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NFL Player turns to Boxing


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Tom Zbikowski is blazing a path to the ring that other NFL players are now following.


Minnesota Vikings DE Ray Edwards became the latest footballer to sign up for a pro boxing gig on Tuesday. Edwards, 26. agreed to a two-fight stint with his debut coming on May 20 in Minnesota.


By Charlie Neibergall, AP




"It's something I've always wanted to do in my life," Edwards told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.


"I can't put my eggs all in one basket, waiting for the NFL to settle the lockout. You never know when this lockout is going to end."


Edwards and all other NFL players are prohibited from interacting with teams because of the lockout.


At 6-5, 268 pounds, he is due to earn $5,000 plus 50% of the gate revenue at his May 20 fight.




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Intereting article oon his trainer.


Shadow boxer

By George Dohrmann


Just past nightfall, a white Lincoln pulled in behind the Howard Johnson Convention Center in Rapid City, S.D., where the darkness and a thick snowstorm cloaked both its arrival and the lie it carried west from Minneapolis.


Jeff Warner, a heavyweight boxer born on Minneapolis' rough north side, was seated behind the wheel. Winner of 13 of his first 14 bouts, Warner had the swagger of a fighter on the rise that night in 1996; he had the financial backing of several prominent Minnesota businessmen, and there was talk of fights with George Foreman and Mike Tyson that would net hundreds of thousands of dollars.


In the passenger seat was Billy Borea, a former bouncer and wannabe actor. Before Warner exited the car, Borea said Warner repeated a line heard often during the 10-hour drive from the Twin Cities:


``You have to be in character the minute you get out of the car. And, you can't let anyone see us together.’’


Warner cut through the storm to the back door of the convention center. To avoid suspicion, Borea waited five minutes before making his entrance. The two men did not meet again until hours later, when they climbed into a ring in front of 80 or so fans seated in folding chairs scattered outside the ropes.


The opening bell rang.


The lie began.


A good-looking and athletic 6-foot-3, 240-pound heavyweight, Warner, if you believe the boxing axiom, is worth his weight in gold. But investors who paid from $5,000 to $120,000 to own a piece of the next Great White Hope now believe they bought pyrite.


Through an analysis of court and boxing records, discussions with former handlers, and interviews with his opponents, the Pioneer Press has found that the Warner, 34, with the help of his handlers, has amassed a 23-1 record on the strength of one of the most brazen displays of fight-fixing Minnesota boxing has known.


Warner, now of Pine City, Minn., has fought men who were pulled out of Twin Cities homeless shelters and paid as little as $50. In Nebraska, he boxed his trainer, who now admits the fight was fixed. In Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota, Warner fought friends and former wrestlers, the majority of whom made their professional boxing debuts against Warner and never fought again.


For his part, Warner denies knowing that any of his fights were fixed, stating that his promoters were responsible for selecting his opponents and would be to blame if outcomes were predetermined. He also said he does not remember many of the fights in question.


But the investigation found that of his 24 fights, 19 of which were sanctioned by boxing commissions in the Midwest, at least nine were against professional wrestlers. Eight of his opponents, including some of the wrestlers, used fictitious names.


Boxing commissions in Minnesota and Iowa have banned Warner, who continues to train for fights, unless they pick his opponent because, as Jim O'Hara, secretary of Minnesota's boxing commission, put it, ``He doesn't want to take a real fight.’’


``I have been involved with some shady things, but what Jeff Warner has done legitimizes me because at the very least I put on real fights,’’ said Ron Peterson, who has been promoting fights in Minnesota since 1973 and signed Warner to his first professional contract in 1989. ``What he has done has been terrible for boxing in this state.’’


Borea said he faked four fights with Warner, all under different names. After the South Dakota fight on Nov. 17, 1996, for which Borea earned $60 for four rounds of fiction, came a March evening in Nebraska during which Borea, who is white, fought under the name of a real boxer who is black. Two nights in Kansas followed, with Borea twice using the pseudonym Greg Ashert.


``He said he needed opponents to get a big fight in the future,’’ Borea said.


That Warner, who was once a pro wrestler who performed in a nationally televised World Championship Wrestling event, traded his tights for boxing trunks surprised those who knew him. What happened once he laced up the gloves, however, stuns them even more.


