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Monday, August 26, 2013

Famous tennis match was orchestrated by the mob

Tennis star Bobby Riggs, top, and Billie Jean King are shown in action during the "Battle of the Sexes" match in the Astrodome in Houston, on Sept. 20, 1973.

The greatest woman-beats-man match in sports history could have been an elaborate, mob-set fraud, according to jaw-dropping ESPN report.

Retired tennis champ Bobby Riggs lost to Billie Jean King on Sept. 20, 1973, in a remarkably hyped event that’s still revered in the annals of the women’s liberation movement.

Artfully playing the brash male chauvinist pig, the 55-year-old Riggs lost in three straight sets to the world’s No. 2 female player of the time, King.

Billie Jean King watches her return to Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" match at the Houston Astrodome on Sept. 20, 1973.

Four months earlier, Riggs had easily dispatched then-No. 1 Margaret Court, making the King victory all the more stunning to 30,472 fans at the Houston Astrodome and millions more watching on TV.

A country club co-worker of Riggs believes the tennis champ threw that match under mob pressure.

Hal Shaw, fixing golf clubs after midnight 40 years ago at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in Tampa, Fla., said Riggs was visited by an infamous group of organized crime figures.

Shaw insists he saw mob attorney Frank Ragano, Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr. and New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello enter the club for a meeting with the tennis pro, according to the report.

Ragano told the men that Riggs was going to "set up two matches … against the two best women players in the world," Shaw told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

"He mentioned Margaret Court — and it's easy for me to remember that because one of my aunt's names was Margaret so that, you know, wasn't hard to remember — and the second lady was Billie Jean King,” the 79-year-old Shaw told “OTL.”

"Mr. Ragano was emphatic … Riggs had assured him that the fix would be in — he would beat Margaret Court and then he would go in the tank" against King, but Riggs pledged he'd 'make it appear that it was on the up and up.'"

Riggs’ pal Gardnar Mulloy, a tennis star of the 1940s and '50s, said Riggs told him not to bet on him to beat King.

The son of 1930s tennis great Don Budge also claims his dad told him the King match was fixed.

However, both men said they don’t believe Riggs threw the famous match because bookies would have noticed any huge money going on King.

Riggs was an overwhelming pick in Las Vegas and bookies could barely entice any action on King, despite long odds.

"King money is scarce,” famed handicapper Jimmy the Greek said at the time. "King money is scarce. It's hard to find a bet on the girl."

Riggs was 77 when he died on Oct. 25, 1995.



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