Canseco to Box on Saturday

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

Jose Canseco might want to dust off that muscled-up "Bash Brother" moniker one more time.

He needs a colorful nickname for his introduction as he enters
the boxing ring Saturday night for a celebrity match against child
star-turned-radio host Danny Bonaduce. Before Canseco pummels a
Partridge, he wants a flashy name that fits the oversized
personality of the former steroid-fueled slugger.

"Hercules," chirps his girlfriend, Heidi Northcott.

"The Destroyer," Canseco offers.

Certainly, he means by knockout punches, not destroyer of
reputations.

The former major leaguers named in Canseco's 2005 book on
steroid use in professional baseball might suggest far less heroic
names for the 1988 AL MVP. But just as he's set to show in his
three-round fight with Bonaduce, Canseco is ready to take his
punches.

"I'm the bad guy no matter where I go," he said.

Former Oakland A's teammate Ricky Henderson is going into the
Hall of Fame this summer and fellow Bash Brother Mark McGwire has
withdrawn from public life. The 44-year-old Canseco still seeks the
spotlight, a puffed-up sideshow on the same road other fallen
celebrities have traveled in last-gasp bids to cash in on their
notoriety. The man who was once the most feared power hitter in
baseball finds himself training to drill a D-list celebrity in
suburban Philadelphia.

He's written two books, starred in a pair of reality shows, and
is taking his second swing at celebrity boxing. By his
acknowledgment, he needs the money. So he'll let shock jock Howard
Stern needle him about what steroids did to his sex drive as long
as he can tout his upcoming match.

Tagged as "Baseball's Bad Boy," Canseco dresses the part in
all black, from his T-shirt down to his socks and sneakers, as he
spars at a Greenwich Village gym. Canseco was embarrassed in a loss
to former Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema last year and lacked the
stamina to make the bout respectable. He also lost the appetite to
train because of plummeting testosterone levels linked to quitting
steroids cold turkey.

On this day, Canseco seems like his old self.

Whump! Whump! Whump! He attacks the heavy bag with the
ferociousness of a batting practice home run swing. His biceps are
still thick, although they no longer look like someone stuffed a
pair of basketballs inside them.

"If Bud Selig's face was on there, I'd break him in half,"
said a huffing-and-puffing Canseco.

If celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman really wanted to cash
in on Canseco's willingness to name the names of alleged steroid
abusers like himself, maybe the next opponent should be a
ballplayer.

"There's a lot of people in Major League Baseball that want to
punch me in the face," Canseco said.

Feldman has promoted celebrity boxing for years, handling
everyone from Canseco and Bonaduce to Tonya Harding and pro
wrestlers. The broken down athletes, broke stars and busted
has-beens are natural drawing cards in a reality TV-crazed society.

Enter Canseco.

"People want to see him get beat up," Feldman said. "That's
what it's all about."

The exhibition takes place at an ice skating rink in Aston, Pa.,
and can be ordered on Internet pay-per-view. Vince Papale, the
former Philadelphia Eagle who inspired the movie "Invincible," is
the guest referee. Recognizing the limited athleticism of the
fighters, the bout features only three, 1-minute rounds. Against
Sikahema last July, Canseco was flattened with a left hook 30
seconds into the fight and was finished after a few more punches.

Canseco and Bonaduce are guaranteed an appearance fee, which
Feldman declined to reveal, and each will earn $2 off every PPV
order at www.gofightlive.tv. The rink holds 2,200 tickets and
Feldman is hopeful of 25,000 Internet buys.

Canseco expects jeers from frothing fans and exaggerated chants
of "Ster-oids!" "Ster-oids!" as he steps between the ropes. He
accepts it as his penance for a pair of ripped-from-the locker room
books that transformed him into one of the more vilified athletes
in sports.

For a man who was once baseball's show stopper with every homer
seemingly launched into space, Canseco seems at peace with a life
that included sharing a "Surreal Life" house with Balki and
Omarosa, and exchanging good-natured banter with Stern about living
as a baseball outcast. Asked outside the studio if he's nervous
about what personal questions Stern might ask, Canseco doesn't
flinch.

"Please. I make people nervous," Canseco said.

That includes Bonaduce.

He played Danny Partridge on the "The Partridge Family," and
now hosts a morning radio show in Philadelphia. He's also dabbled
in celebrity boxing, dominating a bout against Barry "Greg Brady"
Williams in 2002. But Canseco might be as big as all the Brady boys
combined.

"Let me be honest with you right now. I am scared," Bonaduce
said on Stern's satellite radio show. "I'm probably as scared as
I've ever been about physical violence. The problem for Jose and
the benefit for me is, I am not averse to physical violence and I
am not averse to pain."

Ever the showman, Canseco takes a return shot.

"I feel bad for him," Canseco said. "I'm going to take out on
him what I should have done to Sikahema."

The tale of the tape favors Canseco. He's 6-4 and 260 pounds
while Bonaduce is 5-6, 180 pounds.

It's easy to laugh at Canseco or pity him. He admits he's
responsible for his personal, physical and financial setbacks
because of steroid abuse and his book, "Juiced." The
twice-divorced Canseco claims to have squandered the roughly $45
million he earned over his career, pawned his World Series rings
and purged his rented California house of memorabilia to try and
satisfy the debts against him.

If earning a paycheck means battling Bonaduce, then that's what
he'll do.

"I'm just working like anybody else," Canseco said.

Northcott, his girlfriend of about two years, turns into a
crusty Mickey Goldmill when she starts talking about the fight. She
wants Canseco to win in 14 seconds and jokes she'll leave him if he
loses. Canseco rolls his eyes when Northcott becomes concerned
about his laissez-faire attitude.

"Can you get serious about this? I'm starting to get
concerned," she said in a limo ride from Stern's studio to the
gym.

Any talk about a return to baseball, from coaching Little League
to the minors, elicits a loud laugh from the first 40/40 man.
Canseco claims he barely pays attention to the sport, but Northcott
said it pains him to be away from the game he loved.

"He doesn't want to let on," she said. "He watches baseball
every night and he watches it like a little boy. You see him almost
like he's in a trance, as if he's out there doing that and living
through those images."

As for that nickname for Saturday's fight, Canseco is still
searching. He'll hear the catcalls and he'll play to the crowd. He
needs a win to get another fight, another payday, another day to
make a living.

That's about all Canseco has left.

"Baseball's through with me, I know that," he said.


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