Magazine article The New Yorker

AND IN THIS CORNER MAIN EVENT Series: 4/6

Magazine article The New Yorker

AND IN THIS CORNER MAIN EVENT Series: 4/6

Article excerpt

In the annals of great New York prizefights, last week's bout between Bernard (Berzerk) McGuirk and Sid (the Hebrew Hammer) Rosenberg will likely rank a cut or two below Dempsey-Firpo and Ali-Frazier I, but let's give credit where it's due: for two middle-aged amateurs settling a score in a health-club gym, they drew a pretty professional crowd. There was Teddy Atlas, the legendary trainer, shouting last-minute pointers at Rosenberg, and Rock Newman, the promoter, talking shop at ringside. Mike Lupica, Marv Albert, and Mike and the Mad Dog had all assumed their positions in front of the microphones and cameras, as the swells, such as there were, made their entrances: former Mayor David Dinkins, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik (just back from Iraq), former Merrill Lynch chief David Komansky. It was only 8 a.m., a little early for pageantry, let alone fisticuffs, but so it goes in the rough-and-tumble world of boxing's Talk Radio Division.

The background: Rosenberg, the well-pestered sports reporter on Don Imus's morning show, joined a gym in June and, thus emboldened, decided to challenge McGuirk, the show's executive producer and darkest wit, to a scrap. Imus, recognizing the parallels between talk radio and boxing--jabs, cornermen, well-wrought bravado--duly incorporated the grudge match into his show, and converted it into an on-air gala charity event, held at dawn, at Chelsea Piers, where a table went for ten grand and self-parody came free.

Like any good fight, "Fear at the Pier," as it was billed, offered easy contrasts: blue trunks, red trunks; Bronx, Brooklyn; management, labor; four-pack abs, love handles. (Rosenberg, by all accounts, stopped training in July.) Minutes before the opening bell, Dr. Cliff Stark visited the contestants' dressing rooms for pre-fight examinations. He took out his stethoscope and placed it on Rosenberg's chest. "Does he have a heart?" one of Rosenberg's cornermen asked.

Rosenberg had a heart, but he didn't have hands or feet. This became apparent almost immediately after Imus's mother-in-law, Mary Ann Coleman, finished singing the national anthem. McGuirk connected early and often, and, at the end of the first round, Atlas had to jump into the ring to steer Rosenberg to his corner. …

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