"Barry, I've got to have $50,000 in advance or we can't hold the meet," said Smith.
Frank said he'd have a check drawn.
"Could you make $300 of it in cash?" Smith asked. "I don't have enough money to fly back to New York."
In less than three years, Smith, having apparently become very wealthy, was taking the boxing world by storm and blithely losing millions along the way. "The prices he paid were ridiculous," says rival promoter Bob Arum, who, along with the flamboyant Don King, took to the sidelines rather than do battle with Smith's flight bags full of cash.
In a matter of 19 months MAPS lost close to $10 million while putting on an extraordinary series of outstanding fights. The pot of gold seemed bottomless. "My wife and I put up $4 million," Smith explained, "and wealthy friends put up another $8 million." He never said where he and his wife, Lee, had acquired their wealth or who their rich friends were.
Whatever the source, the money was quickly shuffled into the bank accounts of happy fighters. The purses Smith offered were outrageous; he often paid four or five times more than the going market rate. And MAPS never offered less than two expensive bouts on any program. Frequently there were three or more such fights. There was no way the company could come close to getting back what it was paying out.
Consider MAPS' last three matches of 1980:
•On Nov. 28 in San Diego, Smith paid $250,000 each to Matthew Saad Muhammad and Lottie Mwale to fight for the WBC light-heavyweight championship. Only 2,197 fans saw that match. Gross gate receipts: $41,785. There were no television revenues.
•The following night in Los Angeles, MAPS gave Eddie Mustafa Muhammad $300,000 to defend his WBA light-heavyweight title against Rudi Koopmans, who got $50,000. Attendance: 2,749. Gate receipts: $37,000. No TV income.
•On Dec. 12 in Sacramento, Smith paid Wilfred Benitez, a leading welterweight, $250,000 to fight Pete Ranzani, who made at least $75,000. A total of 4,507 fans paid $89,992.50 to attend that bout. No TV revenues.