``One thing about Jeff,’’ said legendary wrestling trainer Eddie Sharkey, who coached Gov. Jesse Ventura and countless other stars in the 1970s and 1980s, ``no one can accuse him of being dull.’’


Short memory


Ask Warner about that night in South Dakota. Ask him about the evening he drove Jay Hanna to a bout in Iowa and then claimed a one-round victory.


Show him a picture clipped from a newspaper from that first fight with Borea, where in the caption Borea is called Billy Davidson. Or, inquire about Warner's two fights against wrestler Anthony Wright; when in Iowa, Wright fought as Tony Rich, and in Missouri he fought under his own name.


Question Warner about any of the fights that appear on his professional boxing record and he often offers this defense:


``I don't remember.’’


In an interview with the Pioneer Press and in court documents obtained by the newspaper, Warner consistently said he had no knowledge of any bogus bouts or a clear memory of the majority of his fights. He also said he was not responsible for picking his opponents and that if they were wrestlers, homeless men or unqualified fighters, he played no part in putting them into the ring or persuading them to take a dive.


``Was it arranged for these guys to take a fall? Not by me,’’ Warner said. ``If they were, I didn't handle all that.’’


Asked if his opponents may have fought under false names, Warner responded: ``I once fought 12 guys in one year. I don't remember fighters' names. I beat whoever they put in the ring. I beat guys the commissions approved for me to fight.’’


In a deposition from Warner for a civil suit filed against him by five former investors, he also said he could not recall details about his fights.


``I don't remember a lot of fights. You get hit in the head, you know. Sometimes you don't remember what goes on,’’ Warner said in response to one question.


Warner said in an interview and in the deposition that Ray Whebbe, who managed him from 1989-94, and Bill Corrigan, his trainer and manager from 1996-98, were responsible for arranging most of his fights.


Whebbe, Corrigan and some of Warner's former opponents, all of whom admit culpability in the fight fixing, say Warner knew the results were predetermined and often recruited his opponents.


``I met him at a wrestling match, and he asked if I would do a boxing show with him in Iowa,’’ said Jay Hanna. Shortly after that meeting, Hanna was knocked out in the first round of a bout in Des Moines in 1997. ``Jeff, Bill Corrigan and I drove down to Iowa together and talked along the way about the fight and how it would go.’’


In the context of boxing's troubles the past two years, a fake fight in front of a few hundred fans at the Super Toad Hollow bar in Des Moines seems minor. Last year, the Miami Herald reported that fights involving well-known boxers Foreman, Iran Barkley and Eric ``Butterbean’’ Esch were fixed. Pervasive suspicions about the sport's legitimacy have intensified recently with the federal racketeering indictment of the International Boxing Federation. IBF officials allegedly solicited money from promoters and managers in return for favorable rankings for their fighters.


Considering Mike Tyson's antics and Don King's nearly decadelong battle with the FBI, boxing seems to break from one scandal only to succumb to another. A few weeks ago, the Manhattan, N.Y., district attorney's office subpoenaed weigh-in records for a Feb. 26 boxing card featuring Oscar De La Hoya after allegations that one fighter on the card gained 19 pounds between his weigh-in and the fight. Even amateur boxing is not immune. At the weigh-in for the U.S. Olympic trials in Tampa, Fla., last month, a twin tried to stand in for his heavier brother.


Amid such disrepute, Warner's involvement in fixed fights seems subordinate. Yet his critics say his boxing career encapsulates how and why the sport has fallen.


``I've come to think the whole boxing industry is full of Jeff Warners,’’ said Tom Schrade, a developer in Las Vegas and former Hinckley, Minn., resident who invested $120,000 in Warner.


Whebbe and Peterson said Warner took part in bogus bouts early in his career to build his record and because of a reluctance to face a real opponent. Corrigan said he and Warner collaborated on a string of bogus bouts beginning in 1996 because of a clause in a contract with Schrade. It called for a $100,000 bonus to be paid to Warner if he won his first 10 fights after the agreement was signed.


Corrigan, who as Warner's manager would have received a cut of that bonus, admits he encouraged Warner to participate in fights that were fixed but says Warner arranged many of the fights himself and knew who his opponents would be long before each bout.


``He knew,’’ Corrigan said. ``How could he not? Sometimes he drove to the fights with his opponent.’’


