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CHARLES FARRELL: The biggest bet I ever made in my life would’ve been life-changing bet. I made a bet of $425,000. The win would be $1,250,000. I was sort of trying to get out of being a gangster, which had been at that point in a number of different ways. And I thought that was the thing that was gonna be able to make me be legit for the rest of my life. I could stop being a gangster. I flew into Santo Domingo in a private plane that was arranged for me and landed on a cane field.
I had my bodyguard and they had these two enormous Samoan guys. And they had their money. And I had my money. So I made the bet. It was for Middleweight Championship, a guy named Stevie Collins and a guy named Reggie Johnson. Both good fighters, both guys who didn’t punch very hard. And both guys who were never knocked out their entire career. So it’s gonna be a close fight.
AUDIO CLIP: I mean, you know, this is, this can go either way. I’ve got Reggie Johnson barely ahead by one point 96-95.
CHARLES FARRELL: Oh man, my life is flashing before my eyes. Cuz I’m either gonna lose more money than I ever envisioned losing, or I’m gonna make enough money so I’m out of this thing. And I lost. I just thought I made a bad decision and I was wrong and that– and really that was the end of it. But it was a fight that was a real fight. Between two real fighters, or at least I always thought it was a non-fixed fight. And only recently if I started to re-think and wonder if I just got completely outplayed by somebody who really, really knew the game.
AUDIO CLIP: Charles, I know you’re in Puerto Rico as you told me. But I want you to get ahold of me some, which way. I’m setting up this thing with Don. I’ll set it up for Monday or Tuesday, at probably at Boca Raton or wherever his office is at Fort Lauderdale. He knows the principal. Had a good talk with Don. And I’m going to set it up. You know what I mean? It really went all out. I give ’em a rundown with Don. Talk, you sit down and see what you want.
They had originally tried to come in with them before with something else, but they never succeeded in what they did. Now they’re gonna get a shot to do it. And you also, cause you got the people naturally so, and talk only wants talk the principles. He didn’t want any other bullshit around, he said. So that’s the whole thing. Charles’s trying to get back to me. Your message will be saved for 20.
CHARLES FARRELL: Low life culture. You’re an outsider. For whatever reasons. And there are all kinds of reasons that we can think of that were outsiders. If you add to that someone who lives on or outside the margins of the law, and an antipathy toward authority– you know, which I have to a great, great extent, probably an unhealthy extent. Those are probably the things that best define low life culture. Low life culture is really a kind of affinity for the way disenfranchised people live.
People who don’t have anything, the kind of pleasures that they take and what their options are. What the lures are. Hustling plays into that. It is seeing the world as either getting over or being gotten over. You’re either mark, or you’re playing people. And one of the ways I hustle is that I use language creatively. Okay, this is what you do if you’re hustling to put yourself in an advantageous position. You speak their language, whatever the language is. It suggests a mutual sympathy.
Point one. Point 2, you speak language that no one else in the room can speak. The term is sesquipedalian. It means given to using big words. Words that people say, oh, what the fuck? But then you use phrases like, oh, what the fuck? So you have connected and you’ve elevated. Then you look to flatter and you look to exploit any insecurities. And you bounce those things back and forth. And if you’ve done all of those four things, the chances are you’re going to get pretty much what you want. I could get people’s trust. And at that point, I would in various ways take advantage of their trust.
And that’s really all I did for my whole life. I grew up in low life. The people I love most growing up were in low life. I mean, that’s part of my DNA. The challenge for me from now on is, and has been for years, is how not to hustle. How to behave ethically. I mean, it’s very easy for me to take advantage of people. And I have to work hard not to do it. One of the things that you do when you don’t have an education, If you’re relatively bright is you mask.
You show your strong hand, and I’m pretty good at that. I only know how to do a few things, and that’s what I show. I was born playing piano. I started to play piano at three, and I could play from the moment I sat down. I have a very bifurcated childhood. My father was a graduate of Harvard Law School. And my mother comes from a show business family. As far back as we can trace. My maternal grandfather was a really, really great orchestra leader, great piano player. And since it was a family profession, it was understood that that’s what I would do. To make money playing piano.
