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Thursday, May 23, 2002
Updated: May 31, 2:12 PM ET
Let's get ready to bumble!

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Before we get to my running diary from Fox's "Celebrity Boxing II," allow me a quick tangent:

Back in the mid-'80s, "Saturday Night Live" ran a classic sketch called "Jackie Rogers Jr.'s $20,000 Jackpot Wad," a fake game show along the lines of the "The $100,000 Pyramid" (only its host was Jackie, a cross-eyed, albino lounge singer played by Martin Short). One of the "celebrity contestants" in the sketch was Captain Kangaroo (played by Jim Belushi), who was a little down on his luck because his show had been canceled. At one point, after his partner keeps screwing up their chance for $20,000, the Captain leans over to Jackie and says, "You're paying me in cash, right? That was the agreement. No checks."

Refrigerator Perry and Manute Bol
No matter how long you stare at it, you still can't quite fathom the tale of the tape for the Refrigerator Perry-Manute Bol bout.
You're paying me in cash, right?

Isn't that what pop culture is all about these days? Celebrities putting themselves in humiliating situations, just so they can get paid and we can have one more chance to make fun of them?

It's almost like we reached a point where Unintentional Comedy wasn't good enough anymore, so we evolved to Intentional Unintentional Comedy -- calculated shows designed to humiliate famous people -- as exemplified by the success of "The Osbournes," celebrity-driven game shows such as "Fear Factor" and "The Weakest Link," or those countless "Behind the Music" and "E! True Hollywood Story" shows. In this age of political correctness, we can't make fun of anything without somebody taking it personally ... so when you think about it, celebrities are really the only thing we have left.

It's the car crash mentality. You pass a car crash, you slow down and you look. And if you're flipping channels, and you pass a show like "Celebrity Boxing II" on Fox, you slow down and you look. You can't help it.

Of course, it's my job to document this stuff. Without further ado ...

8:30 p.m. Fox's boxing telecast starts with close-ups of each "celebrity" participant shadow-boxing and looking into the camera. I'm speechless. I can't speak. Joey Buttafuoco, Chyna, Screech, Horshack, Darva Conger, Olga Korbut, Manute Bol and The Fridge, all of them shadow-boxing. I'm supposed to add jokes here?

8:31 p.m. Our announcers tonight: "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" host Chris Rose and Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. I'm not sure who looks more distraught. Even Matt Vasgersian turned down this gig.

8:32 p.m. Quick transcript of Boom Boom's intro: "Vdbdsbsgs dgdgagaga deeegdgd djdjshshgshs retssh flfldls etadafddhjd fkdlkslal cmndnds."

8:33 p.m. "These are serious fighters," Rose tells us. Even when he's fake-laughing at Tom Arnold's jokes on Fox Sports Net, he's more convincing. Why does Fox try to present this like it's a serious boxing card? Why not hire two comedians just to rip on everyone? Why not go the whole way?

Darva Conger, Olga Korbut
Media diva Darva Conger, left, and smiling pixie Olga Korbut size each other up.
8:33 p.m. First up: Darva Conger vs. Olga Korbut, who did most of her training in a Ukrainian bread line this spring. She's 47 going on 80. "This is horrible," says the Sports Gal, who's officially bummed out. "I don't think you should write about this."

(She promptly leaves the room to finish watching "Most Outrageous Game Show Moments" on NBC. Nothing like riding your high horse into the ground.)

8:35 p.m. Olga enters the ring. Can you imagine being in Olga Korbut's corner? Yeah, I have a big fight tonight ... I'm working Olga Korbut's corner. Is that the lowest you can sink as a boxing cornerman? Has to be, right? By the way, would it kill Olga to pull an Ivan Drago and tell Darva, "I must break you" in her Russian accent? I'll kick in an extra three grand right now to make this happen.

8:36 p.m. Surprise of the night: A subdued Michael Buffer is doing the ringside announcing. Apparently, he lost a rock-paper-scissors contest with his brother Bruce and Jimmy Lennon Jr.

8:36 p.m. The first genuinely funny moment: Barry Williams (a k a Greg Brady) passionately singing the national anthem before our first fight. Where's his Johnny Bravo outfit? You couldn't make this stuff up. I thought Barry peaked on the Unintentional Comedy Scale when he made himself cry while talking about Robert Reed hiding his homosexuality (during the "E! True Hollywood Story" about the "Brady Bunch"), but he's taking it to another level right now. And yes, if there were dogs howling in your neighborhood around 8:36 last night, now you know why.

8:41 p.m. Fox runs the first promo for their upcoming reality-TV show, "Bachelorettes in Alaska." I think I'm about to have a seizure.

8:42 p.m. Buffer's introduction for Conger: "She's become one of the most recognizable personalities in America ... undeniable media diva, Darva Conger!" I feel like I've just entered the Vanilla Sky. What universe is this?

