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Fame game not over for scorned ex-slugger Canseco

Saturday, January 24, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:13 AM

NEW YORK – Jose Canseco might want to dust off that muscled-up "Bash Brother" moniker one more time. He needs a colorful nickname for his introduction as he enters the boxing ring Saturday night for a celebrity match against child star-turned-radio host Danny Bonaduce. Before Canseco pummels a Partridge, he wants a flashy name that fits the oversized personality of the former steroid-fueled slugger.

Former baseball player Jose Canseco takes a break from a training session, Former baseball player Jose Canseco takes a break from a training session, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

"Hercules," chirps his girlfriend, Heidi Northcott.

"The Destroyer," Canseco offers.

Certainly, he means by knockout punches, not destroyer of reputations.

The former major leaguers named in Canseco's 2005 book on steroid use in professional baseball might suggest far less heroic names for the 1988 AL MVP. But just as he's set to show in his three-round fight with Bonaduce, Canseco is ready to take his punches.

"I'm the bad guy no matter where I go," he said.

Former Oakland A's teammate Ricky Henderson is going into the Hall of Fame this summer and fellow Bash Brother Mark McGwire has withdrawn from public life. The 44-year-old Canseco still seeks the spotlight, a puffed-up sideshow on the same road other fallen celebrities have traveled in last-gasp bids to cash in on their notoriety. The man who was once the most feared power hitter in baseball finds himself training to drill a D-list celebrity in suburban Philadelphia.

He's written two books, starred in a pair of reality shows, and is taking his second swing at celebrity boxing. By his acknowledgment, he needs the money. So he'll let shock jock Howard Stern needle him about what steroids did to his sex drive as long as he can tout his upcoming match.

Tagged as "Baseball's Bad Boy," Canseco dresses the part in all black, from his T-shirt down to his socks and sneakers, as he spars at a Greenwich Village gym. Canseco was embarrassed in a loss to former Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema last year and lacked the stamina to make the bout respectable. He also lost the appetite to train because of plummeting testosterone levels linked to quitting steroids cold turkey.

On this day, Canseco seems like his old self.

Whump! Whump! Whump! He attacks the heavy bag with the ferociousness of a batting practice home run swing. His biceps are still thick, although they no longer look like someone stuffed a pair of basketballs inside them.

"If Bud Selig's face was on there, I'd break him in half," said a huffing-and-puffing Canseco.

If celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman really wanted to cash in on Canseco's willingness to name the names of alleged steroid abusers like himself, maybe the next opponent should be a ballplayer.

"There's a lot of people in Major League Baseball that want to punch me in the face," Canseco said.

Feldman has promoted celebrity boxing for years, handling everyone from Canseco and Bonaduce to Tonya Harding and pro wrestlers. The broken down athletes, broke stars and busted has-beens are natural drawing cards in a reality TV-crazed society.

Enter Canseco.

"People want to see him get beat up," Feldman said. "That's what it's all about."

The exhibition takes place at an ice skating rink in Aston, Pa., and can be ordered on Internet pay-per-view. Vince Papale, the former Philadelphia Eagle who inspired the movie "Invincible," is the guest referee. Recognizing the limited athleticism of the fighters, the bout features only three, 1-minute rounds. Against Sikahema last July, Canseco was flattened with a left hook 30 seconds into the fight and was finished after a few more punches.

Canseco and Bonaduce are guaranteed an appearance fee, which Feldman declined to reveal, and each will earn $2 off every PPV order at The rink holds 2,200 tickets and Feldman is hopeful of 25,000 Internet buys.

Canseco expects jeers from frothing fans and exaggerated chants of "Ster-oids!" "Ster-oids!" as he steps between the ropes. He accepts it as his penance for a pair of ripped-from-the locker room books that transformed him into one of the more vilified athletes in sports.

For a man who was once baseball's show stopper with every homer seemingly launched into space, Canseco seems at peace with a life that included sharing a "Surreal Life" house with Balki and Omarosa, and exchanging good-natured banter with Stern about living as a baseball outcast. Asked outside the studio if he's nervous about what personal questions Stern might ask, Canseco doesn't flinch.

"Please. I make people nervous," Canseco said.

That includes Bonaduce.

He played Danny Partridge on the "The Partridge Family," and now hosts a morning radio show in Philadelphia. He's also dabbled in celebrity boxing, dominating a bout against Barry "Greg Brady" Williams in 2002. But Canseco might be as big as all the Brady boys combined.

"Let me be honest with you right now. I am scared," Bonaduce said on Stern's satellite radio show. "I'm probably as scared as I've ever been about physical violence. The problem for Jose and the benefit for me is, I am not averse to physical violence and I am not averse to pain."

Ever the showman, Canseco takes a return shot.

"I feel bad for him," Canseco said. "I'm going to take out on him what I should have done to Sikahema."

The tale of the tape favors Canseco. He's 6-4 and 260 pounds while Bonaduce is 5-6, 180 pounds.

It's easy to laugh at Canseco or pity him. He admits he's responsible for his personal, physical and financial setbacks because of steroid abuse and his book, "Juiced." The twice-divorced Canseco claims to have squandered the roughly $45 million he earned over his career, pawned his World Series rings and purged his rented California house of memorabilia to try and satisfy the debts against him.

If earning a paycheck means battling Bonaduce, then that's what he'll do.

"I'm just working like anybody else," Canseco said.

Northcott, his girlfriend of about two years, turns into a crusty Mickey Goldmill when she starts talking about the fight. She wants Canseco to win in 14 seconds and jokes she'll leave him if he loses. Canseco rolls his eyes when Northcott becomes concerned about his laissez-faire attitude.

"Can you get serious about this? I'm starting to get concerned," she said in a limo ride from Stern's studio to the gym.

Any talk about a return to baseball, from coaching Little League to the minors, elicits a loud laugh from the first 40/40 man. Canseco claims he barely pays attention to the sport, but Northcott said it pains him to be away from the game he loved.

"He doesn't want to let on," she said. "He watches baseball every night and he watches it like a little boy. You see him almost like he's in a trance, as if he's out there doing that and living through those images."

As for that nickname for Saturday's fight, Canseco is still searching. He'll hear the catcalls and he'll play to the crowd. He needs a win to get another fight, another payday, another day to make a living.

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