Said Warner: ``Bill and Ray Whebbe, they are the ones who promoted my whole career and now they are throwing crap at me. They were paid to pick my opponents. But the way I see it is that something must be going good in my life because I am the most talked-about man in Minnesota right now.’’


Warner said he is training in Detroit at the Kronk Gym, operated by legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, and that he has agreed to a fight, but ``we're not saying against who because we don't want anyone else to know.’’


It would be his first fight since December of 1998.


If Warner does land a bout against a marquee opponent and earn a big payday, it would fulfill, albeit 10 years late, the expectations many had for him when he got into boxing in 1989.


``But don't bet on it,’’ Corrigan said. ``Jeff will never take a fight that will make money because it would mean fighting a real opponent.’’


Packet of misinformation


Investors who backed Warner said they received background information from him before making a financial commitment. That promotional material, the majority of which was obtained by the Pioneer Press, included the following information:


--Warner had a 49-0 amateur record.


--He was invited to training camp by the Vikings.


--He once signed with rival promoters Bob Arum and King. At the same time.


--He once was trying to be bodybuilding's Mr. Universe.


--He had 1,300 matches as a wrestler and has a 75-inch reach.


Warner admitted in his deposition that much of that information, including the items mentioned above, was not accurate. He did play football for one season at Minneapolis Edison High in 1984 and for a short time at North Hennepin Community College, which also counts wrestler-turned- governor Ventura among its former players.


``He walked into my office one day and said he wanted to return punts," former North Hennepin coach Don Roney remembered. ``We let him, and he caught his first punt with one hand, almost like he had on a baseball glove.’’


Roney, now coach at the University of St. Thomas, said Warner didn't stay for a full season.


``He was a little misguided for someone in college, not very mature,’’ he recalled.


That information was not in the packet, and, in his defense, Warner said he didn't know who produced the materials or sent them to investors. When asked by Kevin Hofsted, an attorney for the investors, the purpose of the materials, Warner answered: ``to be press-released for hype.’’


Hype, said Peterson, always has been Jeff Warner's best friend.


``Jeff has always been able to sell himself,’’ Peterson said.


Peterson includes himself among those easily sold on Warner's potential. When Warner walked into St. Paul's 10th Street Gym in the spring of 1989 and told Peterson he wanted to box, the veteran trainer said he saw dollar signs.


``I was probably like everybody else at first,’’ said Peterson, who with his gray hair tucked into a ponytail looks as if he should be selling art, not training fighters. ``I looked at him and thought, 'Who wouldn't want to train a guy that looked liked that?'


``I knew he was a former wrestler. I knew he was a tough kid from the street ... It was right after Gerry Cooney's reign as the white heavyweight. I thought I could make some money off the guy.’’


Warner's opponent for his professional debut on June 21, 1989, was Harry Batist, who earlier that day had been plucked from People Sharing People, a Minneapolis homeless shelter. Whebbe, a small-time wrestling promoter and a friend of Warner's from Warner's wrestling days, said he worked as a supervisor at the shelter for five years and had befriended Batist, who Whebbe described as a ``big black guy who looked intimidating.’’


Whebbe also said Batist, who could not be reached for comment, had a background in karate.


Whebbe said he picked Warner's opponent for six of his first seven bouts beginning with the Batist fight, put on in front of a smattering of rowdy fans at the Venetian Inn in Little Canada (Warner, in the deposition, said Whebbe arranged most of his early fights but couldn't recall which ones). As Warner entered the ring, announcer Chuck Van Avery handled the introductions.


``Here is Jeff Warner from Minneapolis in the real snazzy trunks. One punch away from the world title,’’ Van Avery said.


The Minnesota board of boxing sanctioned that first fight. The commission's fight report includes this description: ``22-second bout. Batist quit without getting hit.’’ A note attached to the report read: ``Chairman Jerry Coughlin request (sic) that Harry Batist not be allowed to box for his own welfare.’’


``(Jeff and I) knew Batist was a stiff. We knew he wasn't coming to win, but Jeff was shaking, he was pure white,’’ said Peterson, who confirmed that Whebbe picked Warner's opponent. ``I knew he wasn't anxious to get out there. It was like I had to hold his hand to get him out there.


``I told Jeff after the fight, 'I can't do anything with you.' I never trained him again.’’


