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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Drama in West Jordan
The public has been so benumbed by the elephantine ceremonial amid which the manly art of self-defense is conducted, and has eyed the old postures and listened to the sonorous old pronunciamentos so many times that its sense of the ridiculous has deserted it entirely. Fight crowds simply sit with glazed eyes through organ recitals of "our national anthem"?as if this were exactly the right note on which to launch a session of beak busting?and through the referee's long, self-conscious and entirely useless preliminary instructions. Even so florid a ring announcer as New York's Harry Balogh could conjure up only a few dispirited catcalls though he often intones, "May the superior contestant emerge victorious" instead of, "May the best man win."
Something new and unconventional in the way of atmosphere and official attitude has obviously been needed for a long time and it is pleasant to be able to report that a beginning was made last week by the West Jordan (Utah) Athletic Association. This probably needs a bit of explanation. West Jordan, Utah is a hamlet of 2,107 souls near Salt Lake City. The West Jordan Athletic Association is, for all intents and purposes, a mink farmer named Marvin Jenson who has thrown up a wooden outdoor arena in a local cow pasture and who fosters and encourages, i.e. promotes, boxing there.
When the weather turns bad the West Jordan AA simply moves its fights to Salt Lake City and conducts them indoors there. Since Utah has no boxing commission or other regulatory board, these contests too are conducted according to the "rules of the West Jordan Athletic Association" and the boxers are solemnly informed of this fact before being sent out to remodel one another. Last week, in the course of its autumn program, the WJAA matched that fleshy and well drubbed old heavyweight Rex Layne with one William Boatsman, a muscular Portland, Ore. carpenter, and history was made.
It will come as no surprise to fight fans to learn that the Layne-Boatsman contest was a bad one. It was, however, so incredibly bad that it was marvelously entertaining. Layne set out in the first round to punch Boatsman's crew-cropped head loose and nearly succeeded so early that Boatsman took the simplest possible measure to prevent it?he grabbed Layne by the arms and tried to push him through the ropes. He kept at it for seven rounds, sometimes tripping his opponent to facilitate things. In all, he pushed Layne out four times; sensibly enough, he tried to make the fourth push the last. Noting that Layne's shoulders were on the ring apron and Layne's legs were draped over the lower rope, Boatsman cannily leaned out and began belaboring Layne's head with great vigor and determination. "Only good punching he's done all evening," bawled somebody at ringside.
This sort of thing, nevertheless, is counter to the rules of the West Jordan AA, and it almost caused a scandal. Mink-fancier Jenson leaped into the ring and expressed his sense of outrage by grabbing Boatsman. Boatsman straightened up and punched him in the belly. The announcer leaped through the ropes and bawled for the cops. No cops came into the ring, but most of the people in the front seats did. They milled and waved their arms. Layne got back on his feet and gave every indication of anger?in fact, he seemed on the verge of hitting Boatsman. Then Referee Ken Shulsen pushed off the dead hand of convention, announced that Boatsman was "mentally incapable of continuing the fight," and named Layne the winner.
It was new. It was different. It was dramatic. It was possibly true. The crowd was delighted?it stayed on, throwing seat cushions and old newspaper into the ring, and booing with joy, and finally went home talking of nothing else.
Dispatches from Australia
The tennis season did not, apparently, wind up at Forest Hills. It just got up a full head of steam there in readiness for the Davis Cup Challenge Round, which on some former occasions has been settled more or less peacefully only because the combatants were equipped with fragile rackets instead of elephant guns. The latest renewal of this delicate war is due next month, but the skirmishing began a few days ago?on the courts at Sydney and in the papers at Melbourne.
The opening volley, aimed at tennis in general and not necessarily at the question of Australia's ability to retain that coveted mug of silver, was fired by Frank Sedgman, a man who after two years of chumming around with Jack Kramer, should now know as much about losing as he used to know about winning. In passing judgment on the current crop of amateurs, Sedgman told readers of the Melbourne Sun that no amateur today?even an Australian?could be counted on to win a match before he stepped onto a court. Reflecting back, perhaps wistfully, to his own days as the world hero of the international sneaker set, Sedgman remarked that amateur tennis had not improved "one iota" since he began his professional career in 1953. The reason for this sorry state of affairs, says Sedgman, is a "certain wily American gent" who goes around buying up the best amateurs. "It is bad when the lure of professionalism overshadows the amateur game."