This Fight Gives Tale of the Tape New Meaning

A cauliflower head named Ray Mercer recently got busted for allegedly offering a bribe to another alleged boxer to "take a dive."

This became a major scandal in boxing, a sport that refreshingly had gone without a major scandal for many, many hours.

I have been to a number of fights where I actually wished one of the boxers would take a dive. Then I would have been spared having to watch the rest of the fight.

But cheating must not be encouraged or condoned, so the feds came after Mercer, advised him of his rights, and then began an investigation of his lefts.

A videotape had fallen into their hands, showing Mercer and his opponent, Jesse Ferguson, clutching and clinching and punching and pinching their way through a heavily perspired but otherwise uninspired heavyweight tango.

A big payday awaited the winner, and I don't mean a candy bar. The reward would be a multimillion-buck bout with Riddick Bowe, who is recognized as the true heavyweight champion of the world by the WBA or WBC or DMV or DNA or whatever it is that runs boxing.

Oh, did Mercer want that fight! He licked his chops, without even removing his mouthpiece.

Not the worst of pugs, Mercer recently had made mincemeat of Tommy Morrison, who is best remembered by some as the only actor in "Rocky V" besides Talia Shire who spoke understandable English.

Mercer wanted that Bowe dough.

But first he had to dispose of the eminently disposable Ferguson, whose credentials as a contender were principally that he had two arms, two legs and a pair of trunks.

With the fight in progress, however, it became more and more clear to Mercer that he was not the only one inside that ring who could use a million smackers. Fergie had come to fight.

According to the cops, Mercer began giving Ferguson some sound investment advice, right there in the middle of the ring.

All he had to do to earn $100,000 was go into the tank. You know, do the old, "I'm going to Sea World!"

Reviewing a tape furnished by HBO, the cops evidently could hear someone talking other than Jim Lampley. They could hear Mercer, supposedly explaining to Ferguson the many advantages of being horizontal.

Friends, this is one conversation I am dying to hear.

A boxer offered a bribe during a fight? In between punches? Wearing his mouthpiece?

Picture the police transcript:

Mercer: Hwd ylk hndrd grd? Ferguson: Huh? (Punch in the face.) Mercer: Hwd ylk hndrd grd? (Punch to the kidney.) Ferguson: Spit that mouthpiece out. Mercer: How'd you like a hundred grand? (Jab to the jaw.) Ferguson: To do what? Mercer: Lie down. (Gouge to the eye.) Ferguson: What do you mean? Mercer: I mean lie down in the ring. (Shot to the sternum.) Ferguson: Oh. Mercer: Lower your gloves. (Pow, right in the kisser.) Ferguson: No way, man. Mercer: Take a dive. Ferguson: Dive this. (Belt to the belly.)

I mean, look. I can't understand most boxers when they're outside a ring. You think the cops can convict Mercer for whatever he mumbled in the middle of getting his very few brains beaten out?

Oh, and put yourself in Ferguson's boots. You need money, you go splash and then you go looking for Mercer after the fight. "Where's my $100,000?" you ask. "What $100,000?" he says.

Ferguson won the fight and won the right to lose to Bowe, which he did, in a fight that lasted slightly longer than the Kentucky Derby.

Bowe is one of those equal-opportunity heavyweights who next intends to fight Tommy Morrison and, after that, probably Talia Shire.

The cops, meanwhile, took their suspect into custody, charging him with, oh, I don't know, attempted Mercer.

I can picture Mercer now, standing before the judge.

"How do you plead?" he'll be asked.

"Nt glty," he'll say.

"Take your mouthpiece out," he'll be told.

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