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A BEAN-CAN BOUT IN FRANKFURT
Mark Kram
September 25, 1967
From promotion to fight, it was all very much second-class as ungainly Oscar Bonavena easily beat his inept foe to the punch
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September 25, 1967

A Bean-can Bout In Frankfurt

From promotion to fight, it was all very much second-class as ungainly Oscar Bonavena easily beat his inept foe to the punch

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Bonavena is not unaware of that condition, because everyone—mistakenly—has at one time or another defined him as just a charming idiot. The trouble is that he is not one. He is an unscrupulous beggar drowning in megalomania who abuses people, and he has abused enough of them to the point where he now owns a clothing store, a restaurant, a nightclub and a barbershop in Argentina. He is also somewhat of a vaudevillian, and quite often in Bad Soden he could be seen doing a Chaplin walk or an off-to-Buffalo shuffle on the streets—that is, when he was not accosting Harold Conrad, vice-president of Sports Action, with this refrain: "Gimme money."

These are Bonavena's favorite words, and he has never stopped uttering them since he first came to the U.S. Jack Singer, who runs a chain of restaurants in New York and Miami—$1.29 a steak—brought him here. Besides eating an inordinate number of steaks, he was a financial and mental problem to Singer who, after Bonavena refused to work a few hours in the kitchen, unloaded him on Dr. Marvin Goldberg for $7,000. Goldberg is a decent, misdirected individual who is enthralled by the glamour of boxing. He is the worst kind of amateur, and therefore a perfect target for an Oscar Bonavena.

"I didn't want to sell the clown to Doc," says Singer. "I did everything to talk him out of it. I even called his wife, but, no, he was dyin' to be burned."

Bonavena obliged him. The doctor got stuck for airplane tickets, car rentals, gigantic phone and restaurant bills and, at times, equipment that was not needed, such as two light bags or two pairs of boxing shoes, two of everything. Bonavena usually took the extra bag or pair of shoes back to Buenos Aires with him. Compounding the bilking, the doctor, blinded by his dream of boxing prominence, seldom received his one-third of Bonavena's purses. Bonavena always pleaded insolvency. Goldberg, of course, remained his rooter. Who could tell? Bonavena might just be the next heavyweight champion of the world. Eventually, even Goldberg had to share his dream. He sold part of his action—which was nothing—to a syndicate composed of a stripper, a jockey and assorted others.

"Nobody had to do any selling," says one member of the syndicate. "Everybody wanted a piece of Oscar."

The syndicate, like Goldberg, Singer and everyone who has ever come in contact with Bonavena, came up mostly empty, too. It was later disbanded.

Wolfgang Mueller has had much more success with Mildenberger. He has cut up a number of excellent purses with his fighter, but Mildenberger's days in boxing are numbered now. Like Bonavena, he was in the tournament on the strength of his rating, which was an egregious error in judgment. His ability has long been suspect, and he, as well as Bonavena, has succeeded in tarnishing the tournament, which surely will gain momentum as it progresses. Charitably, let it be said that when you are lining up an eight-man tournament the fighters have to come from somewhere. This pair just happened to be the most incompetent.

Mildenberger was not particularly rankled by his defeat, and this is not surprising. He is an emotionless, pleasant man who is not warmly embraced by the Germans. They call him a spiessb�rger, which translated means square. He behaved naturally after the fight. He went up to his boardinghouse in K�nigstein on top of the Taunus Mountains, where a man who described himself as a panther roaming on a dark night is said to have stopped once and dined. The house and the mountains were enveloped by a Wagnerian mist. Inside, the kitchen was filled with dark, hanging hams and wine bottles and the dining room was quiet and dimly lit. Mildenberger ate and then went to bed. As for Bonavena, he may still have been in his dressing room, sitting there naked, scratching figures on a piece of paper.

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