Former failed figure skater Tonya Harding combined minimal movement with perspicacious punching to score a third-round TKO over past political pawn Paula Jones Wednesday in a bout that signaled either a promising beginning for Fox Television's fledgling People You Never Wanted to See Again Doing Things You Never Wanted to See Them Do division or the end of civilization as we know it. Possibly both.
On the undercard, "Partridge Family" tyke turned reformed junkie D.J. Danny Bonaduce knocked out Barry Williams of "Brady Bunch" fame, Todd Bridges of "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout" renown scored a unanimous three-round decision over Rob "You Thought I Was Lame When I Was Vanilla Ice, Well Look at Me Now, Charlie!" Van Winkle, and mindless, C-list celebrity entertainment beat shame, taste and everything decent and good about sports in a walkover.
This reporter, searching ringside for the usual glittering gaggle of stars, found only Satan and the giggling ghost of Morton Downey Jr.
And Tony Danza, but that goes without saying.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer, who was replaced years ago by an animatronic wax dummy that yells, "Llllllet's get ready to rum-bull!!" every time it senses that more than three people have gathered in its immediate vicinity, kicked off the card by yelling "Llllllet's get ready to rum-bull!!" This followed a heartfelt rendition of the national anthem by one of the lesser Backstreet Boys and his sister, one of the lesser Backstreet siblings. Barry Williams, a failed singer as well as failed actor and, presumably, failed few other things, in the ring for the first bout of the night, looked annoyed that he hadn't gotten the gig.
In the main event, following a hearty "Llllllet's get ready to rum-bull!!" by the Buffertron 2000, Harding, fresh off a bout with her landlord over unpaid rent, took a few light shots early from Jones, "the Arkansas Pounder" and a late replacement for Amy "Long Island Lolita" Fisher, whose parole board wouldn't let her participate. (A good thing: Fisher would have been too classy for this event.) But as Harding began to land some punches, Jones turned her back on her opponent each time. Commentator and former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, answering the question "What ever happened to former lightweight champion Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini?" pointed out that this is "not a good idea."
By the second round, Jones, turning away each time she was hit, appeared to be trying to quit, but referee Raul Caiz, proving his credentials as an actual professional referee, ignored her. Jones went down from a punch at the end of the second round, but Caiz, proving his credentials as an actual professional referee, ruled it a push.
In the third, Jones' repeated turning around earned her a standing eight-count. Caiz asked her if she was OK. When she didn't answer, Caiz, proving his credentials as an actual professional referee, said, "You'll be fine." He waved the fighters together, despite Jones turning around and waving Harding off. Caiz, proving his credentials as an actual professional referee, missed this, and Harding landed one more right hand, drawing boos from the crowd, which had suddenly decided that it had some standards. The upset of the night!
Harding won by TKO at :53 of the third round.
"She did really well," Harding said. "I knew that both of us would come in and get to know each other a little bit." This comment may have gone a long way in explaining Harding's repeated tussles with the law. She might just have an eccentric view of how people "get to know each other." Perhaps when she threw a hubcap at her boyfriend two years ago, she was merely saying, "Howdy, partner!"
In an earlier bout, following Buffer's trademark "Llllllet's get ready to rum-bull!!" introduction, Bridges bludgeoned Van Winkle, who boasted the night's best nickname ("Bi-Polar") for three rounds on the way to a unanimous decision.
Bridges landed a huge right early in the first round, then followed up with some wild punches that dropped Van Winkle. In the second, after Van Winkle threw some punches for the first time, Bridges landed another big right, then another to drop Van Winkle again. The rapper turned motocross racer took a standing eight-count late in the round before being saved by the bell.
Did someone say "Saved By the Bell"?
There were no knockdowns in the third and final round, other than the one suffered by Van Winkle's considerable ego, which will now have to live with the fact that its ostensibly bad-ass owner got his bad ass kicked by Willis from "Diff'rent Strokes."
In the curtain raiser, Williams, the former Greg Brady, went down at the first punch, his gloves touching the canvas after he took a glancing blow to the left ear. (All six fighters wore head gear, and three of them -- Bonaduce, Bridges and Harding, wore body-art advertising for a Web site.) After some actual action, Williams went down again after a right, then a third time after a combination, though referee Marty Denkin, proving his credentials as an actual professional referee, ruled it a push. Bonaduce, whose pugilistic background includes beating up a transvestite prostitute, downed Williams for a fourth time just before the bell.
Two more knockdowns in the second round finished the deal at 1:25. In between, Denkin gave the dazed former teen star instructions. "Keep your hands up. Jab and move."
Better advice would have been: "Go away. Get a job." It was unclear at press time if rumors that Monica Lewinsky had offered the six fighters a free career counseling session were true.