You know, I was impatient. I really wanted to start my adult life, so that’s what I did. I left home when I was 12. Dropped outta school very early, for a 12 year old to be living on the streets now means something a lot different from what a 12 year old living on the streets in 1964 or 1965 would’ve meant. I lived in Boston, a particularly sophisticated and cultured town. And really not a dangerous town. But living on the streets made me learn fast. It made me aware of opportunity. So, for example, I found that I could get. Unbelievably high SAT scores.
Now, I wasn’t going to school myself, so those scores wouldn’t do me any good. Except I realized that there was a real premium on being able to get great SAT scores. SAT’s, I don’t know if this is still the case where they were divided into two categories, English and math. Perfect score was 800 in each. And my ongoing guarantee was that nobody would get less than 750 for either one. Nobody would get less than 1500. And I’d get paid 500 bucks, which when I was 13 or 14 was a lot of money. So I did that a lot.
I got started performing in public in general by walking in off the streets to various hotels and various clubs and just sitting down and playing, and I could play. So I started out being the intermission pianist. And those were great gigs for a kid because you got to be an adult. I would have to wear a suit and tie and show up on time and the money was good. Boston had a lot of mob clubs. They were terrible jobs, great learning experience because they were exhausting. And the audiences were unbelievably demanding and you had to play a wide range of stuff. But some of these clubs were very, very tough clubs.
The ones where the IRA kept guns. Whitey Bulger had something to do with some of them. There was a club in Lawrence, Massachusetts called the English Social Room. I love that name, right. The English– you expect the little pinky to be up. And it was a whore house in the mob, owned it, and it was a club where there were no rules. The cops were all bought off. You could do anything you wanted there. Back then musicians worked with strippers, they would use live musicians. And I wound up working with a famous stripper at the end of her life named Sherry Champagne.
Whose whole thing when she was on stage was to try and get me to stop playing the piano. And I would say to her, I don’t care what you do, I don’t care what you do. I’m not gonna stop playing the piano. I mean, I’m not gonna freak out. And she would put my head between her legs and, fine. Anyway one day at the English social room. A guy went into the men’s room, blew his brains out. Blood everywhere, all over the walls, every place. We had a 20 minute break and we started our next set on time. So I did that for a long time. I did it from the time I was 14 until I stopped playing in public when I was 27. I started watching boxing when I was a kid. I’m 62 now, and I caught the very tail end of a really golden age of boxing.
So I got to see extraordinarily good fighters on TV all the time. The first time I walked into a boxing ring, the thing that struck me more than anything was that. It was in color. That when they bled it was actually a color and there was a lot more of it than appeared on television. And what I found was that I could read boxing in this very, very sophisticated way. There was something about the combination of preparing really well and then being able to improvise under circumstances where nobody really would improvise that I just found admirable.
So as I got a little bit older, that led me into spending a lot of time in the gyms and betting on boxing, which I did well. From there, I wound up getting involved with people who wanted to bet on boxing. I got involved with the Mafia in boxing because I was in Gleason’s gym in New York every week. And both the Russian and italian mobs would see me working. So they would just ask for advice and eventually that expanded. They said, well, can you, can you come with us? Can you be with us? And I said, yeah, sure. I was pretty optimistic about it. I mean, they had capital.
The first time I made a big bet, and collected enough money for it to be a kind of transformative experience. I thought I might be able to do this for a little while and have so much money that nobody knows about, and then live exactly the way I wanna live for the rest of my life. There’s a kind of feeling that nothing can possibly stop you. You’re flying into Vegas, or you’re flying into Atlantic City and you’re in a plane that you’ve essentially taken over. Bringing in hold cards of fighters who were all undefeated. Who as a group, all win in the first and second rounds. These are young guys who are on the way up.
That feeling is incomparable. It’s like this ride is gonna go smoothly and everything that we set up is gonna work. And then I wound up getting involved with fighters. Around 1991 I became friendly with a guy named Mitch Bloodgreen, Mitch Bloodgreen. If you ever saw him, you’d never forget him. He’s 6 foot 6, about 250 pounds now. When he was fighting, he was about 225. Jheri curls way past his shoulders, a toothpick in his mouth all the time. He’d been the leader of a street gang in New York. He’s called the king of Rikers Island cuz he loves going to prison, where he’s a celebrity.
