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Slap Shots 

Wednesday, Jun 4 1997
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Fists of Fury
"We need it more than ever," raps the cabbie, weaving around cars on Kearny, beeping his horn. "It keeps kids off the street, they work out their aggressions." We're talking about boxing, and the event down at the Longshoremen's Hall, where he's driving me, if he doesn't get us killed. He rattles off about the old gym at 312 Leavenworth, the facility at Fifth Street and Brannan that is training girl boxers, the girl boxer who is the new pet project of Don King, and the days of Benny Ford, an old local promoter. He swerves and narrowly misses a Muni bus.

The hall is filling up fast, as the old ghosts of the building watch from on high -- Harry Bridges, Ken Kesey and the Acid Trips bunch. It stinks of hot dogs and testosterone musk. The ratio of male to female is easily 20-to-1. Some guys are talking about a bout they attended in Santa Cruz where 13 fights broke out in the audience. Four bouts are scheduled, with an intermission that will feature the national anthem played by Danny Hull, the saxophonist who "brings the spark back to the Doobie Brothers."

The first fight is a super lightweight, two little guys who duke each other around until one gets a cut over his eye and it's called after the third round. The sound system kicks into "Dream On" by Aerosmith, and after a minute it segues to "Walk This Way," then, inexplicably, Van Morrison's "Domino." Skimpily dressed ring girls step through the ropes after each round, holding up the card. Fat guys hoot from the balcony.

Fighters are introduced for the second bout. James Lester Jr. comes out to little fanfare, followed by Everett "The Ghost" Robinson, dancing like a fool to the hip-hop music, wearing a monogrammed robe and leading a big entourage. Lester is a two-time Golden Gloves champ, but The Ghost is the showman. The bell sounds, and the heavyweights go at it, Lester chasing The Ghost around the ring like a bulldog, The Ghost floating motionless, not moving his gloves at all until he punches. Lester nails a jab to the jaw, and grunts. After The Ghost lands a good one back to his forehead, Lester smacks his own face twice. The Ghost's entourage is lively, and appears to consist of:

1) Towel Man, an intense, pumped-up guy with a towel around his neck, who paces far out into the audience, then back to the ring, shouting advice every 2.2 seconds;

2) Stripes & Shades Man, a dude with a slick striped jacket and sunglasses, who leans against the corner pole and stares at the action in silence;

3) White Hat Guy, an older man whose job it is to place the stool in the ring after every round and shout more advice;

4) Fat T-Shirt Guy, who carries the pail of water for every round, and is also full of advice.

Lester wins by a decision, and falls to his knees in victory -- his first professional fight. The Ghost exits with his posse, still bobbing his head slightly to the music. Like Bill Clinton, he has too many advisers.

Fat T-Shirt Guy sits directly behind me. A security guy comes up to him and says, "We've thrown you out of four straight San Francisco fights -- we're watching you."

"Fuck off," says Fat T-Shirt Guy.
"You think because you can carry around that bucket --"
"Fuck off."
"I've got security keeping an eye on you --"
"Fuck you."
Great. Tim McVeigh's cousin is sitting behind me -- and he's drinking beer.

AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" cranks up, and it's starting to get embarrassing that all the music is so familiar. Paul "The Assassin" Nave hops into the ring, the reigning IBO Intercontinental Welterweight champion, rated No. 6 in the world; he's from San Rafael. He is swarmed by video cameras, while his opponent, Jose "El Leon" Limones is ignored. The bell rings and it's quite a slugfest. You can't help but get sucked into the action, the strategy of knowing when not to jab, the sounds of the gloves hitting flesh. And then a cell-phone geek starts to speak:

"Kenny? Yeah, he's in the second round right now ... he's doing pretty good. Yeah. OK." He hangs up. Another communications satellite put through its paces.

Between rounds, as the ring girls do their thing, their costumes seem to get smaller and smaller. What's next, two paper clips and a nicotine patch? Two females behind me are reviewing every girl:

"This first one's got the thinnest, tonest body. But the third one," a woman says, wrinkling her nose, "has a bit of a tummy."

Nave retains his title. The final bout -- between Sacramento's Tony "The Tiger" Lopez and "Prince" Wilberforce Kigundu -- is also notable for the entourage. Kigundu is a former California and Uganda champion, and some guy kneels next to me the entire 10 rounds, shouting out instructions to him in some kind of Ugandan dialect, which sounds like:

"SOO-LAH! SOO-LAH WOH-JOE YAY-YA BUELO! NAH KOO PAH-DEE SOO-LAH!"
Unfortunately, the instructions are not enough. Lopez comes out slugging for the final round, and wins by decision. The drunken, big-shouldered crowd spills out into the balmy night air, nostrils flaring with adrenalin. Back in the men's room, one guy stands over the sink, hot water turned up full blast, silently rinsing out the fighters' mouth guards.

Poppies-a-Go-Go
Readers of this space may remember the first media exposure last year of the plight of underground journalist Jim Hogshire, whose books may have contributed to his arrest in March 1996 for the alleged possession of opium poppies. That police raid on his Seattle home has since brought him an eviction, a broken marriage -- and now, darling status in New York press and legal circles, as evidenced by a recent cover story in Harper's and a fund-raiser at an East Village bar to help with his defense costs.

He has more reason to celebrate. Two weeks ago, Hogshire's prosecutor dropped the charges of illegal poppy possession in exchange for a guilty plea for "attempted possession of an improvised device," i.e., a thermit flare. He received a year probation, a $100 fine for court costs, and 100 hours of community service.

Address all correspondence to: Slap Shots, c/o SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; phone: (415) 536-8152; e-mail: slapshawts@aol.com.

By Jack Boulware

About The Author

Jack Boulware

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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