by Mike Corrigan
Boxing and gambling? Why, they go together like Bogart and Bacall, Starsky and Hutch, scratch and sniff. This Sunday, the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho, will host live professional boxing featuring razzle dazzle Latin sensation, Jorge "Maromero" Paez and a host of Northwest favorites. And while the actual gambling is confined to the one-arm bandits in the casino, the boxing action in the arena should be nothing short of electrifying -- thanks in no small part to Paez, a one-time International Boxing Federation featherweight champion and showman of the highest caliber.
Sunday's main event fight featuring Paez will be broadcast live on Univision (a U.S.-based Spanish-language network) to a national audience. The event itself is a product of Las Vegas promoter, Top Rank.
"We book all the Univision shows," says Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels. "This is part of our Sunday series on Univision, which has been marketed incredibly well. We signed Paez about a year-and-a-half ago because he was getting extraordinary television ratings in California. He's our top fighter as far as ratings go. He's really something."
Paez (68-14-4 with 44 KOs) is one of the most recognized (and televised) boxers in the world, known not only for his boxing talents but also for his outrageous antics in and out of the ring. His penchant for flamboyant costumes, dancing and general grandstanding have earned him the title of "The Clown Prince of Boxing"-- a nickname Paez seeks to reinforce at every opportunity.
Clown Prince maybe, but Paez delivers the punches as well. He first gained recognition with his title victory in 1988. He successfully defended the crown nine times over the course of the next two years before eventually losing it to Tony Lopez in 1990.
"Paez is very colorful and charismatic," says Samuels. "You never know what color trunks he's gonna wear. He's an action guy, and the Latin fans love him, just adore him."
Paez will be paired up with fellow lightweight, Nashville native Joshua Smith (15-4 with 15 KOs). To warm things up, four preliminary bouts are scheduled, featuring a group of young Northwest fighters including Tony Martinez (8-1), Dewey Welliver (9-0), Luke Munsen (6-0) and Dakota Stone (4-2). The Coeur d'Alene Casino has carved out quite a niche in the local entertainment world for its boxing. With several boxing events a year, it has become a big draw, but going on TV really takes it up a notch for the casino.
"They [Univision] like to have one compelling fight to go 10 rounds," says Samuels. "And then, for the local venue crowd, we like to load it up with local fighters."
Only the Paez fight will be televised. At least, that's the plan. Though the bout is expected to go 10 rounds (nicely filling out the one-hour time slot), a boxing match is a human drama, full of rogue elements far beyond the control of anyone, least of all a television production crew. What if there's a knockout in round one, for instance?
"They start taping at 11 am," explains Samuels. "And if they like what they see, they'll use some tape to fill it out, if not, they'll throw another live fight in there. We try to match 'em up pretty even so that we get 10 good, crackling rounds."
Live boxing at the Cd'A Casino featuring
Jorge Paez on Sunday, June 24, starts
at 11:30 am. Tickets: $12.50; $25 for ringside;
$50 for golden ring. Call: 325-SEAT.