Once on the ropes, boxing promoter Damon Feldman keeps jabbing
BY LAUREN McCUTCHEON
Philadelphia Daily News
SATURDAY's D-list celebrity bout between Lenny Dykstra and Jose Canseco (and Octomom vs. Amy Fisher, Tareq "Real Housewives of D.C." Salahi vs. Kato Kaelin, and more) isn't just a comeback for the former MLB stars, porn stars, dubiously famous reality-TV personalities, loveable criminals and such. It's also a comeback for the event's Broomall-born promoter, Damon Feldman.
Feldman, 42, is the former local middleweight boxer once known as "The Jewish Bomber." At age 13, his second-round knockout earned him the Philadelphia Junior Olympic Boxing title and a tout in Sports Illustrated. At 19, he went pro, going 9-0, with four knockouts. Back then, he seemed destined to follow the path of his father, Marty, a successful middleweight turned trainer.
But soon the career of Feldman the younger veered off in a very different direction. In 1992, he slipped outside a supermarket, injured his back and quit boxing. He turned to odd jobs, even attempted a full-time gig, but, as he told us yesterday, "There was no way I could work a 9 to 5." So, he began to promote fights - a unique kind of fights.
Feldman put Q102's Diego (Ramos) in the ring with weatherdude John Bolaris. He got Danny Bonaduce to fight comedian Bob Levy. He pitted Tonya Harding against a waitress, had Rodney King face a retired police officer, and got Michael Lohan to box pretty much anyone who'd don absurdly large and colorful gloves and take a swing.
To these sad spectacles, he added little people, women in bikinis and, not to rub it in his not-so-famous fighters' faces or anything, the occasional celebrity impersonator. He held these events in area nightclubs, hotels, skating rinks, pretty much wherever. He called his enterprise the Celebrity Boxing Federation, and found himself being featured on WIP and Howard Stern, and in tabloids worldwide.
No doubt he was Philly's go-to-guy for every desperate wannabe celeb with a grudge. But it wasn't long before his own celebrity caused him trouble.
In April 2010, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office charged Feldman with six counts of staging Philadelphia-area events without a valid promoter's license, and with fixing six bouts between September 2008 and December 2009.
Last year, Feldman admitted to the People's Paper that 95 percent of his matches were fixed. He insisted that his events were "entertainment," not real boxing matches. A month later, he sent a suicidal email to friends and found himself hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation. "I went through a lot of depression," he said yesterday.
But, in true Feldman style, he soon snapped out of it enough to stage more of his signature showcases in New Jersey, Massachusetts and California. In March, he pleaded no contest to the charges against him and was sentenced to two years' probation and a $7,500 fine/restitution. His judge in Delaware County also banned him from promoting his bouts in Pennsylvania for the next two years.
Since then, he's had to borrow money from his dad to pay his bills, including child support. But he's managed to collaborate with good bud Michael Lohan on a - shocker! - reality-TV project they call "The Lohan Project." And, he's taken his career to L.A., where low-level celebs are a dime a dozen (OK, maybe 10 for a dollar). There, he found a new backer in Alki David, founder and CEO of FilmOn Network, a Beverly Hills-based online-TV portal that'll show the fights this Saturday.
What does this beaten-down Broomall dude expect will come from his latest smackdown? "I'm just making a big comeback from last year," he said. "I lost everything in my life. They tried to accuse me of doing all these fake fights. I'm trying to make a comeback now." And maybe something even more than that.
"It's an interesting card, a battle of train wrecks. Maybe I can get a TV deal out of it."