AUDIO CLIP: He has been arrested for illegal drugs, robbing a gas station, refusing to pay bridge tolls and has.
CHARLES FARRELL: He was five time New York State Golden Gloves heavyweight champ. Incredibly talented fighter. Tall rangey, fast hands, never off his feet. I mean, he fought Mike Tyson without training for him. When Mike Tyson was still Mike Tyson and went 10 rounds without even being close to off his feet. And he got into a very high profile street fight with Mike Tyson that he initiated.
AUDIO CLIP: Who threw the first punch here. He did. He sucker punched me.
CHARLES FARRELL: Two different stories about who won that fight.
AUDIO CLIP: And I charged at him and he ran for me like a little sissy. He ran from me, and by that time, he’s.
CHARLES FARRELL: Depends on who you ask. Mike Tyson said I was scared to death of him. He said, he’s a big man.
AUDIO CLIP: Are you going to file criminal charges against Mike Tyson? No, a situation like this. I don’t went for him. But why do that? Don’t say don’t get mad yet, even, you know.
CHARLES FARRELL: So, I managed him. He was the first guy I officially managed. Mitch Bloodgreen was a good fighter, but he was an incredible fuck up. The first thing that happened to him when I managed him is he got shot. Somebody challenged him on the Tyson thing. And Mitch, who’s a big guy, slapped this guy and the guy ran back into his house and got a gun and shot Mitch once in the Achilles tendon and once right behind the knee. So that put him on the shelf, but I was still his manager and I still had plans for him. And it was something we knew he’d recover from.
So I’m spending a lot of money on Mitch Green. And I bet Don King’s Director of boxing, a guy named Al Braverman, who is my closest friend in boxing, and a guy who literally saved my life once. That I would get Mitch Green back into the ring. Finally, he’s ready to come back and I put him in against the guy who was a career loser. They’re guys who know how to fight really tough guys without getting hurt. And their fights aren’t exactly fixed, per se.
It’s implied and they infer that they’re gonna lose a fight. That’s how they make a living. And so what they wind up doing is they go a couple of rounds and then they bow out. And they’re able to do it over and over again cuz they don’t take a beating. But in the case of the guy who I brought in for Mitch Green. I didn’t tell him to fall down. Mitch Green went out and he just stood there with his hands at his side looking at who knows where, thinking who knows what.
Didn’t throw one punch. So the referee stopped the fight and Mitch Green lost on a T K O. I won Sucker of the Year award from one of the– I think it was Boxing Illustrated or Ring Magazine for managing him. And the most money I ever made on a Mitch Green fight was the fight when he got into the ring where I won my bet with Al Braverman. Anyway, I did get him back in the ring.
So that’s the first time I went to the trouble of actually getting a license. And from there, that’s what I did for a living for about a decade or so. If you’re managing fighters, the meter’s running, you’re gonna be spending a lot of money. And anything that goes wrong, you’re still gonna be spending the money. But it derails any income capacity. So, you start to think in terms of shortcuts. You think, okay, well I could move a fighter to a title shot by having him fight 10 or 15 tough guys and work his way up the ladder during which any kind of thing might derail him.
And he’s certainly gonna get hurt and he’s gonna hurt other people. And there are all kinds of things that can go wrong. Or I can take matters into my own hands. There are a lot of different ways to do it. So here’s the most common way, you speak in code. You go into a gym where there’s a trainer or a manager you know pretty well. It’s gotta be somebody you know. You say, I’ve got my fighter here and I’m looking to get him some work. You say it, he could use a few good rounds. Okay, so now we’re talking about a fight that we know your guy is going to win and we know it’s gonna be my knockout.