A string of palookas


Warner's professional debut, as bogus as it must have seemed to those at the Venetian Inn that evening, is not among those considered fraudulent. Batist, according to Whebbe and Peterson, was a palooka -- a fighter without the ability (and more important the desire) to win. Such opponents often are pitted against promising fighters early in their careers.


``Most fighters who are building a record are not going to get into the ring with a world-class competitor,’’ said Larry Dawson, Iowa's boxing commissioner. ``Most of their opponents are professional losers, guys that everybody knows as someone who won't go the distance.’’


Warner took on his share of palookas. In September 1994, he needed only one round to defeat Harold Johnson, owner of a 4-25 mark in seven years as a boxer. Gary Grayson weighed 30 pounds less than Warner when they fought in Nebraska on May 12, 1997. Grayson lost in the third round; not much of a surprise considering he has lost all but two of his 13 fights. In his most recent fight, in December 1998, Warner defeated Gerald Hill, who was 2-5.


But Warner's boxing record, as compiled by Fight Fax, the boxing industry's most complete and reliable source of records, includes more bogus fights than palookas, his critics allege. They say he first crossed the line in his third and fourth fights, both in 1994, against boxers named Akbar Muhammed and Leroy Jackson.


At the time of those fights, Warner had secured financial backing from Mike Kovar, a Twin Cities stockbroker. Kovar, who declined to discuss his relationship with Warner in detail, confirmed he met Warner at a church the two attended and decided to help Warner by paying for his training and other expenses.


The Muhammed and Jackson fights were not sanctioned by the Minnesota board of boxing, meaning no representative was in attendance and no report was filed. But according to Whebbe and Sharkey (the promoter of the wrestling card on which the Muhammed fight took place and the referee for that fight) Harry Batist was Warner's opponent in each bout.


``I drove Harry to Red Lake (Reservation) for the Akbar Muhammed fight,’’ Whebbe said. ``I paid Harry a little money, and he and Jeff slapped each other for a few rounds and then in the third round we told Harry it was time to go down.’’


A videotape of the bout confirms that few punches were thrown and very few landed, and Muhammed (aka Batist) went down in the third round with what appeared to be a punch to the elbow.


No videotape of the Jackson fight exits because, according to Whebbe, the fight never took place.


``There was a ring set up at Red Lake, and we drove up there, put Jeff and Harry in a ring and took a couple pictures,’’ Whebbe said. ``No punches were thrown. We left, and I called in the result (to Fight Fax).’’


Boxing records seem to support claims by Whebbe and Sharkey that Warner's opponent in the third and fourth fights of his career actually were Batist. The record for Akbar Muhammed, provided by Fight Fax, lists his hometown as Chicago, gives no birth date and shows a record of 0-4 in sanctioned bouts between 1982-88. His only non-sanctioned bout came against Warner, six years later.


``We just used that name,’’ said Whebbe, who believes no such fighter exits. Attempts to locate a fighter named Akbar Muhammed in Chicago were unsuccessful.


Leroy Jackson's Fight Fax record gives no hometown or date of birth and lists his only bout as the Aug. 15, 1994, fight with Warner.


``We were looking to get Jeff a couple wins, so we used Harry,’’ Whebbe said.


Warner, when asked about his early fights, said only that Whebbe was responsible for picking his opponents.


In one of Whebbe's last acts as a matchmaker for Warner, he pitted him against Terry Taylor in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Taylor, according to Fight Fax, has fought only twice, first in November of 1994 against Jeff Warner. No hometown or birth date is given for Taylor. Whebbe said Taylor actually was Marvin Smith, who at the time was a homeless person Whebbe found at a Twin Cities shelter. Smith could not be reached for comment.


Dawson, Iowa's commissioner, said it was pointless to ask for identification from Taylor because ``these guys will come up with 1,000 reasons why they don't have any ID on them.’’ Federal restrictions in place today did not apply in 1994, meaning the boxer being called Terry Taylor did not have to show a federal boxing ID. In other words, Dawson was left to take Warner's, Whebbe's, and Taylor's word for it.


Dawson said of the Taylor fight: ``(Warner) threw six punches that were kinda slappy. The guy went down and stayed down. It was kinda stinky.’’


The Taylor fight raised Warner's record to 5-1, with three of his victories coming in bouts Whebbe and others allege to be fixed. Whebbe said he arranged two more bouts for Warner but that the outcomes of those bouts were not predetermined.


