Off Beat

No Wonder They Call Him the Big Ticket

When the folks from the sales side of our operation peek over the wall and offer up a story idea, it's usually greeted with the same level of enthusiasm as the latest product sample from Metamucil. So when a couple of our co-workers came running in the other day waving the March 1 Star Tribune sports section and pointing to a photo they alleged had been doctored to depict Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett with his penis exposed, we shooed them away with a few stern words about responsible journalism and the sanctity of the press. But the topic reared its head again that evening, when a bartender at the Monte Carlo proffered the photo for our happy-hour amusement. And a few days later, when we got a call from some "journalist" in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, we knew we'd have to relent.

Now hear this: The Star Tribune did not print a picture of Garnett that had been purposely altered to exhibit any hidden assets. It was a fluke. The purported appendage depicted in Ann Haisenfelt's Associated Press photo is actually the unfortunate confluence of the All-Star forward's baggy shorts and some perfectly natural shadows.

"The photo editor wasn't looking for an errant shadow and that shadow played a trick on the eye," explains the Strib's reader representative, Lou Gelfand, who was compelled to write about the episode in his column this past Sunday, after local radio got onto the story and people began calling the paper.

Now, we trust, we can get back to more pertinent subjects--like Garnett's ball-handling skills. --By Paul Demko

Thanks for the Memory: Who Is the Toughest Man in the Twin Cities?

On the evening of March 1, a portly carpet installer from Fridley and a 40-year-old grandfather slugged away at each other in the center of a boxing ring at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. Neither man was schooled in the finer points of the sweet science. As they stumbled and lurched around the ring throwing wide, looping punches, the fans began to hiss. This prompted Art Dore, the tuxedo-clad master of ceremonies, to conduct an impromptu poll. "How many want the old guy to win?" he bellowed into the microphone. A smattering of applause. "How many want the fat guy to win?" A slightly larger smattering of applause. "How many don't give a shit?" Raucous applause.

And so it went for the next two hours, and again the following evening, as 50 average Joes (no real boxers were allowed) vied for the title of Toughest Man in the Twin Cities. And through the knockouts, lopsided routs, and ugly decisions, Dore supplied running commentary. "This is legalized assault and battery!" he shouted in the midst of one mismatch. "So far, on my unofficial scorecard, this boy's getting his fat ass beaten!" he observed during another. And roughly every five minutes, Dore would punctuate his remarks with his signature motto: "Hell, yeah!"

A contractor from Bay City, Michigan, Dore has been promoting Toughman competitions since 1979, and he now averages six shows per week nationwide. The pace has made Toughman--which is often televised by the FX cable network--the busiest boxing promotion in the country. But this was Dore's first show in the Twin Cities. "The boxing commission in Minnesota would never let us come to town, because we didn't follow their rules. They were old-time boxing purists and they didn't want change," he explains. The roadblock was removed last year when the state legislature eliminated the boxing commission.

Dore says his first foray into the Minnesota market--a November show in Rochester--was a success. But at Roy Wilkins, he concedes, "We lost our shirt."

As to the quality of the local combatants, he's diplomatic. "Some were pretty good," he says. "What will happen now is that every time we come back, the competition will get better and better. The guys will start training harder and harder. In the places where we've been running for 20 years, you don't see those big old fat boys that get off the barstool and crawl in here thinking they're gonna whip someone. They're in the gym training, and that makes a big difference."

While no cash was awarded in the St. Paul tournament, first- and second-place finishers in three divisions received a trophy and a Toughman jacket for their troubles. Winners also got invited to a national Toughman contest, where they'll have a shot at a $50,000 grand prize. And for the bloodied and battered losers? "They got a memory," says Dore. "That's about it." --By Mike Mosedale

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