Tougher than a boardinghouse flank steak, Rick Welliver was never known for his defensive skills in the ring.
The Hillyard-raised brawler’s 19 professional bouts were noted more for Welliver’s willingness to take three shots just to launch one of his own bombs.
But never was the former prizefighter ever sucker-punched like he was last Sunday afternoon.
Welliver, 31, became a first-time homeowner, thanks to an elaborate conspiracy that included friends, a professional film crew and Troy McClain, the former Spokane resident who found fame through his appearance on the first season of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”
Lured to a tidy two-story house on the South Hill, Welliver thought he was there as part of a documentary television show about McClain. Welliver used to work for the celebrity entrepreneur back when McClain ran a small gym on North Division and was just another nobody.
In fact, the show was really all about Welliver.
Walking through the front door of the freshly painted gray and maroon home on West 10th, Welliver found himself staring in disbelief at the familiar faces assembled in the front room. There was his best friend, Ereka Evenson, his professional boxing brothers, Dewey and Chauncy, his…
“Hey, that’s my mom!” gasped the stunned Welliver.
As the cameras rolled, McClain delivered the punch line:
“This is your new home. We’re giving you the American Dream.”
After that, Welliver behaved as if he’d just KOed Tyson. He hollered. He screamed. He fell on the floor.
He put McClain in a headlock and threw him on the couch…
“Dude. I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to walk up and tell me I got punked,” says Welliver.
If this latest entry in the reality TV genre ever gets aired it should be great fun to watch.
The film crew spent two days shadowing the colorful, outspoken fighter. Some of the footage was shot without Welliver’s knowledge via hidden cameras and unseen microphones. Friends involved in the ruse sneaked into Welliver’s apartment and transported his belongings to the new digs.
“It’s very sort of George Orwell,” he adds.
The show is called “Home Team.” McClain is the host. Negotiations are under way with a cable channel to get the series broadcast sometime next year.
The premise is to take deserving people who lack the means to buy a home and get them into home ownership. Welliver says the show supplied the down payment and a year’s worth of mortgage payments.
So why Welliver?
Welliver has been working hard to open a boxing center for kids.
He set up a boxing ring and training area in a rented storefront at Sprague and Magnolia. He works as a bouncer in a downtown bar and has been saving money by sleeping in a modest room above his gym.
But that’s just part of the tale.
What got him onto the show and into a house was his friendship with Bill Kalivas. The vice president of business development for INTEC, an enterprise that promotes area growth, has been advising and helping Welliver in his quest to qualify his boxing program for nonprofit status.
Kalivas is also a longtime friend of McClain’s.
So when McClain told him about the show a little mental light switched on.
Kalivas told McClain that Welliver, his former employee, would be a perfect target for the “Home Team” cameras. McClain agreed.
Making the scheme work took months of planning.
“We pulled a Jedi mind trick on him,” says Kalivas. “We had him totally fooled.”
Now moved into his new home, Welliver is having a bit of difficulty adjusting to the change.
“I haven’t slept up here yet,” he says during a tour of the second floor. “But this is my bedroom.”
He’s been sleeping in front of the TV on the living room sofa.
“I’m struggling with the fact that I don’t deserve this,” he says. “I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not grateful. But I don’t deserve this.”
Hearing about Welliver’s unease the other day, McClain told Kalivas to give his friend the following message:
“Tell him we’re gonna make you prove it to yourself that you’re worth it.”
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