ATLANTIC CITY - Given the recession that has gripped the nation and world, "You're fired!" almost has become a global catchphrase, not just one popularized by Donald Trump.
Trump lives in the fast lane, which means he doesn't have much time for chitchat or meandering side trips down memory lane. So when a reporter contacted him to ask for his thoughts on the hectic Atlantic City boxing scene in the 1980s and early '90s, he cut right to the chase.
"I only have a couple of minutes," he said, "so make it quick."
Well, all right.
How giddy of a trip was it for the principal figures when Atlantic City was the center of the boxing universe, and Trump Plaza its headquarters?
"It was a great time for Atlantic City and it was a great time for me personally," Trump recalled. "Having Mike Tyson made a big difference. He was a very dynamic fighter, a very dynamic draw.
"But I also brought George Foreman to town several times. We did [Michael] Spinks-[Gerry] Cooney. It wasn't just Tyson.
"Las Vegas had certain advantages, in terms of its history of doing boxing. Vegas still got its share of big fights. But put it this way: We got every big fight we wanted."
Trump, of course, could never be satisfied running only modest club shows in ballroom settings at his three Atlantic City casino properties. His dreams, then and now, approximated his ego, which is to say they were of mammoth proportions and could never be fulfilled out of the spotlight.
In setting out to become the most influential person in boxing, The Donald revealed his business acumen by surrounding himself with some of the best and brightest administrators he could, the most notable of whom was Mark Grossinger Etess.
"Mark was the catalyst," said Bernie Dillon, who was vice president of Trump Sports and Entertainment from 1984 to '91. "He was already an important figure in the boxing world. He had a background in it, coming from Grossinger's [a resort in New York's Catskill Mountains that had served as the training camp for many world champions]. It wasn't until Mark and Steve Hyde [who had been at Caesars Palace] came to Trump Plaza that we were able to start during the really big events. But, of course, it was Donald who was writing the checks."
A young and still-raw Tyson fought eight times in Atlantic City while he was still learning his craft, including three appearances at Trump Plaza (where he knocked out John Alderson, Mike Jameson and Jose Ribalta) and one at Trump Castle (where he took out Donnie Long in one round). But it wasn't until Tyson returned from Las Vegas, where he had annexed the IBF, WBA and WBC heavyweight championships during a five-bout run in the desert, that the Trump organization began to woo him with the ardor of a lovestruck suitor.
Upon his return to Atlantic City, Tyson fought five times under the Trump banner, defending his titles on stoppages of Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks and Carl "The Truth" Williams. After being dethroned by Buster Douglas in Tokyo, his final bout for Trump - and figurative farewell to Atlantic City - was a one-round blowout of Alex Stewart on Dec. 8, 1990.
So why didn't the association of Trump and Tyson endure longer than it did, given the obvious benefits both men reaped?
Etess' tragic death in an Oct. 10, 1989, helicopter crash was a factor. So, too, were Tyson's increasing lack of focus and Las Vegas' determination to reclaim some of its lost boxing thunder. But perhaps the most insurmountable obstacle was a financial downturn for Trump, who was put on an allowance by creditors. Goodbye, yacht. Goodbye, Tyson.
"[Las Vegas-based billionaire] Steve Wynn got into boxing around that time," Dillon said. "[Evander] Holyfield-[Buster] Douglas was at one of his properties, The Mirage. Vegas stepped up its game, which made it more difficult for Atlantic City and for Donald to keep competing for fights at the highest level."
And if Trump couldn't keep leading the parade, he just as soon would rather not march.
"It's never good when you have only one major player," said Larry Hazzard Sr., who was chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board from 1985 to 2007. "It's never good when you only have one grocery store in the neighborhood.
"Donald Trump, as Atlantic City's only major player, had a little too much control. He was like the spoiled rich kid. You know, you got to play the game my way or I'm going to take my bat and ball and go home.
"But it wasn't him who took his bat and ball and went home. His bat and ball got taken away from him by his creditors."
Trump's empire still has its vulnerabilities, given the soft-as-gelatin economy. But he had an investment in the defunct mixed martial arts organization, Affliction, which if nothing else indicates he still likes to be a part of the buzz attendant to a sporting event.
Could Trump make a triumphant return to Atlantic City boxing?
"We'll have to see," he said. "The world is a different place." *