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Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled? (Part 1)

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Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled? (Part One of a Two-Part Story)

On September 11, Evander Holyfield was knocked out by Vitor Belfort in the first round of a boxing event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. There was widespread criticism of the event before it took place and more criticism when it was over. Holyfield is 58 years old and shouldn’t be getting punched in the head by men trained in the art of hurting.

Worse, interviews with multiple people involved with the promotion suggest that Holyfield was hustled. That he went into the ring thinking he was about to participate in an exhibition in which neither man would use best efforts to hurt the other only to find himself double-crossed in a scenario akin to an old-time boxing movie.

How did boxing get into this mess? Read on.

In 2015, two musicians in search of an inexpensive way to edit their work launched a video app called Triller that enabled them and other users to avoid the cost of renting studio space. A year later, Triller was transitioning to becoming a social video app but had still not entered the mainstream consciousness. Enter Ryan Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh is a 46-year-old businessman, a big concept guy who’s adept at raising money. Over the years, he has been meshed in a wave of litigation touching upon his professional and personal life.

In 2004, Kavanaugh founded an entertainment company called Relativity Media that purported to use sophisticated algorithms to eliminate the risk from film financing. Variety named him “Showman of the Year” and he made his way onto the Forbes list of billionaires. Then Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy. Twice. Kavanaugh told the Wall Street Journal that he took Relativity into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 “to fend off vulture investors who were trying to steal the company” and that he wasn’t involved in the second bankruptcy. In 2018, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Relativity Media sold substantially all of its remaining assets to a holding company called UltraV.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Kavanaugh founded a company called Proxima Media. In 2019, Proxima Media acquired a majority stake in Triller. Kavanaugh sought to position Triller as an American version of TikTok (the Chinese-owned, social networking service that was under attack by then-president Donald Trump). To date, Triller has fallen far short of TikTok’s success.

In describing Triller, a company press release states, “The Triller Network is a consolidation of companies, apps and technologies. Triller Network pairs the culture of music with sports, fashion, entertainment and influencers through a 360-degree tech and content-based vertical.”

Triller became a significant player in boxing when it put together a November 28, 2020, exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones that engendered an estimated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys. DAZN and Matchroom had jumpstarted the move of “trash boxing” into the mainstream of the sport when they partnered to stream Logan Paul vs. KSI on November 9, 2019. Tyson-Jones brought this phenomenon to a new level.

Triller got what it wanted most out of Tyson-Jones – massive publicity and clicks. And the event fit perfectly into what Kavanaugh (pictured below with Oscar De La Hoya) calls Triller Fight Club’s “four-quadrant model” consisting of “influencers, legends, music artists, and contemporary fighters.”

Then Triller shook up the boxing world. At a February 25, 2021, purse bid, it offered $6,018,000 for rights to the four-belt title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos. That was $2.5 million more than the next highest bid (submitted by Matchroom) and $3.7 million more than the number submitted by Top Rank (Lopez’s promoter). Lopez-Kambosos is currently scheduled to be contested at Madison Square Garden on October 4. Triller’s bid was a statement that – temporarily at least – it’s a significant player in legitimate boxing.

More Triller events followed. Most notably, on April 17, 2021, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round. One month later, it was announced that Paul was leaving Triller pursuant to a multi-bout deal with Showtime. The April 17 card also saw a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. The event and others that followed seemed to be mired in red ink. But they were aimed at building Triller’s base and were showpieces for potential investors.

Meanwhile, on April 14, 2021, Triller announced that it had acquired FITE – a small but successful technology company that has become a leader in the distribution of pay-per-view combat sports events. After numerous snags in ironing out the contracts, the acquisition was finalized in late-July.

As all of this was unfolding, Triller was looking for its next big legendary fighter. Mike Tyson was unhappy with the money he’d received in the aftermath of his encounter with Roy Jones and, on March 21, had issued a statement that read, “Just to be clear, there is no Tyson with Triller fight. I don’t know any Triller executives personally. I don’t have a deal with Triller or any head executive representing them for the next event. I will never do another event or any business with Triller, so anyone misrepresenting that they own the rights to my name or my next event isn’t true. I am not with or ever will be with Triller’s Fight Club.”

