George Kimball, the face of Lawrence's anti-establishment movement in the '60s, returns to town today for a busy weekend. The real purpose of his trip?
"It's just an excuse to see the Colorado game," Kimball said.
He was joking, though he will attend the game. Kimball, who graduated from '60s rebel to a long, celebrated career as a sports columnist, mostly for the Boston Herald, returns to promote the crowning achievement of his career. He will do a signing of his new book, "Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing," from 1:30 to 3 p.m today at the KU Bookstores at the Kansas Union. At 7 tonight, he is scheduled to hold a discussion on Roberto Duran at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center at KU. He also will do a Friday signing from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hastings Books, Music and Video, 1900 W. 23rd St.
Kimball understandably is more proud of his new book than of his campaign slogan when he ran for Douglas County sheriff in 1970 against Rex Johnson, who has a withered arm: "Douglas County needs a two-fisted sheriff."
Kimball has one eye. Johnson could have countered with: "Douglas County needs a sheriff who can keep both eyes out for crime."
"No," said Kimball, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer of the esophagus. "Rex didn't stoop to that. I was the only one who stooped."
Love him or hate him, admire him or resent him, there is no denying Kimball is both an aggressive reporter and gifted storyteller. He also was in the right place at the right moment.
The decade of the 1980s proved such fertile ground for fight writers. Sugar Ray Leonard (4-1-1), Marvelous Marvin Hagler (2-1), Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns (1-2-1) and Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran combined to make nine fights during the '80s. (The numbers after their names represent their records in those bouts).
Kimball covered all nine events, maintained relationships with all four fighters and interviewed them extensively for the book, which is packed with lively behind-the-scenes, and in one case under-the-ring, anecdotes.
Ironically, a moment of inaction is the event from the nine action-packed bouts most discussed by casual observers of the sweet science: the "no mas" moment.
Leonard toyed with Duran, winding up with his right hand and popping Duran with a left jab. Duran threw his arms in the air, uttered "no mas" and walked off, the strangest surrender in sports history.
"My view on that - and I have talked with (trainer) Emanuel Steward about it - is that Duran thought he was committing a macho act," Kimball said. "He thought people would blame Leonard for making a mockery of the fight. He didn't know how it was going to be perceived. I don't think he had any inkling he would become a laughingstock."
Kimball said he was on a radio show recently, and the host told him that Duran swore him to secrecy and told him he walked away because he was suffering from diarrhea. (Remind me not to swear that guy to secrecy).
"Well," Kimball said, "that sounds convenient, but 20,000 people were there, and Duran was wearing white trunks. Don't you think somebody would have noticed?"