With Warner's record at 7-1, Kovar, the investor from Warner's church, said he ended his business relationship with Warner because ``Jeff decided that to get where he wanted to, he needed to be involved with different people.’’


Whebbe said he left Warner's side about the same time.


``When Kovar stopped backing Jeff, I didn't have a check coming and I knew the effort was futile,’’ Whebbe said. ``I knew Jeff wasn't going to take boxing seriously.’’


Bitter feud


They fought twice in the ring and hundreds of times out of it. They battled in one of the most memorable rounds of boxing Minnesota has seen in the past 10 years, then staged a fake fight in Nebraska when a crowd watched the boxer (Warner) fight his trainer (Corrigan).


But what Warner and Corrigan have done in the ring pales to the events that transpired outside the ropes. Consider this line from a signed statement the two men entered into on July 1, 1998, in exchange for Warner not evicting Corrigan from a house Warner owned:


Mr. Corrigan has agreed to release all tapes and copies of tapes recording Jeffery Warner phone conversations with Mr. Corrigan. Mr. Corrigan has agreed that he will not use these tapes against Mr. Warner.


Or this line from the same statement, which Corrigan said was drawn up in August by a Pine City insurance agent at the height of the feud:


The last 14 fights, Mr. Corrigan has (sic) matchmaker for Jeffrey Warner. In the event of a dispute about the fights, Mr. Corrigan takes full responsibility for the fights Jeff was involved in.


Their sensationalistic feud includes calls to the FBI, a restraining order filed against Corrigan by Warner's wife, Jennifer, those tape recordings, a civil suit, and allegations of blackmail. Those elements have taken the focus off what linked the two men in the first place.


Two years after Warner made his debut against Batist at the Venetian Inn, Warner climbed into a ring against Corrigan for his second professional fight. A tough but fallible Irishman, Corrigan was considered to be a fighter Warner could defeat.


``I didn't know if I could beat him,’’ Corrigan admits today.


Twice Warner knocked Corrigan down in the first round, but Corrigan got up each time, and at the end of the round Corrigan caught Warner with a straight right that knocked him to the canvas and ended the fight. After that fight, Warner did not fight again for nearly three years and the two men saw little of each other as Corrigan moved to Colorado and then to Dallas.


They reconnected in 1996. Corrigan claims Warner called him and asked if he would be his trainer.


``He had some investors he was trying to impress and thought it would look good to have the one guy that beat him be his trainer,’’ Corrigan said.


Corrigan was aware when he became Warner's trainer and manager that Warner recently had entered into an agreement with Schrade that included the $100,000 bonus for 10 victories. The first fight after that agreement, according to testimony in Warner's deposition, was July 23, 1996, against Rick Richardson at Gabe's By The Park in St. Paul. It would be the last bout Warner would fight in Minnesota that was sanctioned by the boxing board. The report on that fight states:




Suspended indefinitely


This fight was a joke


``I recognized the guy right away,’’ O'Hara, the board secretary said of Warner's opponent. ``I went up to one of the guys in Warner's corner, and he admitted it was someone else, not a guy really called Richardson.’’


O'Hara said after the fight he asked for identification from the fighter being called Richardson, but the boxer claimed the bag containing his identification had been stolen in the barber shop where he was getting his hair cut before the fight.


``It was a joke,’’ O'Hara said.


That fight became part of Warner's Fight Fax record, however, and Warner later counted it when making his case for the $100,000 bonus.


Other fights from 1996-97 that Warner counted as legitimate victories in the bonus claim:


--Three of the four fights with Borea, including one in Nebraska in March 1997. For that fight, Borea fought under the name Wardell Cheryls and signed a contract for that fight for $200 using the name, according to Nebraska records. That bout, however, appears on the Fight Fax record of Wardell Sherrills, a real fighter who is black. Also, the Social Security number Borea gave Nebraska boxing commission officials belonged to a 47-year-old salesman, who was living in Virginia at the time of the fight.


--A fight with Corrigan, then Warner's manager and trainer, in Nebraska.


``We drove down there, and Jeff's opponent didn't show, so I got into the ring,’’ said Corrigan, who knew before the fight that if he defeated Warner, both men would lose out on the $100,000 bonus clause. ``We mixed it up for a few rounds and then I went down.’’