8:45 p.m. The tale of the tape seems a little one-sided: Darva's 11 years younger, five inches taller and 11 pounds heavier ... plus, she hasn't been broke and destitute. Call me crazy, but I think she's the favorite. Of course, Boom Boom disagrees, saying about Olga, "She's got a smile that lights up the room; she's a bigger-than-life star." Amen, Boom Boom. Amen.

8:45 p.m. It's hard to believe we went from Gatti-Ward to Olga-Darva in just four days. Darva dominates most of the action in Round 1, with Olga sneaking in one good overhand right. Also, I think Boom Boom had some sort of discharge.

8:51 p.m. Round 2 isn't nearly as much fun -- Darva pounding a 47-year-old waif for 60 straight seconds. At the start of Round 3, Rose actually says about Olga, "You could see her eyes welling up a little bit ... she looks a little shaken right now." Good times! Fun for the whole family.

8:52 p.m. Actual commentary from Boom Boom: "Ohhhhh! Good sh- ohhhhhh! Good sh- ohhhhhhhhh!"

8:53 p.m. Darva cruises to a unanimous decision, as Rose sums things up by saying, "Just too much Darva Conger, really." Meanwhile, poor Olga has an "I know I lost, but I still get my $30,000 right?" look on her face. This is just horrible.

Screech
After watching many of his "Saved By the Bell" co-stars achieve stardom, Screech is ready to hurt someone.
8:54 p.m. Time for our second match, which can only be described like this: "Screech vs. Horshack."

Yup, it's Dustin Diamond of "Saved by the Bell" against Ron Palillo of "Welcome Back Kotter." I'm a little giddy about this one. They just showed some footage of Screech training -- he's a student of kick-boxing or something -- which ended with Screech looking into the camera and saying, "After three rounds with me, I'm sure I won't be welcomed back, and I can guarantee that he won't be saved by the bell." I'm pretty sure that wasn't an ad-lib.

8:56 p.m. Screech walks out to the ring, looking into the camera like a crazy person: "I'm gonna take him out ... I'm a bad man... You lookin' at me, you're lookin at the winner." He is clearly insane.

(You know, this fight has "Vanilla Ice dismantling the set of MTV's 25 Lamest Videos with a baseball bat while Chris Kattan shrieks, 'No, Vanilla!' " potential. Screech looks like he has heard one too many Screech jokes over the years. He's a homicide waiting to happen. You think he ever sits around watching Zac on "NYPD Blue" or Slater on that "The Other Half" show and just getting ticked off? Is that a rhetorical question?)

8:59 p.m. All right, I'll ask: Did Kentucky Fried Chicken actually say to themselves, "We need a celebrity athlete to endorse our chicken nuggets, someone everybody likes ... let's get Barry Bonds on the phone!"

9:02 p.m. During Buffer's intros, he describes Horshack as "Producer, director and writer of children's books," and Screech as "Motion picture and TV actor, comedian and star of the video, 'Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess.' " That's my new favorite moment of the night. Screech is hovering in the mid-90s for a UCR rating right now.

9:03 p.m. Horshack shoves Screech after the pre-fight introductions. "A little psychological warfare," Boom Boom explains. Then Fox shows the "Tale of the Tape" for about a nanosecond: Screech is half the age of Horshack (25 to 48), he's five inches taller, and he outweighs him by 54 pounds. Who OK'd this matchup, Bud Selig?

9:04 p.m. Boom Boom calls Horshack "Ron Horshack." OK, now that is my favorite moment of the night. Nothing will ever top "Ron Horshack." Come on. You're laughing right now.

9:06 p.m. Screech could knock Horshack out at any time; I think he's just relishing the TV spotlight, so he's carrying him. I just wish I could adequately describe the experience of a grown-up, heavier Screech fighting an aging Horshack, while doing Screech-things. Nobody's that good of a writer. This is officially surreal.

9:08 p.m. Round 2: Ron Horshack has gone completely bonkers. Screech keeps knocking him down, Horshack keeps staring him down in disbelief, bugging his eyes, then getting popped again. Meanwhile, Screech is mugging for the crowd and eating it up. Eventually the fight gets stopped, but not before Horshack picks up a swollen nose and two shiners. For once, Boom Boom puts it best: "Ron has a look on his face like, 'This wasn't fun.' " Not a good night for Ron Horshack.

9:11 p.m. Post-fight interview ... awkward ... dying ... god ... good lord ... excruciating ... no words ...

9:12 p.m. Our backstage reporter ... Barry Williams! Big night for him. Singer, reporter, actor. He's Barry Williams.

Manute Bol
The 7-foot-7 Bol tipped the scale at 240 pounds.
9:16 p.m. Next up: Manute Bol vs. the Fridge for the "Two Guys Who Are Really, Really, REALLY Down On Their Luck" Championship. One thing's for sure: The Fridge won't be losing any teeth during this fight. He only has three left. Manute's giving his $30,000 fee to charity (to help people in the Sudan) ... he should just give it to The Fridge for some teeth. This is terrible. If the Fridge and Olga Korbut ever reproduced, their kid would definitely be named No Chance.

