- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2001

Boxing promoter takes swing at TV ads

Elroy Johnson of the District of Columbia, an innovative boxing manager and promoter who has been looking to strike it rich for a while now, is trying a new tactic to call attention to himself and his sport.

Johnson, 35, has made a 10-second TV commercial that he says will run repeatedly between 1 and 2 a.m. on Channels 7, 9 and 50 starting Saturday. In it, he plugs his own Elroy Johnson Productions and says, "Remember, it's not just a show, it's an event. See you at the fights."

The company's phone number also is listed, and Johnson won't mind if people call him particularly husky young men who can smite opponents with either hand.

It's unusual to find boxing folks who care as much for their sport as their bank accounts, but Johnson might qualify. He has managed fighters since he was in his early 20s and hopes to get his current heavyweight, Philip Jackson of Miami, a shot at somebody's title reasonably soon. Jackson, 35, is a bit elderly to be on the way up in fisticuffs, but Johnson considers him part of a disturbing trend.

"The best heavyweights lately Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield are all in their mid-30s," Johnson says. "Where are the young Muhammad Alis and Jack Dempseys even the young Mike Tysons?"

Johnson's TV spot cost a couple of thousand to make and $75 to $100 for each airing, but he figures it's money well spent. "You only hear about boxing when it's time for a big fight," he says, "but this is a business, just like Microsoft or Wal-Mart you have to be out there all the time. I want to create excitement, elevate boxing to a new level."

The sport might need more than a quick ad on local late-night TV "if you blink, you might miss it," Johnson concedes but let's give him credit for trying something. And we can be sure of one thing: If this doesn't work, Elroy will try something else.

Hail to Carroll's Lions

It took Archbishop Carroll High quite a while to get around to honoring its powerhouse basketball teams of 1959 and 1960, but that will be corrected March 28 when the Northeast school inducts them into its Hall of Fame.

Shortly before DeMatha began its domination of area prep hoops, coach Bob Dwyer's teams won 55 consecutive games over the two seasons. Not only will next month's dinner at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel come approximately four decades after the Lions chewed up all opposition, it also comes during Carroll's 50th anniversary year.

In case you don't remember, we should note that Carroll's players included Georgetown coach-to-be John Thompson back when he was skinny and Edward "Monk" Malloy, now the president of Notre Dame. Other key personnel included Tom Hoover, George Leftwich and John Austin.

The affair is being coordinated by the Rev. John Mudd, who can be contacted at 202/529-1226. It should be a memorable evening for two memorable teams.

Two of a kind

As if life with the Phutile Phillies wasn't confusing enough, the team now has two guys named Brian Hunter. Brian R., a first baseman-outfielder, joined the Phils last season. Brian L. is a two-time American League stolen base champion who has played with five clubs since 1994.

This kind of thing is nothing new. Last year the New York Mets had two pitchers named Bobby Jones who also were further identified by middle initials. That figured because the original Mets of 1962 had two pitchers named Bob Miller. Casey Stengel probably never did tell them apart.

And remember the late 1970s, when two ACC basketball coaches were named Bill Foster one at Duke and one at Clemson? (Maryland, of course, had the one and only Lefty Driesell.)

The Hunters became aware of each other in 1994, when Brian L. reported to his first major league camp with the Houston Astros and found a mysterious check for $8,000 from the players' association in his locker. It didn't make sense, but he shrugged and went on a shopping spree.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh's camp, Brian R. was missing his check. Brian L. paid the money back, he said, but "it took me two years."

Which should teach all of us a lesson when we start thinking there's nobody else quite like us.

Eminently quotable

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, on his 10-year, $189 million contract: "I don't think [fans will] expect me to hit 60 homers and drive in 200 runs. They'll want me to do the things I've done the past few years. I don't think that all of a sudden I've got to pick up this huge load. This is a team. We need everyone to do their job in order to win." …

Actor George Clooney, on Jeter: "He's the biggest star in the world, isn't he? He does everything right." …

Boxing trainer Eddie Futch, 89, on his philosophy (in Esquire magazine): "It's not hard to do the right thing. I've known a day when black people were second in line. America is a better place than it was years ago, but it's still got a lot of improving to do." …

Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen, 25, on what his sport has done for him (also in Esquire): "Without my success in basketball, I'm nothing. At this stage, 90 percent of my life is my job. That's all I do." …

Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez, on the Rangers' low preseason rating: "I love being the underdog. Last year, we were that way in Seattle. Everybody thought we would finish in last place because we had lost a few star players, and we came within inches of going to the World Series."

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