The guy on the other side will traditionally say something like, I have this other guy. He’s a good fighter, which means he can make it look good. But he’s not in shape. He’s only good for three rounds, two rounds, four rounds. Okay, so we have the winner of the fight. We know that it’s a knockout. We know essentially how long the fight is gonna go. If you need to fine tune from there. You can say, you know, I’m not sure if I want my guy to go four. In which case he can either say, well, I, you know, I said four, but my guy can’t really go four or I’ve got this other guy who really hasn’t been in the gym at all. And you’ve just fixed the fight.
AUDIO CLIP: Charles, they got me a fight. Atlantic City, Taj Mahal, main event, one thousand dollars.
CHARLES FARRELL: The majority of fights are real. And the majority of decisions and knockouts are legitimate. But there’s this machinery at play at every level of boxing.
AUDIO CLIP: Bitch, man, need help man, get me a fight.
CHARLES FARRELL: The machinery has to do with figuring out how to move a fighter into money. Now money can mean anything. It mean to a title, it can mean to losing a title. It can mean to contention. There was a whole code of behavior structured around being able to do that. Fight, fixing in various forms.
AUDIO CLIP: Yo Charles, it’s Blood. I need that fight.
CHARLES FARRELL: Rather than that disappointing me, I found boxing immediately much, much more interesting. Because it worked in conjunction with what I already knew about the world.
AUDIO CLIP: Today there’s many honest people out there. That’s why we’re having problems getting across of these people. They’re all fucking liars.
CHARLES FARRELL: There’s an argument for fight fixing, being bad. I mean, people are paying to see a legitimate contest and they’re not seeing one, so they’re being cheated. You can certainly make a case for that being bad. I have no problem with that. I think I can make an ethical case for fixing fights. And again, I’m not going to say that my reason for fixing fights was purely altruistic or that you know, that I’m an angel, neither is true. But professional boxers fight for money. There’s some pride involved, there’s some ego involved sometimes.
But they’re trying to earn a living and they’re trying to earn a living with very, very few other options. The majority of guys who get to the pros have one or two fights, they get knocked silly, and they’re out of it. But if you’re talking about fighters who have a dozen or more fights, the prognosis is lousy. Bad things are gonna happen to them. That’s the truth. They’re gonna get beat up, they’re gonna wind up with no money, and they’re going to have irreparable brain damage. That’s gonna happen almost all the time. Boxing doesn’t hurt. You’re not feeling the things that are happening to you while they’re happening.
So fighters almost inevitably wind up neurologically damaged. It just happens, and it doesn’t matter how good they were. I cannot see an argument to be made for not fixing fights on their behalf. That their lives are mostly post boxing. There’s the small picture and then there’s the big picture. And as much as I love boxing, as boxing. And I really do love boxing, as boxing. I was drawn to it for what it is. The more you know about it, the more valid the argument becomes.
And I think more than anything, this is probably the most important single thing, if you’re in business, you’re in business for the long haul in boxing. Which means that your behavior, in a strange way, has gotta be admirable. Because if you don’t do the things that you say you’re gonna do, you’re out of business, and sometimes worse. As that sunk in, my priorities changed. My first priority became protecting the health of the fighter.
To the extent that I could do it, which is not a great extent. It’s what can be done. And then my second priority was getting them paid.
PRODUCER: But is there any sense of guilt from your side of the things. Because there’s this hierarchy and they’re obviously at the bottom and you know, they’re disposable. Do you ever feel for the kid, do you let ’em know?
CHARLES FARRELL: It’s a great question. No, it’s a great question. Well, that’s, it’s sort of like asking, well, should they ban boxing? That’s not my business. And it’s not my business to tell an adult what he or she nowadays can do it. There’s this kind of cultural hierarchy, that we as informed, often white guys, can know best what disenfranchised people should and shouldn’t do. I’m not comfortable with making that decision for anybody, and no, I can’t do it.
The do-gooders, the altruists, the crusaders are almost inevitably white guys of wealth and power. And it’s a kind of paternalism that I find incredibly offensive. And it comes from people who don’t really even know what they’re talking about. What happens to a fighter if he is slated into lose, and sometime during the course of the fight or even before the fight decides that he’s not gonna go along with the script. Depending on who’s involved, who fixed the fights, the consequences of the fights, the stakes involved in the fights.
