- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

Remember Rock Newman? Not the Marion-Barry-electing, Greaseman-apologizing, Las-Vegas-soul-food-king Newman. Remember the loudmouth, Riddick-Bowe-managing, Elijah-Tillery-headlocking, title-belt-trash-tossing, Madison-Square-rioting Rock Newman?
He's back.
The District native, who brought the boxing spotlight to Washington when he managed Riddick Bowe to an undisputed heavyweight championship, is back in boxing five years after he swore he was done with the business, which he says today was because of its very nature "which was consistently confrontational, an industry fraught with charlatans and users, with blatant corruption that was practiced with a nod and a wink, and I never wanted to be part of that."
Only this time, he says, "I come in peace."
Right, just like Dolph Lundgren.
Newman may insist he returns in peace, but he is already in the middle of a war for the new fighter he is "advising" a 6-foot-8, 260-pound heavyweight formerly known as Lance "Mount" Whitaker but now insisting to be called "Goofi."
I see Disney lawyers on the horizon.
This time Newman didn't have to climb the steps of a rundown apartment building in one of the worst neighborhoods in Brooklyn to convince a heavyweight that no one wanted to sign with a neophyte like him, as he did with Bowe more than a dozen years ago.
This time Newman's new find came his way in a style more befitting his status and wealth after Rock became a multimillionaire managing Bowe's turbulent career. It was in a Las Vegas health club.
Newman, who has been involved in a variety of ventures since retiring after Bowe's tragic second fight with Andrew Golota in December 1996, including a sports management partnership representing Steve Francis and other athletes, and a Las Vegas restaurant, said he had been approached in Las Vegas where Newman now lives by his personal trainer in June about Whitaker, a big heavyweight who had emerged, with a record of 23-1 and 19 knockouts, as a title contender. But the trainer told Newman that Whitaker wasn't happy with his promoter, America Presents. He felt his interests weren't being represented, and the trainer asked Newman if he would talk to Whitaker.
"I said no, I'm retired," Newman said. "I get this all the time, but I'm not interested in doing any boxing."
But several days later, the trainer came back and said that Whitaker was extremely unhappy with his promoter, whom the fighter claimed was pressuring him to sign a five-year contract, claiming his old deal was about to expire on July 1. Whitaker wanted to talk to Newman before making any decisions. Newman said when he met Whitaker the next day, he was taken by the fighter's story.
Whitaker, like so many fighters, grew up in a broken home and lived in a state boys' home for four years as a teen-ager "not because he did anything bad, but because he literally had no place to go," Newman said. He has also spent some time living in a car, and had grown to despise himself. Boxing was a way for him to find self-esteem, Newman said, but Whitaker said he was depressed because he felt his chance at being heavyweight champion was slipping away, and he wanted Newman to represent him.
"He told me his commitment would be above and beyond the call of duty," Newman said. "He said he would work as hard as he needed to become heavyweight champion. He really impressed me about his commitment to be the best."
So Newman said he became committed, too, and agreed to manage Whitaker. "At one time, I said I would never return to boxing unless it was the right situation," Newman said. "I said I would know it when I see it. I saw it in this situation right here. I think he has the potential to be the heavyweight champion and more than that, with his personality, an international superstar. My focus and dedication are now to his interests and to maximize his career. I think I am uniquely qualified to bring all that out.
"Here I am, I'm back," Newman said.
Of course, this is Newman's story. Dan Goossen, president of America Presents, Whitaker's former promoter, has a different story. He believes they did very well by Whitaker, who claimed he felt there was a conflict of interest because the promoter's brother, Joe, was Whitaker's trainer too close a relationship. They got Whitaker two HBO fights recently against Robert Davis and Oleg Maskaev (both second-round knockouts, and Maskaev had knocked out current heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in eight rounds nearly two years ago). They also got Sports Illustrated to do a full-length feature on the fighter and his 7-year-old son, who has leukemia.
Goossen is ready for war. "You know when you turn the lights on in the kitchen and see the rats scramble for the corners?" Goossen said. "That's the Rock Newmans of this business. He is a pro rat. It's all about Rock Newman, and it's a shame that the one who suffers is Lance, because he had a chance not just to be heavyweight champion but something special out of the ring as well. I can look in the mirror, and so can my brother, and know we did a good job for him. If Rock Newman tried to look me in the eye and accuse me of wrongdoing, he'll find out why he better not look me in the eye. These are the type of rats in the business that I want to make extinct."
Of course, there are lawsuits, and even criminal charges could be involved. America Presents is suing Newman for interference, claiming it has a legal, binding contract with Whitaker, and suing Whitaker to hold him to that contract. But a more serious complication is the fact that Elan Haim, a cornerman who works with Joe Goossen, is accusing Whitaker of nearly beating him to death in a gym confrontation several months ago. At a New York news conference Thursday, Whitaker said he never touched Haim and that he believes Joe and Dan Goossen urged Haim to make the accusations.
Dan Goossen denied any involvement with Haim's charges. "That's 100 percent incorrect," he said of the claims that he was manipulating Haim. "I have nothing to hide. That is totally up to Elan."
This is the peaceful world of Rock Newman, where a hurricane is a slight breeze.


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