Ali's attorneys asked Smith for his books so an audit could be done. "He said O.K.," says Ali with a sigh, "but he never seemed to find the time to give us the books."
It's possible that Ali's investigation spurred Smith's flight. The day before the scandal broke, Ali said he had already made up his mind to remove his name from the organization. "The money he was paying all those fighters. The office buildings. Everybody flying around in a private jet. The hotel rooms. Flying those card girls, the ones who carry cards between rounds, all over the place. All that money being spent and nobody saying where it was coming from. It was too much for me."
Marshall, who was once a loan officer at the Beverly Hills Wells Fargo Bank, said on Sunday that he and co-promoter Sam Glass of Tiffany Promotions, a Long Island attorney, had called a New York meeting to try to save the Feb. 23 fights at the Garden. On Monday they met with Garden officials and managers of the fighters involved to see if they could work out a financial compromise. No one can pay the purses promised by MAPS and remain solvent.
Mike Jones is a co-manager of Cooney, the WBC and WBA No. 1 heavyweight contender, who was going to be paid $1.25 million to fight Norton. "It was great for the boxers while it lasted," said Jones. "Now we'll have to go back to reality." The reality is that there's no one who will pay $4.1 million for a $600,000 or $700,000 fight. That is what the light-heavyweight champions, Muhammad No. 1 and Muhammad No. 1A, were supposed to get paid for their showdown at the Garden.
Still, not all is lost for the fighters. Cooney, for example, has already been paid $250,000. He was supposed to get another $500,000 on Dec. 15, and the final $500,000 a month later. Neither payment arrived.
John Condon, the president of Madison Square Garden boxing, insisted that he wasn't at all surprised by last week's turn of events: "The purses that Smith has been paying and the ones he promised for the February 23 fights were ludicrous. They've been way out of proportion."
"It's time we get back to basics," said Garden matchmaker Gil Clancy. "Managers are going to come in and be shocked at what we offer and at what Bob Arum and Don King offer, but the offers will be just exactly what the fighter is worth. A $300,000 fighter is going to get $300,000. If he wants $1 million, let him go find Smith."
Some of the fights on the Garden card are sure to be canceled. There were too many to begin with in the first place. That was the MAPS way. In addition to Cooney-Norton and Muhammad-Muhammad, the original program also included WBA welterweight champ Thomas Hearns fighting Benitez, WBC superbantam titleholder Wilfredo Gomez defending against Mike Ayala and WBA lightweight champion Hilmer Kenty taking on Alexis Arguello. This last bout was canceled in early January.
All the fighters received advance money from Smith. The two Muhammads each got $300,000, although Eddie Mustafa's had been placed in the Wells Fargo Bank, where it has now been frozen. Matthew Saad is supposed to get the balance of his purse on Feb. 8. "We're not holding our breath," said Saad's manager. Benitez was paid $100,000, while Hearns got between $100,000 and $150,000 for training expenses. Norton received $100,000.
"We aren't saying we won't take a cut, but first I want to take a look at the realistic projected earnings," said Jones. "I mean the solid money. Let's face it, the major interest is in Cooney-Norton. That fight could stand alone and make money. From Cooney's standpoint, I don't know that what we were getting was unrealistic. But I'm not going to say I won't take a cut."