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|| News Item: Posted 2003-06-30

Leading Off: A Bizzaro World?
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA Today

Lennox Lewis (left) tangles with Vitali Klitschko in the 6th round of their heavyweight title fight at Staples Center. Lewis retained the heavyweight title when the ring doctor ordered the bout stopped after the sixth round.
It was like I had stepped into the Bizzaro World.

Anytime you have boxing AND professional wrestling to cover it's like stepping into a comic book.

In a two-week span, I was assigned to cover two events that are generally three-ring circuses … sans the tent: A World Wrestling Entertainment event at the Anaheim Pond and the Lennox Lewis - Vitali Klitschko heavyweight title fight at Staples Center.

Friends of mine know that I have always enjoyed covering boxing and consider it the ultimate challenge in sports photography. But what I wasn't prepared for was the sort of role reversal that professional boxing has accomplished with professional wrestling.

While working on a feature story on a one-legged WWE wrestler (seriously … and don't ask!) I was amused and amazed at the seeming normality back stage.

There was Hulk Hogan … ooppps, I mean "Mr. America" … sitting in the make-up area talking quietly with his family. There's Rowdy Roddy Piper in the lunchroom speaking to a reporter about moral issues, marketing of wrestling and providing for one's family.

During the afternoon workout sessions, I watched 270-pound wrestlers run, leap and fly through the air with the grace of a dancer and the speed of an NFL defensive back.

And if it weren't for the wild costumes, a midget here and there and Playboy Playmate-looking "wrestlers" I might have thought I was behind the scenes of a "regular" sports event.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA Today

Zach Gowen with "Mister America" (aka Hulk Hogan) confront WWE executive Vince McMahon at an event at the Anaheim Pond.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and ringside of the Lewis-Klitschko fight. There I witnessed Sylvester Stallone prowling the area, glad-handling officials and wide-eyed fans with the skin pulled so tight on his face he looked like the computer generated "Rocky" character used in TV commercials.

Klitschko, of Eastern European extraction, marched into the ring to the strains of the Eagles' "Hotel California"?

Parading through the arena was so much exposed skin and silicone, I thought for a minute I was at an LA Laker game!

And in the end, you had an over-weight, out of shape champ holding aloft the belt and the bloody, battered challenger circling the ring, amidst the chaos, screaming he was robbed.

The scene in the ring after the fight was stopped in the 6th round made the confrontation between Hulk Hogan and WWE czar Vince McMahon look sort of tame.

But I guess in the end, entertainment has always been a big part of boxing, like it has for wrestling. At least now, professional wrestling acknowledges it in its title … World Wrestling Entertainment.

* * *

A few "Bert's Pet Peeves" for the month of June:

On Traveling:
- Why do people insist on bringing their own pillows from home to bring aboard a flight?
- Why do women like to use shopping bags from department stores as luggage?
- Why do Southwest Airlines passengers with boarding zone 6 cards jam up the gate when zone 1 is called?
- And if you're x-raying my computer bag anyway, why the hell do I have to remove the laptop from the case?

Photo by
On (Stupid) Baseball Fans:
- I know they love to use the word "suck" but yelling "Barry Bonds Sucks" as he approaches the plate when the team you're rooting for is 8 runs behind, are 13 1/2 games out of first and Bonds has already smoked you for two hits including a tatter and 4 RBIs is sort of … stupid.
- Can you spill your (5th) beer somewhere other than on my equipment?
- I don't care how many times you tell your girlfriend/wife, even though you played high school ball, you really couldn't hit a Terry Mullholland curveball.

* * *

Sports Shooter v. 56 has two personal reports on sports events (how about that Jed and Beck?) that made news this month. Kevin Sullivan writes about what it's like covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a hometown paper and Jonathan Daniel gives a behind the scenes look at the events surrounding the Cubs' Sammy Sosa corked bat incident.

Eric Risberg in his continuing efforts to educate us about the finer things in life, tells us about California ports. We also have Rick Rickman's business of photography column and Mongo Johnson returns from a 4-month hiatus to rant about upgrades.

So sit back, adjust the color on that monitor, turn down the volume on that Fuel CD and enjoy Sports Shooter Newsletter v. 56.

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