--Two fights with Anthony Wright, who said he met Warner at a wrestling event in Minneapolis. Wright said Warner called him to arrange what Warner said would be ``a boxing show’’ in Sioux City, Iowa, on June 7, 1997. The two men drove to the event together, Wright said, and the events and the outcome of the fight were predetermined. Wright also said Warner came up with a name, Tony Rich, that Wright would use in the first fight. In their second meeting, Wright used his real name.


``They were not legitimate fights,’’ Wright said.


--The fight in Iowa against Hanna. The bout lasted less than 20 seconds because Hanna refused to get up after Warner hit him with what he said was an unscripted shot to the nose. Dawson, the Iowa commissioner, told Corrigan after the bout that Warner would not be allowed to fight in Iowa again unless the commission picked his opponent. Warner has not fought in the state since.


``It is not something I am proud of,’’ Hanna said. ``I wish it had never happened.’’


Warner said allegations that he drove to fights with his opponent are ``a bunch of crap.’’ He said there were times when several fighters drove to bouts together and at times one of them ended up as his opponent. However, he said in those instances he never knew who he was fighting until he climbed into the ring.


When pressed for more details about his fights, Warner said: ``When I was a kid, I screwed up and I did some bad things and didn't get caught. Now, I didn't do anything wrong and everyone is after me.’’


On Nov. 18, 1997, five days after the second fight with Wright, a letter signed by Warner was sent to Schrade in Las Vegas. It demanded the $100,000 bonus. That letter, and the accusations that followed it, led to a lawsuit filed by Schrade and four other investors in Pine County District Court in Pine City, and a countersuit by Warner claiming he is owed that money. Those suits sparked a series of confrontations between Corrigan and Warner that have gotten the attention of that small northern Minnesota community.


Pine County Sheriff Brett Grinde had the task of sorting through one of the more recent chapters in their ongoing dispute. Corrigan claims Warner told several Pine City residents he had arranged for a contract to be put out on Corrigan's life. Warner said Corrigan is just out to hurt him and not above fabrication.


Grinde forwarded his findings to the Pine County district attorney, although it is unlikely charges will be brought against Warner.


``It seems to be one thing after another with those two,’’ Grinde said.


Buying 'the hype'


Four brothers living in or around Pine City were the ones who introduced Warner to Schrade. They had met the boxer in town, and one said they quickly bought into ``the hype.’’ Rick Foster gave land and money worth $65,000 to Warner, Tom Foster invested $25,000 and Larry and Scott Foster gave him $5,000 apiece. As in the case of Schrade, the money bought a portion of Warner's future boxing earnings.


``We're just good old boys,’’ Larry Foster said. ``We didn't see this coming.’’


What they did see in Warner was an impressive physical specimen and a quasi celebrity from the years he wrestled in Minnesota. Even now, 10 years removed from wrestling, he is remembered in that industry.


``I thought he was going to be another Road Warrior,’’ Sharkey, the fabled trainer, said of Warner, whom he met when the latter was a bouncer at a Fridley bar. ``He had natural talent. He was good-looking. He worked hard.


``If he had just kept his mouth shut, he would be a millionaire today.’’


Sharkey claims Warner failed as a wrestler after he tried, unsuccessfully, to get more money from the World Wrestling Federation while under contract to the WCW. Warner denies that charge, saying he didn't like the travel and being away from his family.


``I am better than anybody out there right now,’’ Warner said. ``The Rock, Hulk Hogan, those guys couldn't lace my boots. I am 6-3 and can do flips. God graced me with a lot of natural athletic ability. It just didn't work out in wrestling.


``If they had paid me more, I might have stayed in it five years, but instead I went home and focused on my family.’’


Warner's family, at that time his wife and two kids, moved with him to Las Vegas in early 1996, a few months after he entered into an agreement that gave Schrade 10 percent of his gross income ``from all boxing-related endeavors.’’


Warner confirmed Schrade paid rent for a home for him, Jennifer and their two children and paid for eye surgery for Warner, who had complained he had poor vision and couldn't fight with contact lenses. Schrade also set Warner up with Richard Steele, the renowned boxing referee, who owns the Nevada Partners gym.


Schrade and the Fosters watched Warner go through trainers and money in Las Vegas but said he would not take a fight.