With Tyson unavailable, Triller turned to Oscar De La Hoya.

oscar

For more than a decade, De La Hoya was one of boxing’s brightest stars. But he’s now 48 years old and last fought in 2008 when he was brutalized by Manny Pacquiao.

There’s kindness in Oscar. But he has been wounded many times, physically and psychologically. The psychological wounds seemed to have caused more suffering than the physical. He has acknowledged having problems with alcohol and cocaine and has been in rehab multiple times. The ravages of his lifestyle and years as a fighter have taken a toll.

Three days before Tyson-Jones, De La Hoya said that he was considering a comeback fight against Gennady Golovkin. “You know how easy GGG would be for me?” Oscar asked rhetorically. “I always took a good shot and I always took apart fighters like him.”

Of course, in 2019, Oscar was talking about running for president of the United States.

Appearing at a March 26, 2021, press conference in Las Vegas to promote the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren Triller card, De La Hoya took the microphone, announced “July 3, I’m making my comeback,” dropped the microphone, and walked off the stage.

Paul-Askren, when it came to pass, featured performances by Justin Bieber, The Black Keys, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Diplo, Major Lazer, and what was advertised as “the exclusive world premiere of the hip hop supergroup Mt. Westmore (Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $hort and E-40).” There were pole dancers with big butts and lots of cleavage. Taylor Hill, Charli D’Amelio, and other social media personalities made appearances.

There was also a lot of weed (much of which was openly smoked on camera) and alcohol. The commentating team of Ray Flores, Mario Lopez, and Al Bernstein was joined from time to time by Snoop Dogg, Pete Davidson, and De La Hoya.

Oscar looked bloated, sounded as though he’d participated liberally in hospitality room offerings, and said that he wanted to fight Mike Tyson. Ray Flores observed on air, “Oscar is definitely high.”

One might ask why the people around De La Hoya who care about him allowed that scenario to unfold. Four days later, Oscar appeared on “The DAZN Boxing Show” and was asked about his commentating that night.

“I’ve been in beast mode for about six weeks,” De La Hoya answered. “And I got a little into it; you know. I started having a couple drinks. And then they told me, ‘Why don’t you go and commentate?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man! Okay. Okay.’ I got a little over carried away. And I apologize. But it’s all good. I’m back in beast mode.”

Thereafter, Ryan Kavanaugh told The Sun, “It was a fun event. You had two people up on stage smoking joints, so Oscar had a couple of drinks. He wasn’t falling over. He wasn’t so awful that he did something terrible. People love to talk sh**. I don’t think Oscar was that bad. He was just having fun with it. We told him to have fun with it. We said go and enjoy it. Anybody that has enough time to go onto the internet and start commenting negatively in big ways and making a point of it, they obviously have other issues.”

Then, on June 17, 2021, it was announced that De La Hoya would box against former MMA fighter Vitor Belfort in a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view event to be held in Las Vegas on September 11. Belfort, age 44, had retired in 2018 after compiling a 26-14 career record and losing four of his last six fights. He’d boxed only once as a pro and that was fifteen years earlier.

“This isn’t that WWE theatrics we’ve been seeing in boxing lately,” De La Hoya declared. “This is the real deal, a real fight with real knockouts for a real win. I’m in better shape than I was fifteen years ago. I want to make the biggest comeback in boxing history.”

On July 21, Triller announced that De La Hoya vs. Belfort was moving to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The contract weight was 180 pounds and the bout would be contested over eight two-minute rounds. That brought the California State Athletic Commission into the act.

“We were told that Tyson and Jones would be an exhibition and we regulated it as such,” CSAS executive director Andy Foster said. “An exhibition in the State of California is when you don’t use your best efforts to win. Here, the fighters want to use their best efforts, so by definition it can’t be an exhibition. They want a fight and we’ll regulate it as such. They’re gonna box and we’re gonna score it.”