The penalties for not doing what you’re told can run anywhere from not being paid, not being paid and having a very, very tough time finding any work at all. To getting badly hurt, to getting killed. I had a fight that I bought that was a fixed fight, and the matchmaker tried to double cross me by taking all of the money and coming up with a guy who couldn’t fight. Which is not the same thing at all. I found out about it while the Star Spangled Banner was playing.
And I went into the place where they were getting ready to do the announcements and I said, you gotta hold up. I gotta take care of something. I went into the other guy’s dressing room. Who’s telling me to stop the fight. And I said, I am. He didn’t know that the fight was supposed to be fixed. And I took him outside to the parking lot with his manager. And I said, I want you to watch me. This is what’s going to happen. You better do exactly what I tell you.
And there were consequences to his not doing it, which we won’t talk about. And he put his hands up and I’m no fighter. I was in good shape at the time, but I’m no fighter. And I said, put your hands up. And he put his hands up. And I hit him as hard as I could. And I said to his manager, now you watch me. And I hit him again and I hit him a third time, which bloodied his lip. And I said, when my guy does that to your guy, and he’s gonna do it a lot harder, the towel comes flying in. And it was the fastest knockout in the history of that state, and people loved it. I’ve had fighters who didn’t want to take dives. That’s fine. Don’t have to. The Tyson fight was a real fight.
AUDIO CLIP: Hi, I’m Mike Tyson, watch me beat Peter McNeely on TCI Cable Vision.
CHARLES FARRELL: Yeah, we’re talking about Mike Tyson, Peter McNeely fight.
AUDIO CLIP: For Tyson this is the first step on the road back to prominence. For McNeely this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
CHARLES FARRELL: The Tyson fight was not a fixed fight. Neither fighter was aware of anything going on.
AUDIO CLIP: Tyson versus McNeely our main event is next. We are moments away from the much anticipated return of the former undisputed heavyweight champion.
CHARLES FARRELL: Tyson has been in jail for three years. Prior to going to jail he’s already dissipated terribly as a fighter. He’s nowhere close to the fighter he had been. Regardless of what– how he’s being promoted. He’s self-destructing. Putting him on ice makes him much much more desirable to the public. So, Tyson, when he comes out is the biggest deal in sports history. Everyone wants to see this guy. But you can’t put him in with anybody who can really fight. So they figure Tyson doesn’t have to fight for the title in his first fight. They’ll pay to see him against anybody. So we’re gonna put him in against Peter Mcneeley. Who can’t fight even a little bit, but who’s got a good record.
AUDIO CLIP: You’ve reached Hurricanes. Hotline. Home of Hurricane Peter Mcneeley. And yes, we are going to fight Mike Tyson, August 19th, 1995. Please leave a message, a phone number, and I’ll try to get back to you later.
CHARLES FARRELL: It was the biggest fight in history because of Tyson. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other half of the equation.
AUDIO CLIP: Thank you, Jim. It is difficult to remember when a non-title fight caused this much of a stir in an arena. We may be about to witness one of the greatest mismatches since 1961.
CHARLES FARRELL: I’m the one who actually brought McNeely to Don King through Al Braverman. I flew him in to make that fight.
AUDIO CLIP: Don’t discriminated against the white guy. Give him a chance too.
CHARLES FARRELL: Peter McNeely is an interesting kid. He’s local to Boston.
AUDIO CLIP: Keep laughing. Keep laughing.
CHARLES FARRELL: Comes from ,Medfield.
AUDIO CLIP: Yo. Real funny, huh?
CHARLES FARRELL: Very game.
AUDIO CLIP: If you go– if any one of you.
CHARLES FARRELL: Rugged kid.
AUDIO CLIP: Doesn’t respect me.
CHARLES FARRELL: Who would fight anybody?
AUDIO CLIP: Or what I’m doing what I’ve been doing for the last three months since someone’s been announced.
CHARLES FARRELL: All kinds of courage.
AUDIO CLIP: Going against a guy like this. You have a big dump in your pants. But let’s talk about his manager trainer, Vinny Vecchione.
