FOURTEEN years before Jon Hotten's superb 'Years of the Locust' was published - currently being made into a film by award-winning actor, writer and director Paddy Considine - Jim Brady investigated the events surrounding Rick Parker's death at the hands of heavyweight journeyman, Tim 'Doc' Anderson (pictutred in prison, above)
(Originally printed May 19, 1995)
IN one of the most bizarre incidents ever to afflict professional boxing, Tim ‘Doc’ Anderson is facing the electric chair in Florida for the murder of controversial fight promoter Rick ‘Elvis’ Parker, who once promoted and managed a slew of washed up heavyweights including Bert Cooper and James ‘Quick’ Tillis.
Late on Friday evening, April 28, police were called to a lake Buena Vista, Florida hotel room by emergency workers responding to a 911 (emergency) call, after the portly, bearded red-haired 39-year-old Parker was found dead in a huge pool of blood, having been shot eight times with a .38 calibre handgun.
Anderson, 37, was Larry Holmes’ first comeback victim, getting blasted out in one round on 7 April 1991. He admitted he fired eight shots into Parker after a heated argument and was actually standing outside the hotel room when he handed police his weapon.
According to Anderson, hostilities started because he claimed he was drugged by Parker before a December 1992 bout between himself and Mark Gastineau, the former NFL pro football player whom Parker sought to match with George Foreman. Only months ago the award-winning TV news magazine 60 Minutes alleged some of Gastineau’s fights were fixed.
Five witnesses corroborate the allegations. The FBI and the Florida Attorney Generals office were conducting criminal investigations before Parker’s stunning murder. No doubt Anderson had been talked to.
Gastineau, in theory, was marketable because of his name, but Anderson nearly knocked him out on 9 June 1992 in San Francisco, on USA TV. Strangely, Anderson went down to a sixth-round stoppage defeat six months later in wild and woolly Oklahoma City. (Anderson however, contends he murdered Parker because the promoter drugged him before the Gastineau rematch).
He fearfully maintains he’s now suffering from liver and kidney damage and is dying. Anderson’s currently on suicide watch while he’s being held on first degree murder charges.
The Gastineau farce was preposterous in the beginning, but now that Parker is dead and Anderson is a great candidate to “ride the hot lightning” it’s become one of the saddest, most shameful chapters in boxing history. Mark Gastineau was 35, and cut from the NFL and the Canada Football league, when he decided to become a fighter. At 6ft 6in and 18st 8lbs, there was no question that he was big, white and good-looking. He had a name, but the only problem was that he couldn’t fight a lick and had a glass jaw. But according to Rob Russen, a former underling of Parker’s, that could be overcome.
“Parker had conversations with George Foreman’s business advisors,” claimed Russen, “and between the two of them, they had come up with a general agreement that if Parker were able to get Gastineau a 12-0 record Foreman would fight him.”
Potentially, that would be “a multi-million dollar purse.”
Even with pay-per-view, it sounds like Parker was living on Fantasy Island, but Parker, who admittedly did cocaine, was such a con man he even chased women and promoted religious revival meetings at the same time. Maybe the devil made him do it?
The problem was that Gastineau was so bad, who could he beat?
Russen claims he unearthed Gastineau’s first opponent on 8 June 1991, one Derrick “Starfire” Dukes, who claimed to have had a few pro fights, but made his living as a pro wrestler. According to Russen, Parker told him, “Find me someone who’ll take a dive.”
“The guy wasn’t allowed to throw a punch. He was told to get out of there at the first opportunity,” Russen contends.
The “fight” in the Virginia hinterlands, where they have a lousy Commission, lasted just 18 seconds, including the count. The video shows Gastineau clumsily charging across the ring and Dukes leaping up and landing on his back, though obviously no shots were landed.
Derrick Dukes agrees:”…[It was] totally fixed, a totally fixed fight.”
There was a brief national stink, but that was quickly blew away. However, Dukes claims he met beforehand with both Parker and Gastineau and agreed to take a dive for $600. They both denied it. But Dukes joked on TV about how easy it was to jump off his feet, and make people believed he had been hit. It’s a standard wrestling move, learned in grunt and groaners school.
After the Dukes stench, Parker should have stayed with his tent shows, but on 8 February 1992, Gastineau fought Kevin Barch, brother of Sonny, a sometime heavyweight who also worked for Parker at the time. The match was in Carthage, Missouri, again where they have a very poor Commission. Barch, a likeable, moustachioed, round-faced good ol’ boy, who’s a heavy crane operator, claims he was offered $1000 to find a soft spot on the canvas.
