On December 15th, in what was somewhat of a comeback venture as a ringside reporter, Hank Kaplan, the Grand Master of boxing historians, was to cover the show at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood, Florida. He never got his article in. He left his home in mid-afternoon to avoid the evening rush hour traffic, arrived at the Hard Rock shortly after 5 PM, had dinner with his companion, Carol Meyer, celebrating her birthday a day early, then picked up his press credentials. His seat in the Press section remained empty throughout the show.
Big George Mitchell, the only cornerman known to receive a scalp wound from bumping into the overhead ring lights, and who was working John Duddy’s corner, places a phone call to New York and relates that he sees Hank Kaplan enter the arena, at which time he is set upon, enveloped in a bear hug and dragged away from the Press Section to a ringside seat by Mike Tyson. It is reasoned that possibly, what has occurred is a brazen abduction carried out right under broad nightlight.
It is exactly one week after the Hard Rock Café show and I’m having dinner with Hank and Harold Lederman in South Florida when I ask Hank about the described ‘kidnapping’ and being held in captivity by Mike Tyson. Hank smiled and answered, “Captivity? Let’s say I was captivated by Mike Tyson. And because of that I did abandon my assigned Press seat. I was what you would call a very willing abductee and Mike was a very charming abductor.” Somehow, I was reminded of Patty Hearst.
Hank went on to tell of a Mike Tyson whose grasp and knowledge of boxing history amazed even the Dean of the class. And like any good student, Mike’s thirst for learning was unquenchable. It was their first meeting and the impression that Mike Tyson was leaving was indelible.
However, as the evening wore on, Hank couldn’t understand why Mike kept glancing at his watch. It was as though he had an important appointment, yet the interactive discourse about boxing history never waned. It was at the stroke of midnight that Mike Tyson’s image grew ten-feet tall in the eyes of Hank Kaplan—and Carol Meyer. As soon as that minute hand moved into Friday morning, Mike leaned over, kissed Carol on the cheek and sang “Happy Birthday” to her, remembering from their initial introduction that her birthday was the following day, which had now arrived.
Hank Kaplan may be spending some time in his garage/archive library re-doing a file box in the “T” section. You may not be able to change a fighter’s ranking based on a personal experience, but it is highly probable that Mike Tyson has just earned the title “Champion” as a person in Hank Kaplan’s wide world of boxing personalities. And as for Carol Meyer, hopefully she did not apply much make-up as she may not wash her cheek for quite a while.
By the way, some of Hank Kaplan’s observations on the card:
Sultan Ibragimov—his stamina, tenacity and “mean” natured all out attacking style make him a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division.
John Duddy—an exciting, slam-bang puncher who will have to hone his defensive skills when he climbs in against stronger opposition.
Samuel Peters—will wait to see him fight again. Not an impressive showing.