House of Fury Revisited

By Wrigley Brogan on August 20, 2018
House of Fury Revisited
Kadin LeCoure and Ron Simmins had the crowd on its feet. (Photo: Wrigley Brogan)

I always enjoyed driving to the Coeur d’Aline Casino, in Worley, Idaho, and talking to boxing promoter Moe “Jackie” Smith…

I always enjoyed driving to the Coeur d’Aline Casino, in Worley, Idaho, and talking to boxing promoter Moe “Jackie” Smith. Smith found a home at the casino and had started the “House of Fury” boxing series at the casino. They were the best fights in Idaho, and some of the best fights in the Northwest.

Smith was fond of reminiscing about his days as a boxer—“The tough old days.” He sat in the chair behind his desk, a newsboy cap on his head and a large unlit cigar clenched between his teeth. I never saw him without a cigar. I also never saw one of them lit. His eyes rolled back to a place I could not see. He was getting ready to enter the ring, the canvas spotlighted in a warm glow from the overhead lights swimming in cigar and cigarette smoke. The smell of hotdogs competed with spilled beer and was heavy on the air. His opponent stood across the ring like a tiger waiting to attack.

The way Smith told it he was only one punch away from being the world lightweight champion. He had fought and beaten “all the top contenders.” BoxRec records depict a different story, cold facts and figures on a lighted screen. His record was 18-18-7 with only 3 KOs. After 19 fights Smith was still being beaten by opponents like 0-3-0 Billy Huff. Even his last fight was a loss to Chuck Ciocca who was making his pro debut. Smith truly believed in the old adage, “Who needs truth if it’s dull.” Smith was anything but dull. His stories were always exciting and, if not exactly true, always conveyed the emotional brilliance and surprise that is boxing at its best.

He might not have been the best boxer but he was a great promoter. Along with Bennie Georgino and Brian Halquist, Smith was one of the top promoters in the Northwest. He knew boxing and he knew boxers. Like Georgino, he never protected anyone on the card. Any boxer signing a contract for a bout knew he was required to fight. Every boxer also had a chance to win. There is no other way to constantly sell out a show, and all his shows were sellouts.

People scrambled from miles around to see his cards and the casino did a brisk business in an increased drop, rooms, food, and drinks. Many fans stayed over to play golf or to enjoy a nice weekend away from home.

Smith was also unique with most of his cards. He attempted to headline his shows with former world champions and contenders on the way down, people like Vince Phillips, Livingstone Bramble, Jorge Paez, Greg Page, Montell Griffin, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Vasilly Jirov. They often needed a payday and the fans had a chance to meet former champions. Everyone left the shows happy.

Years ago, after Smith died, the casino stopped the House of Fury boxing series. Earlier this year they hired new promoter Sarah Grant Welliver of Beat Boxing Promotions to bring the event back. The first try was not a rousing success. The promotion suffered from the fights being held on Thursday, not the best day of the week for people to stay up late and party. The bouts were mediocre. Also, before the fights started, various people were asked to enter the ring and talk about Smith—a nice thought but always a mistake. NEVER hand a microphone to a boxer and NEVER hand it to six of them. By time the microphone reached the second speaker the crowd was ready to commit suicide. The ceremony lasted almost 45 minutes, or so it seemed, and there was a long interlude from a speaker attempting to convert the crowd to Christianity.

Welliver, who owns the Spokane Party Bus, hopes to correct the problems on the next show October 13th. She is new to the game and still learning but she is a smart business woman and learns fast. In the tradition of Moe Smith the participants will be much more evenly matched. Nothing builds a continuous event like competitive bouts. The fights will also be held on Saturday. Word has it that tickets have been going fast and rooms at the casino are almost sold out. She has also added former champion and local fan favorite heavyweight Chauncy Welliver, who is coming out of retirement for the main event. Chauncy holds a steamer trunk full of the best minor belts money can buy but never had the opportunity to fight for any major championships. Having him on the card is a step in the right direction. Future fights will feature other former champions.

Another step in the right direction is bringing back the best fighters from the previous show. Kadin LeCoure and Ron Simmins had the crowd on its feet on the last card. Going toe-to-toe they performed a dance of mayhem that would have made Jack Dempsey proud. Nothing spells incentive like a return bout for increased money.

If anyone can get the House of Fury back on its feet, it’s Sarah Grant Welliver. She promises that “every show will be better than the last.” With support from the casino, and working as a team, boxing will return to Idaho.

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