Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - This past summer, it came to light that
Bobby Riggs may have been involved in a "fixed match" in his legendary "Battle
of the Sexes" highly heralded encounter with Billie Jean King in 1973.
Riggs, who died in 1995, got whipped by King, 26 years his junior at the time,
6-4, 6-3, 6-3, that September 20th night more than 40 years ago. Interestingly
enough, this took place after he had dismantled then-world No. 1 ranked woman,
Margaret Court, 6-2, 6-1, four months earlier in the original, Battle of the
Did Riggs intentionally throw the match against King? Did he need to do it in
order to repay a reported $100,000 gambling debt to the "mob?"
I sure don't know (and I am not aware of anyone that actually does), but we do
have an opinion by our resident tennis guru, Vic Braden.
I filmed our last celebration with Bobby Riggs and many of his past, and
famous, opponents. I don't think anyone knows Riggs as well as Lornie Kuhle.
Lornie runs the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club and Museum and he thinks the
accusations are totally false. It's important to understand how Bobby worked
the crowd. He was still taking bets on himself while the match was being
played. Bobby liked to keep people guessing. One thing is certain, Bobby bet a
lot of money on the match. He did look noticeably exhausted in the match and
Billie looked more than ready throughout.
Until someone shows me some real evidence, I don't think Bobby would have
endured losing to anyone. Simply not his style. He didn't want to die having
people think of him as a loser, and when the doctors told him he was close to
death it was no secret that he would never consider giving credence to those
rumors that have outlived him. Even in the celebration party, Ted Schroeder
made a statement that irritated Bobby and Bobby was quick to defend himself. He
was so angry that he stood up and no one knew where that might have led but,
happily for all, the great Pancho Gonzales quickly sat Bobby down as we were
all told, as quietly and discreetly as possible, that Riggs could die at any
He was just not the kind of guy who would throw a match to a woman after easily
defeating Margaret Court earlier. The report stated that a person overheard
Bobby promise gamblers he would lose so that they could place the proper bets
to gain more than the $100,000 Riggs allegedly owed them. But, if Bobby was so
confident about the match, why wouldn't he have placed big bets on himself,
paid back the money and kept his fame.
Bobby had told others at that get-together that he threw the match, but most of
his friends felt Bobby was messing with them again and the smiles usually
attendant to such a statement were well disguised. Feeding the rumor mill and
the public's mentality of the moment was more of a game to him than the one he
played on the tennis courts.
Once, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, I played in a doubles match against Bobby.
We lost, but a few years later I understood that my partner was in on a scheme
to intentionally lose to Riggs and his celebrity friend. It was apparent that
Bobby would do anything to win, so why would he want to go out as a loser in
the midst of all these tittle-tattle tennis tales, the gossip and canards? He
One thing is certain, Bobby wanted to keep people guessing and the best way he
knew was to stir the flames and "tell" anyone within a whisper, literally, that
he threw the match. Frankly, too little credit is given to Billie Jean King who
played pretty darn good tennis that night and the spotlight switched to Bobby,
who lost the match. He likely planned it that way.
So Bobby wins again: he has me, he has all of us, guessing, smiling down.
The Sports Network