CHARLES FARRELL: Vin Vin Vecchione was a consummate boxing professional. He really understood the ins and outs of the boxing in a very sophisticated way. He learned that from my friend Al Braverman, who was a great, great fight fixer. And Vecchione constructed a career because he didn’t have money, so he had to manufacture a way to maneuver this game, but limited fighter. And he did that by astute matchmaking and fixing and making connections, political connections, whatever it took.
AUDIO CLIP: Vinny had second mortgaged his house in order to support Peter’s career and it was finally paying off. And Peter, who averaged just around $40 for his previous fights, was about to get his first pay day. Tyson is getting a reported 25 million. If he wins. So what?
CHARLES FARRELL: I have no idea how much money that fight generated. But I know that there was a million dollar bet, and I know that that was not an even money bet. So somebody made 10 million or more on it.
AUDIO CLIP: Mike Tyson is now a 15 to one favorite. Many are simply wondering how long. How long will it take for Tyson to end it tonight given the opposition? Vinny Vecchione, with last minute of instructions for McNeely. Let’s get it on! Here we go. And Mcneeley, as advertised, comes right at Mike Tyson. Down goes McNeely.
CHARLES FARRELL: The bet I know about. I was down in Puerto Rico and I got a phone call from somebody who I vaguely knew. But I didn’t . Well. Who said I just thought you should know somebody just made a million dollar bet that this fight doesn’t go out of the first round. I thought you should know about it. And that was it. It turns out it was not a first round, bet it was the 90 second bet.
AUDIO CLIP: Now Vinnie Vecchione’s in the ring as well. The corner, that’s Vinnie Vecchione, his manager. What’s going on here. Said that was it. The fight isn’t over, surely.
CHARLES FARRELL: Vin Vecchione stepped between the ropes at 89 seconds to force a disqualification.
AUDIO CLIP: That is black and white in our rule book. They pulled him out. The corner jumped in and stopped the fight.
CHARLES FARRELL: Now, that’s been seen a lot of different ways.
AUDIO CLIP: And the cornerman come in and called it all off. Well, that really was played weird. I mean, McNeely was in trouble, but he certainly didn’t look as if that was the end of the argument, did he? Peter, first of all, were you ready to continue and did you want to stop? Ah, I was definitely ready to continue, as you saw. Are you aggravated with Vinny for stopping? No. I don’t know. I love this guy. Why’d you stop it? Why’d you do it? I just thought that this young fighter is 26 years old. He’s got a long way to go. Yeah. Can’t cry. Now it’s over. Yeah, it’s, it, it’s, it’s done. We can’t go back in there and do it all again. It’s done.
CHARLES FARRELL: I’m going to say that all I have for Vin Vecchione for having done that is admiration. The kind of nerve it takes to do something like that to me is just incredibly impressive. And I wound up getting paid really well for that fight by Vecchione. So, think about it, here’s an event that generated more income than any other event in the history of sports. I mean, and it’s not just for the event itself, it’s all the ancillary money that it brought in from gambling, from hotel revenue. You’re talking about something that generated an astonishing amount of money. And allowed there to be more money down the line.
AUDIO CLIP: I trained my boy McNeilly to go toe to toe with the champ, and he did for 89 seconds. He didn’t back down from any combinations thrown at him and he ain’t backing down from this one. The new one two combination cheese and pepperoni stuffed crust pizza. Hey, Mcneley, how many slices am I holding?
CHARLES FARRELL: If you officially call that result into question, you’re calling the motor that moves boxing into question. And you’re closing down your major revenue source to make a philosophical point. Well, you know, fuck that.
PRODUCER: Why did you have to get out of boxing?
CHARLES FARRELL: I can’t talk about that
AUDIO CLIP: Charles, listen, I’ve been having a little problem.
CHARLES FARRELL: What I’ll say is that I was doing business with some very, very bad people and some bad things happened.
AUDIO CLIP: If I don’t hear from you in two weeks, we’ll have to resolve this in a different way.
CHARLES FARRELL: There are people I don’t wanna get angry at me and their statute of limitations, considerations.
