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Doug Clark: Spokane mayor’s race not worth price of admission to Hillyard Hammer

He coulda been a contender.

Chauncy Welliver, I mean.

A couple days before the filing deadline for Spokane mayor, Welliver, former heavyweight champ of New Zealand or Newcastle, (aka the Hillyard Hammer) called to talk about actually going after the mayor’s job.

“If Manny Pacquiao can run a country,” mused Welliver, “how can I not run Spokane?”

All right, I thought. I’m a kingmaker.

This all started in an earlier column. I put Welliver’s name at the top of a Dream Team of possible candidates who would give Mayor David Condon at least an entertaining run.

No offense to Shar Lichty, who really is running.

But come on.

Who we kidding here?

Anyway, the point is that there’s a real danger of Condon being re-elected. Nothing personal, Dave, but that outcome would end one of Spokane’s finest tourist attractions:

The Curse of the One-Term Mayor.

In a quirk of kismet worthy of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Lilac City hasn’t had a multi-term mayor since Custer lost his locks at the Little Big Horn.

Welliver, I thought, could keep tradition alive.

Plus, I really like the idea of a professional prizefighter with 150-some pro and amateur bouts taking over. Think of the savings in negotiations with the unions.

UNION BOSS – “We either get a 12-percent wage increase or we strike.”

MAYOR HAMMER – “Or how ’bout I strike first? THWAPP!!”

UNION BOSS – “Pleeth don’t cut our dental plan.”

Before I could get too excited, however, Welliver spoiled everything by asking what he had to do to file for mayor.

“Well, um, there is the matter of a $1,700 filing fee,” I confessed.

(That’s 1-percent of a mayor’s annual pay, not counting graft, of course.)

“$1,700?” quipped Welliver. “I could be mayor of Hillyard for $17.”

So much for electioneering.

But then Welliver told me about something even more exciting, his “Rumble at the River.”

No kidding. On June 13 at Riverfront Park, Welliver is hosting an open-air boxing event that will feature 18 sanctioned amateur bouts.

And get this: Admission is free.

Welliver, who runs BoxFit, a North Division training center for pugilists of all ages, said he’s covering the $4,000 cost to put on the event.

No wonder the guy didn’t want to file.

“This is my dream,” said Welliver. “This will be my Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and 40 birthdays all rolled into one.”

An interesting thing to say considering Welliver is 32.

Hyperbole aside, the main event should be a Pier 6 brawl.

Spokane’s Pat Ferguson, who recently defied expectations and won the USA Boxing national heavyweight championship, will take on Tacoma’s Matt Mollet, the National Golden Gloves heavyweight champ.

East Side vs. West Side.

Who wouldn’t want to watch that turf war?

“We’ll have two of the best fighters in the world,” bragged Welliver.

Not to toss any cold liquids on all this heated enthusiasm, but boxing is in a bit of a bloody nosedive. And I say that as one of the suckers who wasted 100-plus bucks on the pay-per-view stinkeroo that was Floyd Mayweather vs. the aforementioned Pac-Man.

There’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back.

“It was like expecting to see fireworks and getting a dud,” conceded Welliver.

One of the reasons he’s putting on this Rumble at the River, he added, is to help restore the bruised face of boxing.

I love that idea. I grew up watching all those weekly Gillette-sponsored fights on our black-and-white TV with my Old Man.

Dick Tiger. Gene Fullmer. Carmen Basilio …

Those were the days.

But are 18 free quality amateur bouts enough to woo the public down to the park (near City Hall) on a June Saturday?

If not, I propose a few undercard bouts that would definitely attract a mob. I’m talking about …

BOUT 1. Todd Mielke vs. Richard L. Davis, the two finalists vying for the fat Spokane County CEO position.

There’s no way that County Commissioner Mielke could land this job without anyone with an IQ over fungus thinking the fix was in.

Mielke’s GOP commission pals are doing the hiring, for crying out loud.

A three-round boxing match is the only fair way to settle this.

BOUT 2. Ozzie Knezovich vs. Frank Straub.

Who wouldn’t want to see the county’s two top lawmen duke it out in a ring?

Sheriff Ozzie didn’t think Straub was the best choice for Spokane police chief. There’s gotta be some bad blood simmering.

Tasers, brass knuckles and nightsticks permitted.

BOUT 3. Mayor Condon vs. …??

Just like the mayor’s race, it’s not easy finding a quality opponent to take on Condon in a boxing ring.

It wouldn’t be fair putting Lichty in there. She’s a Peace & Justice Action League organizer, a pacifist who probably doesn’t believe in fisticuffs.

No. We need a tough customer. We need someone with something to prove, someone with an ax to grind, someone who wants to knock Condon into the middle of next week and then step on his throat.

Wait. I know just the fighter with a grudge for this match.

Welcome to the Rumble at the River – Maarrryy Verrrrner!!

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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