Put me ringside at Silver Slipper
April 28, 2015 3:00 AM
by Scott Schettler
The price of one ringside seat for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would be enough to bankroll a month of weekly fights held at the old Silver Slipper.
Purses, rent, maintenance and marketing could be taken care of with a small BR left over. The Silver Slipper sat between the Frontier and the Stardust. All three have been bulldozed but a few memories escaped the wrecking ball.
The Slipper held a weekly, Wednesday night fight card. Can I acknowledge one particular fight or fighter? No, but I can still see the fights through the smoke, taste my draft beer and hear the cheers and jeers of true boxing fans. Wagers and propositions were as much a part of the atmosphere as the fights themselves.
Fight Night at the Slipper was like a social event for the home crowd. A few hundred of us showed up every Wednesday, providing we didn’t owe anyone who might also show. Not the place to be if you had a beef with the law or anyone who might be looking for you. Once, I ran into Whitey, a friend from our days in “Bible camp” in Pennsylvania. He said hello and disappeared, must have been on the lam.
The arena was upstairs in what could have been the Slipper Ballroom to put a nice spin on it. All tickets were $10 and this got you a ringside folding chair, bleachers or standing room by the bar.
Any place you chose came with a good view. No $15,000 ringside seats or $150 nosebleed section. Everyone in attendance was there to see the fights not to be seen.
Would I rather see Manny Pacquiao beat Floyd Mayweather? Of course, no doubt. Boxing was my first love. I saw the first closed circuit fight ever shown when Floyd Patterson beat undefeated Ingemar Johansson in a rematch. I saw Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, still in his Olympic trunks, and Ali when he was Cassius Clay. Nothing will replace the first Frazier-Ali fight for me but this one comes close for creating drama for the public.
Closer to me personally was my friend and Churchill regular Ralph Dupas, a top-ranked contender from the 1950s and 1960s who moved to Las Vegas after his boxing career was over. Dupas lost to Emile Griffith, in a welterweight title fight, Griffith’s first bout back after he killed Benny “Kid” Paret in the ring. Dupas would later lose to the great Sugar Ray Robinson in a big fight in Miami.
Ralph loved to bet horses at Churchill on the Strip. He’d place $2 on a horse, run through the doors to the sportsbook side and cover his ears so he couldn’t hear the call of the race.
Then he would slowly return to the racebook side, covering his eyes and slowly squeezing a peek at the result board so he could prolong the anticipation before he found out who won. Ralph really didn’t have to worry too much about who won or cashing winning tickets though.
Sadly, Ralph suffered from the physical effects of a long career taking punches. After a while, he became twisted and could hardly walk. He couldn’t make it to Churchill to bet his horses anymore, but I would still see him at noon Mass at St. Joan of Arc in downtown Las Vegas at least a couple of times a week.
Ralph must have gone to Mass every day. He got worse as time passed. I’m sure he was broke except for the help he got from Herbie “Hoops” Lambeck. Rupas, a real champion, just silently disappeared but not his memory.
Father Whitstock, an elderly priest from that same St. Joan of Arc church, was famous for his 22 minute Mass. Father liked to bet football cards. He hit a long shot one once and swore they changed the odds because of him. Father Whitstock also loved the Stardust’s beef stew so I always took care of him.
Herbie “Hoops” also went away after a long successful run in Las Vegas. He didn’t disappear like Dupas however. We knew Herbie was okay and with his family in New Jersey. Herbie was one of the all-time nice guys of Las Vegas. He helped Ralph out and also middleweight Jimmy Flood, another ex-title contender.
Jimmy was a bit more aggressive than Ralph. He would ask, “You wanna rent a couple hand grenades?” Then he held up his fists and put the bite on most of his pals, especially Herbie.
Herbie helped a lot of people while living modestly himself in the two star Casbah Hotel downtown. He was a super sharp handicapper, especially in the NBA and boxing. His boxing numbers were the best and most of Las Vegas used them.
Herbie was very particular how his numbers were used though, so if he thought a sportsbook misused them, became too timid, or built too much juice into them, he would not deal with that sportsbook or anyone who did.
Eventually that included almost every sportsbook in Vegas. I never made the list, which is an honor in itself.
Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book, We Were Wise Guys and Didn't Know It is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at ScottSchettler@GamingToday.com.