AUDIO CLIP: I really hope that we can resolve this the right way.
PRODUCER: Did you feel like you were in danger?
CHARLES FARRELL: I know, know for a fact, I was.
PRODUCER: So you just cut ties or was it a clean break?
CHARLES FARRELL: What can I talk? I could talk about a little of it. I could talk about a little of it. I can’t talk about much of it. As I said, some bad things happened and.
AUDIO CLIP: I know you’re in Puerto Rico. Chris told me.
CHARLES FARRELL: There were people who were looking for me. Guys who could do– could certainly do things. I got out of it because the guy who was hired to kill me liked me and he said, you better take care of this.
AUDIO CLIP: I really don’t wanna go into this further.
CHARLES FARRELL: What he said is, look, I don’t want to do it, but you know, if they send me, I’m going to. I mean, if I have to take a trip to Puerto Rico and we have to discuss this. That’s entirely up to you..
PRODUCER: And so what happened next?
CHARLES FARRELL: Once again, Al Braverman, Don King’s Director of Boxing, was a very, very good friend, brokered a deal where we met. I flew in from Puerto Rico and he brokered a deal where we sat down and he said, look, Don King can do a lot for your guy, and we’re willing to. But this bullshit stops here and now. And nobody looks for anybody anymore, and that’s the end of it. If that doesn’t happen, your kid won’t fight anywhere in the world. And if he does fight anywhere in the world, I promise you you’ll wish that he hadn’t. It’s up to you guys.
That was that? I never stopped playing music ever, even during all this stuff. There’s not much interest in my playing, although it’s really what I do best. I mean, I think I’m the best improvising piano player in the world. That’s the fight thing. I’m competing, I’m the champion, but what I do is difficult and there’s no market for it. I couldn’t do everything I needed to do in music just by playing music. And I had reached the point where I couldn’t play what I needed to play just using musical language exclusively. And I thought there was a– there’s gotta be a way that people can accept a hybrid.
That’s not music, that’s not text, it’s not spoken word’s, some other thing. And I thought, all right, well I’ve got all these answering machine messages. They’re all real, they’re all from real people. And they’re from everybody, from gangsters to champions, to managers, to promoters. And partially I kept ’em for reasons of self preservation.
I thought maybe I can do this piece that articulates what the boxing business is like. The project called Hope Springs Eternal. They’re very, very radical remixes. Done in the studio. There’s one that’s entirely about fight fixing. One has to do with the way the boxing business is structured between fighters and managers and promoters. It’s a kind of hierarchacal meditation. One has to do with a former world champion named Freddie Norwood. And these seemingly neurological problems that he might or might not have had?
AUDIO CLIP: Yes. Hello, Mr. Farrell. This is Tarsha Robinson Frederick’s fiance.
CHARLES FARRELL: And one is a death threat.
AUDIO CLIP: I mean, if I have to take a trip to Puerto Rico and we can discuss this, that’s entirely up to you.
CHARLES FARRELL: I’ve been a hustler a lot in my life, a lot. And it’s only maybe in the last decade that I work with all of my resources not to see weakness. And not to take advantage of it. Very difficult.
PRODUCER: But Why is it hard?
CHARLES FARRELL: Because I see it so easily. It’s like, it’s like.
PRODUCER: But you seeing it is one thing, but acting on it’s another. why does it bother you to act on it now as it did back then?
CHARLES FARRELL: I’m not sure I can tell you why. I’m not sure if I know. I saw some mysterious things. I don’t know. It’s not voodoo or anything, it’s not mumbo jumbo. But I was living out in the mountains. I was living in Puerto Rico, rural Puerto Rico.
AUDIO CLIP: I know you’re in Puerto Rico.
CHARLES FARRELL: The mob guys were looking for me. That’s where I wound up.
AUDIO CLIP: I know where you are or what’s going on. I dunno if you left the country or what’s going on.
CHARLES FARRELL: I had a bunch of dogs. Five wild dogs and I had five dogs that I brought in from the states. These are animals I love very, very dearly. And the dogs who brought in from the states contracted some kind of virus that the wild dogs were somehow immune to. And a couple of them died horribly. One night, suddenly there was a pool of blood and one of ’em we rushed to the hospital. And he didn’t make it, horrible night.
