Report: Bobby Riggs Threw Historic Match Against Billie Jean King To Pay Mafia Debts
September 20, 1973, on national television and in front of the largest US audience to view a tennis match, Billie Jean Kind and Bobby Riggs competed in the highly anticipated “Battle of the Sexes.”
King defeated Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, amidst controversy due to the age difference between the two (Riggs was 55 and King was 29) and the unusually poor play of Riggs, who just a few months prior defeated top female player Margaret Court in convincing fashion.
Now, 40 years later, 79-year-old former assistant golf pro old Hal Shaw, says that the whole thing was a set up brokered by Riggs and the Mafia to help pay off gambling debts.
H/T: Bob’s Blitz
Shaw, who said he was working late in the pro shop, claims he secretly listened in as club member Frank Ragano, Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello met with a fourth man he did not recognize. Trafficante and Marcello, now deceased, were reputed to be powerful mob figures in Florida and New Orleans, respectively. Ragano was an attorney who represented Trafficante.
Shaw, now 79, said the conversation in late 1972 or early 1973 centered upon an arrangement to be worked out with Riggs, who owed more than $100,000 from lost wagers on sporting events.
Shaw said Ragano explained that Riggs “had the first match already in the works … and the second match he knew would follow because of Billie Jean King’s popularity and everything that it would be kind of a slam dunk to get her to play him bragging about beating Margaret Court.” Shaw said Ragano mentioned an unidentified mob man in Chicago who would help engineer the fix.
“Mr. Ragano was emphatic,” Shaw said. “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.”
Given the facts it does seem a little suspicious, but you can view the Outside The Lines report below and come to your own conclusions.