take any fight, anywhere, at any weight. He has a special pair of baggy trunks with pockets inside that are perfect for tailoring his weight to the necessary poundage; all he has to do is show up for the weigh-in with the requisite number of lead weights. For instance, most days Strauss, who stands 5'7", weighs about 155 pounds. Yet he can weigh as much as 180 with his trick trunks. To fight light heavyweight Poison Ivy Brown in 1979, Strauss came to the weigh-in with the trunks loaded up and made 172 pounds.
He can go the other way, too. Once, in Rome, where Strauss had gone to fight an undercard bout against Carlos Santos, a future IBF junior middleweight champion, the promoter discovered he suddenly needed a junior welterweight for the main event. Naturally, Strauss volunteered. That meant dropping from 152 to 139 overnight. He spent the entire night—eight hours—in the steam room, wobbled into the weigh-in, made weight, slept for four hours, and then came to the fight and stayed on his feet for almost five rounds. "And the guy gave me $2,000 extra!" says Strauss.
Three days later, in Totowa, N.J., sporting a purple right eye and a nice case of jet lag, Strauss substituted again at the last minute and, for $3,500, was stopped in eight rounds by Nino Gonzales. Three days, two continents, two face plants, two paychecks. Now that's versatility.
Not that Strauss hasn't landed a few knockout punches of his own. In one fight with a hometown hero, the referee seemed particularly eager for Strauss to lose—as if he needed any help. Every time he separated the two fighters, the referee would dig his fingernails into Strauss's chest, drawing blood. Fed up, Strauss threw an unfortunate roundhouse left that missed his foe by an easy two feet but caught the referee flush on the chin and knocked him out.
Strauss's formula for failure is simple. When he gets to the arena, he checks the padding in the ring. "It's not necessarily the punch that hurts you," says Strauss, "but your head can really get bounced on some of those hard rings." He fights hard the first few rounds—on the off chance that a lucky shot might knock the other guy out. But if he gets tagged, he looks for "the soft spot on the canvas," hits that spot and stays there. Strauss says that 90% of the time he gets up before the count of 10 so as to avoid the mandatory 90-day suspension that usually follows a KO. When the referee holds up fingers and asks Strauss how many he sees, Strauss deliberately gives the wrong answer, then protests loudly when the fight is stopped on a TKO.
That's not taking a dive, says Strauss, that's living to lose another day. "If I hit the guy with my best shot and he just grins, then I realize I don't have a competitive chance. I figure I'm going to be on my back sooner or later anyway, so why not make it sooner?"
To Strauss, who also works as a promoter, the ultimate opponent is somebody like himself, a guy who will win about half his bouts, beat up the club fighters, lose to the hometown contenders and never flunk an EEG. "There's no such thing as an 0-10 opponent," says Strauss. "Who can sell an 0-10 fighter?"
Unfortunately, nobody fits the bill like Strauss. And so, even today, he will fill in wherever a boxer doesn't show up. Have chin, will travel. In late May, Strauss substituted at the last minute on the undercard of the Virgil Hill-Joe Lasisi fight in Bismarck, N.Dak., and knocked his guy out.
Strauss can get bigger checks than Torrence or Cowans because he has proved he can give a contender eight or 10 rounds in a losing effort. And the way he does that, he says, is to aim a punch at his protective cup. "I do that in the first round of every fight with a contender," he explains. "I give him an uppercut to the crotch, and all of a sudden I've got his respect. Now he's dancing and jabbing, not charging right in."