Terrible thing, still one of the things that bothers me most in the world. And the vet said to me, I wanna show you something. And he took me outside. And there was a farm van where transporting animals. And he opened up the van. And in the van there was a two-headed calf. An adolescent who was alive and well. And the calf looked at me two heads, and it radiated this vitality. It was as if it was talking, it might as well have been talking. I wanna live, I wanna live, that’s it.
And I understood the vitality in things in a way that I never had before. There’s this really, really profound force. I mean, I’m, it is got nothing religion, I mean, there’s nothing like that. It’s a sort of life force. And I just– I thought maybe there are things I do that I don’t want to do anymore. I don’t wanna make too big a deal about any of this. And this is slow incoming. This took me a long time, and it didn’t happen overnight. But I thought, okay, in a way, we’re all animals. We’re all vulnerable in ways that I sort of didn’t wanna acknowledge before.
I mean, nobody thinks of themselves as a bad person. Nobody– people really are just trying to live their lives as much as possible. So I decided if I could live with more equanimity, that’s what I would do. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And it’s partially seeing people as more like animals. It’s not a good answer. There’s no sort of logical, okay, well you’d been a bad guy and then you saw this thing and now you’re gonna be a good guy. That didn’t happen. I love boxing.
There’s no question I love boxing. But I don’t like to use terms like immoral, I don’t think boxing’s immoral, it’s amoral. But many, many more bad things happen in boxing than good things. And very few boxers get out of boxing okay. And although I tried my best to look out for my fighters, and I tried to be as ethical an agent for boxing as I could. In a sense, it can’t be done. If you’re involved in it in an active way, as part of your profession, you are going to cause damage to people’s lives, it’s inevitable. I think at one point you just decide you’re in or you’re out.
And if you’re out, you’re out. And if you’re in, you’re in without trying to con yourself into believing that you’re party to something that’s morally defensible. And I don’t try to do that anymore. A lot of what I did when I was younger, certainly in terms of victimization, I was able to construct a narrative that allowed me to rationalize what I was doing. I’ve got nothing, they’ve got everything. I’ve had a tough life, I’m angry. I have a right to be angry.
And, those are convenient and they work,. But they’re not true, they’re not true. I used having a lack of options as a kind of justification for doing whatever I felt like doing. I’ve got all kinds of options. And the thing is, I always did have all kinds of options. In the long run, it’s healthier to try and see things from every perspective than just from your own. The difference is if you’re a con artist, you see all the angles and you’re only concerned with one. Life is a lot better. That’s justification right there. I mean, I’m not an angel.
PRODUCER: When was the last time you took advantage of someone?
CHARLES FARRELL: Well, I mean, look, in a sense I’m– Okay, I mean, I just did another radio show where I said a bunch of things that I– words that were put in my mouth. Certain ones I didn’t want to be, but certain ones I thought, I sort of weighed them and thought, okay, I can live with this. I can live with that. Those are all business decisions for my own advantage. I am certainly gonna do it again. I’m about to deal– I’m dealing with people in television, but that’s what it is.
PRODUCER: I have to say, I feel really comfortable talking with you right now, but it makes me wonder, how are you leading me astray?
CHARLES FARRELL: You know, it’s a great– look I have a friend who’s a great, great writer and he came to hear one of my concerts. And he wrote a an article about it afterwards. And he said I was really impressed and moved and then thought, am I getting hustled? Cause I know Charles and I know that’s what he did. And this is in regard to my piano playing. It’s a very obstruse language. So he thinks, oh, maybe it’s just double talk. Maybe it’s just nonsense.
He went and talked to two experts. And of course the experts he talked to were imbeciles. But they both said, no, no, no he’s real, he’s real. He’s a great player and that was enough apparently to placate him. But he went to idiots. Talk to my colleagues, and see what they have to say. But also just use your ears. So I don’t know. I mean, am I hustling you? I’m gonna say no. But isn’t that what a hustler would say?