Asked about drug testing, Foster told this writer, “Both fighters will have to pass their medicals. We’re still working out the details on drug testing. Most likely, it will be conducted by California, not VADA. I think we’ll be focusing on PEDs, not recreational drugs.”

As for possible drug use by the TV commentators, Foster pledged, “The commission will control the environment in the technical zone at ringside.”

The formal kick-off press conference for De La Hoya vs. Belfort took place on July 27.

“I’m doing it for myself,” Oscar told a group of reporters before the formalities began. “I’ve had a f***ing crazy life, you know. I’ve had a crazy life. And sorry if I get all emotional and s***. I’ve done this for thirty-five years. I’ve always done it for my family and fans all over the world. I’ve gone into the ring and just let it all out because I love what I do. I love what I represent for people. But I’m finally fighting for myself. I can’t f***ing wait. It’s going to be hell, but I’ve been through hell and back. There’s nothing that can faze me. There is nothing that can break me down, all the s***, all the bulls***, whatever. I’m strong as a rock. I’m at peace. I finally got here. I’m getting f***ing crazy emotional. It’s been a f***ing struggle. People can talk all the s*** they want to but I will never give up. I feel that age is just a number, and I have to literally thank yoga. It’s not a f***ing joke. Yoga, like really, literally almost saved my life.”

That was followed by pronouncements like, “This is not a game. I said, ‘Look, if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it for real. Let’s not do this song and dance. Let’s not do these exhibitions, you know, that we’re tired of.’ This is the real thing. And the fact that we both agree that it’s gonna be a real fight, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’re gonna kick the s*** out of each other. That’s one thing for sure. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Asked about the possibility of fighting Canelo Alvarez, De La Hoya responded, “Why not? It’s only power. That’s all it is. Power, I can withstand. Speed, like Pacquiao, is a whole different story. I have a good chin, you know.”

At times, promoting the Belfort fight seemed like a therapy session for Oscar.

“I was raped at thirteen, from a woman, an older woman,” he told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “Thirteen, lost my virginity over being, you know, being raped, basically. I was in Hawaii, I think, at some tournament. She was over thirty-five. You suppress everything. You’re living this life, the Golden Boy. But, oh s***, wait, that’s still there. Like I never, like, thought about it. I never processed it. I never really thought how my feelings are until one day it just comes out and you don’t know how to deal with it.”

More troubling, perhaps, was the ugly reality that De La Hoya was on track to be hit in the head multiple times by a man who could punch.

Over the years, Oscar traded blows with fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ike Quartey, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Later, he offered a stark assessment of the risks inherent in the trade he’d chosen. “I hate getting hit,” De La Hoya said. “Getting hit hurts. It damages you. When a fighter trains his body and mind to fight, there’s no room for fear. But I’m realistic enough to understand that there’s no way to know what the effect of getting hit will be ten or fifteen years from now.”

However, at an August 25, 2021, media workout, Oscar declared, “Call me crazy but I just miss it. I missed getting hit and doing the hitting. I wasn’t ready to retire after I lost to Manny Pacquiao. I never felt like I was in wars. In boxing you’re just as old as how you feel. I went through hell and back treating my body wrong, but these last six months I feel amazing. I refocused myself and rededicated myself and I’m actually doing this for me. I can’t wait. I’m going to give the fans a war. I’ve been studying Marvin Hagler versus Thomas Hearns for a reason. I want a fight, a war. I have a good chin and I can take the punch. My inspiration for this fight is Arturo Gatti. I want one of those types of fights.”

No one asked about a September 27, 2010, interview with Broadcasting & Cable. In that interview, De La Hoya had acknowledged, “I did have tests done after every single fight. My last fight, they found something that they couldn’t really understand in my head. It didn’t help me to make my decision to retire, but it was obviously a concern. I had second and third opinions. It was something in my head that they thought could maybe have an effect thirty years down the road, but they just weren’t sure. Maybe they were being extra-careful.”

Then, on September 3, De La Hoya vs. Belfort ground to a halt. Oscar announced that he had tested positive for COVID and that the fight was off. One day later, 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was substituted as Belfort’s opponent.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Holyfield-Belfort photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Triller Fight Club

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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