The arena was small, and the smoke filtered the already dim lights. The milling crowd loaded up on food and drink, preparing for another night of club boxing.
A tall, strapping man stood near the ring. He was a bit nervous, and with reason. In a few minutes, Bill Scott would step into the ring for the first time--for the first time without gloves.
On this night in Reseda, Scott, a West Los Angeles resident and former professional boxer, is making his debut as a pro boxing referee and judge. At 48 years old and over 15 years removed from his last venture into the ring, Scott is starting over.
But unlike another resurgent boxing figure from the same era, heavyweight George Foreman, Scott will take care of his ring business wearing a bow tie and black slacks. To boxing, he is a veteran of the ring. To the California State Athletic Commission, he is a rookie.
His is not a case of a former athlete looking for work in the sport that once was his playground. Scott is a successful businessman, and has held a real estate license for nearly 20 years.
His resume includes work as a bank loan officer, for which he won an entire wall's worth of awards. He also owns an upscale Beverly Hills limousine service. His wife, Barbara, runs a real estate investment firm; his two children are grown, out of the house and on the road to their own successes. Boxing, it would seem, could fit comfortably into Scott's distant past.
But that's exactly why he yearns to be a staple in the fight game today--because he doesn't need boxing, because he wants to work for the betterment of the sport. Conversely, the sport doesn't need Scott, but it surely will love to have him.
"I'm in it now to give something back," he said. "Boxing has done so much for me, not in the way of fame or glory but as a person. I really love boxing."
His adoration of the sport drives him to put in countless hours refereeing sparring bouts in several Los Angeles gyms. The athletic commission requires an aspiring referee to work 100 gym fights as part of the training to become licensed.
For more than two years, Scott has been diligently putting in his bout work. He passed the century mark long ago but has no plans to stop working the ring scrimmages just because the commission is satisfied. Scott, a stickler for improvement, isn't satisfied.
For 30 years, Scott has been skirting the perimeter of the sport, searching, checking to see if he can improve it and his presence in it. The fascination with leather-wrapped fists never needed to be beaten into him. Maybe because a small beating provided the orientation.
"The first time boxing crossed my mind was when I fought my brother," said Scott, who was 12 at the time. "A friend across the street got two sets of boxing gloves for Christmas. My brother Abraham, who was 1 1/2 years older, and I put them on and we went at it. It was a pretty good little old fight. We really nailed each other, but we didn't call it win or lose."
The no-decision outcome against Abraham would be his first and only association with boxing for a while. At the age of 17, he volunteered for the Army and packed his bags for duty at Ft. Chaffee, Ark. A burly sergeant took one look at Scott, by now well over 6 feet with a filled-out frame, and declared him the company boxing representative.
Scott won his first official fight by first-round knockout. His second fight had a similar outcome. "It was brute strength," Scott said. "I didn't have enough finesse."
Whatever his style, it earned him the post championship among heavyweights and another successful fighting stint at Georgia's Ft. Benning.
Scott later went into beauty products sales, thereby launching his string of successful business ventures. "It was a good feeling when I saw my name on my own products (called Beauty by Scott)," he said. "I felt like a real businessman."
But with the call of boxing ringing in his ears, he started training again. He won Northeastern Ohio Golden Gloves championships in 1963-'64 and '68 and was bestowed with the Golden Gloves Sportsman Award in '63.
"I was into boxing," he said, "totally for the sport of it. I never wanted to hurt anyone or to make a lot of money off of it."
Scott, who fought as Victor (his middle name) "Dynamite" Scott, admits his pro career never became overly successful--he posted a record of 4-6--probably because he didn't pursue it seriously until he was 30, dinosaur age in boxer years.
There was a bout with an up-and-coming Foreman in El Paso, Tex., in 1971. Foreman's scheduled opponent had car trouble in the middle of the New Mexico desert, so Scott was flown in from Los Angeles on less than an hour's notice as a replacement. A warmed up and angry Foreman creamed Scott, who had been rushed from the airport in a police car with siren blaring, in the first round.
When Foreman recently came out of retirement, Scott wrote him a letter, asking for a rematch. He later laughed off the request, content, he said, with his earlier exploits as a fighter.