Twenty years ago this month, Tim Tomashek’s 15-minute allotment of fame stretched into a week or so. If he wanted to, the Green Bay native could still be drawing interest on that, especially in the bars where the man known as "Doughboy" was a bona-fide blue-collar hero.
But Tomashek doesn’t drink much nowadays, and he would just as soon fly under the radar anyway, the way he did until the night of Aug. 30, 1993, when he became the only Wisconsinite to ever fight for the heavyweight championship because the guy who was supposed to be in the challenger’s corner was even more afraid of the mandatory pre-fight drug test than he was of champion Tommy Morrison and took a powder 40 minutes before fight time.
From 1987 until then, Tomashek, a four-time state Golden Gloves champion, had happily plied the Midwestern tank-town circuit, where thanks to the absence of rigorous regulatory oversight almost anyone with a pulse qualified to climb through the ropes and call himself a fighter.
As a result, Doughboy – he was into beer then, and it showed – compiled a 35-10 record. Though more impressive on paper than in reality, the impresarios of the World Boxing Organization considered it a respectable enough fig-leaf to make Tomashek a suitable replacement challenger in the title fight broadcast to millions on ESPN from Kansas City.
Up to 1990, the highlight of Tomashek’s career was losing a 12-round decision in a fight for the heavyweight championship of Indiana. A year later, he traveled to France and lost to future cruiserweight champion Anaclet Wamba.
"They tricked me," explained Tomashek about the latter defeat. "Free wine on the plane!"
The Green Bay heavyweight had no illusions about why he was tapped to step in against Morrison.
"They figured, ‘Hey, Tomashek likes to get the crap kicked out of him, but he hangs in there,’" he says.
Handier with a punch-line than a punch, afterwards Tomashek joked that he’d trained for the fight by using a Stairmaster and letting the guys with whom he worked in the warehouse at ShopKo in Green Bay "beat me up."
Against Morrison, who’d beaten George Foreman for the WBO title and whose assets included a 36-1 record with 32 knockouts and his role as "Tommy Gunn" in the 1989 Sylvester Stallone film "Rocky V," Tomashek’s most memorable moment occurred in the second round when he got the champ in a headlock and then administered the only noogie ever used in a heavyweight title fight.
He’d entered the ring to the song "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," and the 21-pounds heavier Morrison did plenty of that, knocking Tomashek down and almost closing his eyes before the ringside doctor called off the fight after the fourth round.
Luckily, Morrison’s fire was concentrated on Tomashek’s gourd.
"If he’d hit me in the guts I’d have vomited on him," says Doughboy. "I had a few brews before" the fight, when he thought he’d just be a spectator.
His performance didn’t endear him to the boxing cognoscenti.
"YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS" blared the headline on the story about the fight in Boxing Monthly magazine, which called Tomashek "the strangest world heavyweight title challenger ever."
But Tomashek’s back-story and sense of humor – ‘’Have blood, will travel’ is my motto" – did land him a guest-spot on the "Late Show with David Letterman" a few days later. Wearing a Shopko sweatshirt and cap, he was as wide-open for the host’s digs as he’d been for Morrison’s punches.
"One more ‘Jeepers,’ said Letterman after Tomashek used his trademark exclamation 12 times, "and I’m going to have to take a point away from you!"
Fan letters came from New Zealand and other far-flung locales, and all the attention dumbfounded and discomfited Tomashek. Especially the night some teenagers asked to have the socks he was wearing for a souvenir as he left the ring after a fight in Chicago.
"Holy schmutz, kids!" said The Doughboy, using another favorite vociferation – "I’m poorer than you are!"
Retired from the ring since 1998, Tomashek has worked for the last 17 years in the shipping department at the Georgia-Pacific (formerly the Fort Howard Paper) plant in Green Bay.
"Everything worked out. I’m very thankful for my job," he says.
He stays in shape playing racquetball, but doesn’t punch a bag or anything else.
"I lost interest in all that," he says. "I feel great. I wake up with a lot of drool on the pillow, but that’s about it."
He’ll turn 48 a few days before the 20th anniversary of the biggest fight of his boxing career, but Tomashek has no plans for a splashy celebration of either milestone.
"I didn’t like all the publicity," he says. "Now I lay low."
Recently, though, he did participate in a charity golf outing, and discovered that even a sport in which you do all the hitting can beat the hell out of you.
"Goldang," says Doughboy, "Golf would make me even crazier than I already am."