“Like a dumb ass I said ‘Yeah, a thousand dollars in my pocket…Go in there and get hit, take a fall.’ I knew what was goin’ on. Sounded like some easy money to me,” he drawled slowly, beginning to laugh. “I’ve been hit before, in bar rooms…I hadn’t had any professional experience. I’m an untrained person. I went in there totally naked.”
Barch told the Missouri Commission he was 7-3. They couldn’t check anything because nobody showed up until that evening. All it would have taken is a simple phone call to Phill Marder’s Fight Fax, but when you want to be conned it’s easy to be deceived. Nobody in Missouri was doing their job.
Already the odour surrounding Gastineau and Parker was so bad, somebody had to know something. Gastineau was supposed to be marketable, so what was he doing in Mark Twain territory? Why couldn’t he get fights on any reputable cards?
Only months before he was gunned down, Parker quivered with righteous indignation at the allegations.
“This is a story concocted by a vindictive former employee of mine (Kevin Barch’s brother Sonny), who at one time was under a boxing contract with me until I dismissed him as my friend because he stole from me,” Parker railed.
Parker also contended Russen and others were trying to destroy him and tried to steal Bert Cooper.
“These people who are making allegations about fight-fixing are low-life, scumball pieces of crap. Liars. Drug addicts, or people who are motivated for their own personal desire. They want to harm me, destroy me for their own selfish reasons.”
Bust something must have happened. Why would Parker risk a tentative two-fight deal with USA-TV for Gastineau, when nobody in their right mind thought he had any chance to win? Anderson was just 25-14 at the time, but he had lasted four rounds with George Foreman in 1987, two with Pierre Coetzer and split decisioned one-time contender Jimmy Young. Gastineau was so terrible, a decent heavyweight would have knocked him out shadow-boxing.
Maybe Parker believed in miracles. Maybe St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, was working Gastineau’s corner, but Anderson came out winging and damn near took Gastineau’s head off. Dropping his arms a la Ali, Gastineau was frighteningly lucky to last the four-rounds distance. The next day, the New York Daily News, which once lauded the flamboyant Gastineau for his “sack dance” as a defensive end, had big cartoons ridiculing him. Gastineau’s boxing career was dead. Yet six months later, Anderson went down in six. It was Anderson’s last fight.
Parker probably thought that would rehabilitate Gastineau’s reputation, but neither promoters nor TV would touch him. All hell finally broke loose when Don Hazelton, the head of the Florida Commission, started talking to the Florida Attorney General’s office about an investigation.
“When he (Parker) shows up it’s world-wide wrestling at its best. It’s Barnum and Bailey come to visit. He’s a con man,” said Hazelton to 60 Minutes.
Just two years ago, Parker imperiously descended on the Winner-Take-All heavyweight tournament in Mississippi, and flashed a restraining order on Bert Cooper, literally as he was about to enter the ring. Parker demanded 60 per cent of Cooper’s purse, and still refused to leave until officials at Casino Magic paid his airfare home.
“He was a no-good sonofabitch,” said one well-connected fight figure who prefers anonymity. “Just a bad guy.”
Parker, whose sinuses were badly blown out from the cocaine, would smile and nasally yammer on about the “windfall factor,” but all the money in the world won’t bring him back. When you go beyond all his ostentatious jewellery, Parker, a failed rock promoter, just wasn’t that smart. But he was colourful and corrupt, and died violently in a racket where he should have been able to make a reasonable living.
He was “just one punch away” from the heavyweight championship when Bert Cooper nearly knocked out Evander Holyfield, but now he’s eternally dead at 39. Sadly, Anderson’s life is also over.
“He was a real spacey kid,” said international booking agent Jack Cowen, who operates out of Chicago. “He always seemed to be in a daze.”
Anderson won 10 out of his first 12 as a light-heavyweight fighting near Chicago. A strikingly handsome blond with a moustache, he looked more like a lawyer than a fighter. But he just seemed to lose his desire after he got stopped early by Bob Smith and Angelo Musone in 1986.
He put on 25 pounds, then went as high as 15st 10lbs, all on a skinny light-heavyweight’s frame. At one time he was a decent upright boxer, but his nine-year career ended after the Gastineau loss in 1992. Maybe no-one will ever know what happened, but in fairness to Parker, it’s easy to see how Anderson could have sustained kidney or liver damage, without toxic drugs, considering Anderson was really a fat light-heavyweight who willingly stepped in with Foreman and Holmes.
As for Rick “Elvis Parker, the man who would be king? He’s no doubt in that great fight club in the sky, where White Hopes abound and you never have to pick up a bill.
Read Tim Anderson's 2011 prison interview HERE