One of this country’s very best cartoonists is Garrick Tremain and for my money, has been for decades. Currently he’s under attack for his latest cartoon. This showed two women emerging from a travel agency and one saying, “I asked what are the least popular spots at the moment and was told, the ones people are picking up in Samoa.” The punchline here reflects a peculiarity of the English language, namely its multitude of words which have a variety of meanings. An example is “right.” It can mean the opposite of left, or an entitlement, or something correct as opposed to wrong, or a substitute for “yes.” You get the picture.
Following on from my remarks on Monday about whether the Saudi-Arabian ringcard girls in the Joshua-Ruiz fight this coming Sunday morning, will be in burqas, well not so. It’s since been announced there won’t be any which is good news.
The advent of ringcard girls in the early 1980s was the first step in the decline of boxing as a sport and it’s subsequent cheapening into into a circus of showmanship silliness. Championships, once coveted, nowadays mean nothing as every boxer is one. Boxers used to treat one another respectfully; now custom dictates they must insult each other, and so it goes.
It’s why life-long involvees such as me, have now walked away. But the indisputable fact is that in our place has come a massively wider non-boxing audience, thus the extraordinary sums now paid to fighters. Joshua for example is receiving over NZ $100 million for this contest. This phenomenon is a reflection of history’s greatest ever showman, P.T. Barnum and his famous quotes, “ Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the public taste,” and, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
The first ringcard girls I ever saw was at a Sydney fight in the early 1980s. There were 3 of them, all absolute knockouts and wearing next to nothing. The ring announcer advised that assuming the final bout went the distance, the ringcard displayer would be topless before the last round. The fight went the distance and everyone waited expectantly, then into the ring clambered a skinny elderly bloke with his shirt off who tottered round the ring holding up the sign. The boxing world has always been noted for its humour and at least, despite the decline into hoopla, this desirable trait remains.
First the madness. The Saudi Arabians have announced they want to build a tourist industry. Notwithstanding the marching visitors’ feet everywhere, with retired accountants being escorted atop camels across the Gobi desert and Woolongong plumbers filling ocean liners, this will be a tough sell.
To open the batting the Saudis have been suckered into forking out millions to host high interest prize fights. Thus next Sunday they’re staging the return Joshua-Ruiz heavyweight bout in which, reflecting public interest, the two not very good protagonists are reputedly receiving $100 million each.
Here’s the marvelous bit. To stage the fight the Saudis have built a smart 15,000 seat stadium in -wait for it- exactly 56 days. That’s less than 2 months.
In New Zealand one couldn’t build a garden shed in that time, simply because it would take longer to get the Council permit.
But tourism-promoting-wise, will it work? History says no. Back in 1974 the ratbag Zaire (now Congo) dictator was conned into forking out the necessary to host the Ali-Foreman fight. And the following year the same thing happened with Malaysia for Ali-Bugner. Then a few months later, in Manila with Ali-Fraser. I suspect in the latter case, Marcos was seeking personal publicity as Phillipines tourism needed no encouragement. Actually I sat ringside with Norman Mailer for that bout while Marcos, Imelda and their pretty daughter, were (literally) enthroned, right behind us. Meanwhile, near half a century later the Congo is still waiting for the promised tourist influx.
I suspect the Saudis are wasting their money, unless of course they display a few unique Saudi cultural attractions. For starters they could have burqa clad ringcard girls, but a real killer (forgive the pun) would be to bang in some head-lopping executions on the undercard. Such an initiative would certainly garner the sought global attention.
The NZ Herald’s website yesterday (Sunday 1st December) advised readers, “the jury has been selected and evidence to begin in the Grace Millane trial.” Well that’s good to know. We’ve waited long enough.
While not normally a gambling man I’m prepared to offer hermits and such-like folk a million to one I can accurately forecast the result.