9:21 p.m. Buffer announces Manute as "Manute 'The Sudanese Freedom Fighter' Bol." Catchy. Meanwhile, the Fridge is wearing one of Andre the Giant's old black one-piece body suit/trunk outfits and looking disoriented. He's weighing four bills easy. I'm not even sure he ranks on the Unintentional Comedy Scale right now; he's too damn depressing. Thank God Screech had more than enough to go around.

9:22 p.m. Buffer calls Fridge "One of the most intimidating and fearsome players of all-time." I think I'm developing an eye tick.

9:25 p.m. After one minute of Manute and Fridge cautiously circling one another, followed by the bell ending Round 1, Rose says, "Fridge (looks) a little bit winded right now." And he's not lying.

(Speaking of Rose, I bet he wasn't sitting in a college classroom 10 years ago and saying to himself, "When I become a professional broadcaster, I just hope I get the chance to say the words, 'Let's go to Barry Williams, who's with Joey Buttafuoco!' " Well, that just happened. Can you even bounce back from a debacle like this?)

9:29 p.m. Rose and Mancini have this exchange after Round 2:

9:30 p.m. I just thought of something: My buddy Stoner (ESPN's own Rob Stone) does sideline reporting for MLS and USA soccer games ... now Barry Williams is basically doing the same type of work for "Celebrity Boxing." Does that mean Stoner is the Barry Williams of soccer, or Barry Williams is the Stoner of celebrity boxing? And when can I start making fun of Stoner for this? Tonight? Tomorrow? Right now?

9:31 p.m. After two and a half rounds of Manute and Fridge cautiously circling each other, the referee suddenly snaps, "You guys gotta box or you're not gonna get paid, either one of you, so come on now, let's box!" We won't be seeing that tirade in Fox's promos for "Celebrity Boxing III."

9:33 p.m. Manute wins the decision. Give the Fridge his money now. Please. Just give him his cash. Somebody, please. Ones, fives, twenties, hundreds ... it doesn't matter. Just make sure it adds up to $30,000. No checks. That was the agreement.

9:40 p.m. Time for our final fight: Chyna vs. Joey Buttafuoco. What does Joey have to gain from fighting a woman, other than 30 grand? Well, maybe there's this: "Say what you want about him," Rose says, "the guy's got some kind of charisma."

9:43 p.m. Hey, Chyna looks relatively attractive! Seriously. She looks pretty good. She has come a long way over the years.

Chyna, Joey Buttafuoco
We know Chyna could send Joey Buttafuoco to the cleaners if she wanted.
(By the way, don't ever mix heavy allergy medication with Red Bull. I mean, ever.)

9:45 p.m. Buffer ends his intro for Buttafuoco with this one: "Joey 'The Gladiator' Butta-fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-co!" That was fun. That might have been my favorite Michael Buffer introduction of all-time. As an added bonus, Joey just took his robe off and displayed one of those rock-solid, extended, Robert Loggia-like pot bellies. High comedy. It looks like he's seven months pregnant.

9:48 p.m. The fight begins ... and Chyna wants no part of Joey. She looks terrified. Hey, who can blame her? She's had major plastic surgery, she has breast implants, she's fighting a man and she doesn't want to get hurt. Ironically enough, we said these exact same things about Horshack.

9:53 p.m. Joey throws Chyna to the ground in Round 2, as Rose screams, "That was bush league!" and Boom Boom adds, "What a chump!" Hey, say what you want about Joey ... this guy's got some kind of charisma.

9:55 p.m. The final round includes Joey kneeing Chyna, holding and hitting her at the same time, throwing her to the ground, and hitting her in the back of the head, as the crowd boos and Rose says, "I don't think Joey's winning this crowd over at all." We need to match up Joey and Screech. I think I would pay to see that one. I'm serious.

Anyway, Joey pulls off the majority decision. Chyna graciously accepts defeat and prepares for another round of Playboy shoots and Howard Stern interviews -- it's hard to tell if this was a step up or a step down for her.

9:56 p.m. You know, it's just too bad Larry Merchant isn't here for the post-fight interviews: "Joey ... it seemed ... at times ... that you were unable ... to impose ... your will ... on Chyna ... do you feel ... like this victory ... was more frustrating ... than satisfying ... and while we're on the subject ... where do you stand ... on cocktail waitresses having the right to vote?"

9:57 p.m. After the fight, Buffer (playing the Merchant role) and Buttafuoco have this actual exchange:

9:58 p.m. Rose wraps up the night's matches by saying, "It's been another memorable evening."

He's actually right. It was a memorable evening. A 90-minute long car crash ... I mean, it doesn't get any more memorable than that. Too bad Captain Kangaroo wasn't there to see it.

Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page Two. And yes, they're paying him in cash for this column. That was the agreement.