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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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LI’s Fight Night

The late Irish playwright Oscar Wilde believed it was absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either charming or tedious, he said.

It is difficult to guess which categorization the long-dead Wilde would affix to Long Island tabloid fixtures from the 1990s such as Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco. But their ability to draw a national crowd in 2011 will be put to the test on Saturday, Nov. 5 when both participate in a Celebrity Fight Night boxing card at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood, California.

There’s no need to hop on a plane to catch all the action. DirecTV subscribers can, from the comfort of their own home, watch Fisher square off against Nadya ‘Octomom’ Suleman, and see Buttafuoco get into the ring against Lou Ballera, Fisher’s husband. The price to watch the proceedings live starting at 9 p.m. on pay-per-view is $29.95.

“This is going to be like going home for me,” said A.J. Benza, a West Islip native who covered many of these same celebrities-turned-combatants years ago as a New York Daily News gossip columnist. Benza will be calling the fights for DirecTV from ringside along with Frank Stallone, Sylvester’s brother.

The Celebrity Fight Night’s promoters are at least honest in their marketing materials. For instance, DirecTV highlighted prominently on its website that the line-up of boxers was subject to change. The disclaimer proved fortuitous as another notorious Long Islander, Michael Lohan, was imprisoned in Florida last week on assault charges. Lohan’s legal problems may imperil the bout Lindsay Lohan’s father was to have had with Kato Kaelin, who gained fame while testifying at the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-1990s. To date, it looks like nothing will keep Tareq Salahi, who crashed a White House state dinner with his now-estranged wife in 2009, from exchanging blows with Jose Canseco, the chemically-enhanced former major league baseball player.

“I don’t think we’re going to see crisp combinations and skilled footwork,” Benza stated, as our conversation turned to the competitors’ boxing skills.

This weekend’s festivities get underway with a weigh-in on Friday, Nov. 4, and Benza and Stallone will be in Hollywood for that, too. You think they’d wait a whole day to find out whether the rapper Coolio, another faded star on the Celebrity Fight Night circuit, was in shape?

Having moved back to Long Island recently after living for years in southern California, Benza probably has the best career prospects of anyone associated with the Nov. 5 extravaganza. He was a Newsday reporter before moving to the Daily News, and then hosted the E! Channel’s Mysteries and Scandals series, a show which explored some of Hollywood’s darkest real-life tales. His most recent TV gig was as co-host of The Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker program.

The newspaper business, however, is in his blood. “I enjoyed that more than anything I’ve ever done,” Benza said. “I still love walking into a newsroom.” He has reason to believe there’s a place for him today in the New York media firmament. For now, a trip to California lays ahead. Benza can plot his own comeback when he returns home next week.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: