"A lot of people didn't think this was real, but we're dead serious."
That's how Arkansas Travelers general manager Pete Laven describes his team's latest and greatest promotional stunt, which, truth be told, does sound a bit implausible.
On July 9, University of Arkansas-Little Rock assistant athletic director (and former head baseball coach) Gary Hogan will face off against Jose Canseco in a pregame boxing match. Yes, Jose Canseco, the one-time "Bash Brother" turned tell-all memoirist-turned-boxer. Over the past two years, the former slugger has consistently engaged in promotional boxing matches in order to earn extra income, and it was after one such match that an idea was planted in Laven's head.
"After I saw Canseco fight [NFL player-turned-sportscaster] Vai Sikahema, I thought of Gary because he still spars at the local gym and has a high-energy manic personality. I got in touch with Canseco and came to terms with him, all the while making sure that Gary was working out and ready to do it. Now it's almost upon us, and it really should be a great event."
Canseco, who turns 46 on Friday, is no spring chicken. But he's a veritable youngster next to Hogan, who is 60.
"My blood is on Pete's hands, this is his fault," Hogan said. "He came by one day and hung that carrot in front of me, and I'm just a stubborn old mule. I really didn't plan on boxing again."
Hogan, somewhat improbably, has experience in the realm of pregame Minor League boxing promotions. Before he began his long stint at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Hogan worked as a local TV sportscaster.
"I did TV from 1977-'85, and early on the station started a segment called Sports Challenges, where the reporters would play against a golf or a tennis pro, things of that nature," recalled Hogan. "I took that concept to the next level and ended up fighting [former light heavyweight contender] Mike Quarry in front of 7,500 people at [former home of the Travelers] Ray Winder Field."
Hogan's unlikely boxing "career" was derailed when he suffered a ribcage injury during a similar bout against former heavyweight champ John Tate. Decades later, he's eager to pick up where he left off.
"I'm coming out of retirement, because 60 is the new 30," he said. "This isn't going to be Mayweather-Pacquiao or Ali-Foreman, it's going to be two guys with 16-ounce gloves going out there just to see what happens."
Hogan insists he will be well-prepared for the fight, which will consist of four two-minute rounds.
"Jose's a big guy and will probably weigh in around 235. He's going to try to shove me around, so I just need to keep him off of me, keep moving and keep jabbing."
And while trash talk is a time-honored sweet science tradition, Hogan refrained from saying anything derogatory about his opponent.
"I'm happy [Jose] has agreed to do this," he said. "I appreciate the effort he's making, because this is great for Little Rock and great for baseball."
Hogan doesn't even have any qualms about the fact that Canseco is getting paid while he is not. Because for this sexagenarian, life experience is far more important than money.
"I've never been one to conform to too much, because you only get to go around the block one time," he said. "I plan on enjoying every inch of the block before I'm cremated."