``We set up fights for him in Washington and we had a fight lined up with Butterbean, but he always had an excuse,’’ Larry Foster said.


Warner said the investors arranged about four or five bouts, but ``they all fell through.’’


After about six months in Las Vegas, Warner began missing training sessions, Schrade said, so the investor took it upon himself to work with the fighter. A former demolition diver in Vietnam, Schrade began running with Warner in the desert and working out in the same gym.


Warner, in his deposition and in an interview, recalled one incident training with Schrade: ``One time he was running, he collapsed ... I run back three, four miles to get my car, drive my car in that crappy desert to pick him up. I thought he was going to die. . . . It was funnier than hell. I thought he was a goner. The bastard. If it wasn't for me, he'd be gone right now. He was nuts.’’


Schrade said he tired of Warner's reluctance to fight and train, and stopped paying his expenses. Warner returned to Pine City, saying he left because he didn't like his family living in Las Vegas and because the investors hadn't gotten him any fights.


``They were going to promote me, fly me to all my fights. But it was a lot of song and dance, but without the dance,’’ Warner said. ``My biological clock was ticking. I had to get some fights, so I started talking to people and came back to Minnesota.’’


Schrade said after Warner returned to Minnesota, the two kept in contact. He repeatedly asked Warner to tell him when he had a fight coming up so he could see him box.


``He would then say the fight was canceled or just not tell me and I would find out later that he had a match,’’ Schrade said.


It was during this stretch that Warner, with Corrigan's assistance, worked toward getting the 10 victories that would qualify Warner for the bonus. Borea, Hanna, Wright and others were his opponents during that stretch. After the $100,000 bonus claim was rejected by Schrade, Corrigan turned on Warner, sending a letter to the five investors that stated Warner never intended to take a money-making fight and that he used fake fights to get to the 10 needed for the bonus.


Warner said Corrigan is attacking his character because he wants money, a claim Corrigan does not deny. Corrigan said Warner owes him thousands of dollars because Corrigan paid for Warner's training, travel and other expenses while the two worked together. (Corrigan recently filed suit in small-claims court for $5,000.) Warner said he has paid Corrigan enough, giving him two cars, $20,000 and the use of the house in Pine City. Corrigan said he never received the $20,000.


``He wants money bad,’’ Warner said. ``He has said: 'Without me, there will be no boxing.' It makes me sick to my stomach.’’


Schrade said he trusts neither Corrigan nor Warner but said he felt obligated to file the suit against Warner because of a threat Warner made. Schrade would not discuss the allegation specifically, but in the deposition Warner is questioned about a conversation he had with Corrigan.


Q: Did you at any time after you made this demand for $100,000 to Mr. Schrade indicate to Mr. Corrigan, to others, that if you didn't get paid you would accuse Mr. Schrade of sexually molesting one of your children?


JW: We discussed something on -- you know what? I am not going to answer that part. But (Corrigan) said some stuff to Tom Schrade saying what (Schrade) was going to do to me. And (Corrigan) said, ``What are you going to do back? What are you going to do now, you know?’’ (Corrigan) antagonized me into a conversation.


Q: Who did?


JW: Bill Corrigan. And we tape-recorded it.


Q: Did you ever have a conversation directly with Mr. Schrade about that allegation?


JW: We talked about it.


Q: And what did he say?


JW: I don't remember.


Warner, in an interview, admitted to making the threat but said, as he did in the deposition, that it came after some baiting by Corrigan. He said the accusation against Schrade was groundless and he regrets saying it.


``I love the Lord, but I am a man,’’ Warner said. ``I am not as godly as Jesus. It doesn't take much for me to say something stupid.’’


Schrade said of Warner and the suit: ``My money is gone. I probably won't get it back. In many ways I hate to do this because of Jennifer and his kids, but he will continue to go out and con people.’’


Warner said he is saddened and disturbed by the men -- Corrigan, Whebbe, Schrade and the others -- so intent on looking at his past. From his small room near the Kronk Gym, he sees only a future of fame and fortune.


The greatness fated to him by God, he believes, is only a few fights away.


``I am going to be the greatest boxer in the world. And when I am walking down the aisle, heavyweight champ of the world, the first white heavyweight champion in 40 years, I will be vindicated,’’ he said.


``I WILL be vindicated.’’




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