Sept. 21, 2002 – Unbeknownst to most of his fellow Virgin Islanders, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg was in New York City recently taping a boxing match for cable television.
No, not wearing the gloves. In his latest foray into the spotlight, the St. Thomas lawmaker appeared as a play-by-play announcer on World Hispanic Television, for a match seen Sept. 12 and last Sunday over the Madison Square Garden sports network.
Producer Hank Schwartz, said he tapped Donastorg for the assignment because of his personality, his name recognition in the Caribbean and his enthusiasm for boxing. "He was an excellent commentator," Schwartz said.
It was a plus that "he speaks both languages" — English and Spanish, Schwartz added, since MSG wanted to air a Hispanic sports event with English-language commentary.
The match was shot with Donastorg as one of two commentators calling play by play in the two languages.
Schwartz, the chairman of World Television Championship, produced some of the most famous televised boxing events of the 1970s, including the "Thrilla in Manila" and the "Rumble in the Jungle" bouts pitting Mohammad Ali against and Joe Frazier and George Foreman, respectively.
Schwartz said he wants to produce sports programs for the Spanish-speaking market now because relatively few Hispanics make it to the top in the field of sports entertainment.
Donastorg was right for his assignment, Schwartz said, because his Caribbean dialect was distinct and complimentary for a Hispanic show that would be viewed by English speakers and English-speaking Hispanics. The show was seen locally on the Dish Network and is now being marketed in Los Angeles, Texas, Florida and Chicago.
Donastorg said he always wanted to be an ambassador for the Virgin Islands and he felt comfortable doing a broadcast that allowed him to let those qualities shine through. "I had fun with it," he said.
This was not his first foray into network television. He was featured several months ago on the show "Unsolved Mysteries" on Lifetime TV, playing an FBI agent in the re-enactment of a local crime.
But Donastorg says a future in the bright lights is not his immediate goal. "They offered me big money," he said, but that was no enticement. "At this juncture, my priority is the people of the Virgin islands, and I'm not willing to put that second to anything."
He said his trip to New York was paid for by the promoters and that he would be paid an appearance fee but he didn't know how much. In the past, he said, he has donated money he received from television appearances to charities or local schools.
Not many people in the Virgin Islands knew he had gone to New York for his MSG Boxing debut, Donastorg said, but when he got home, there were a couple of phone calls from friends saying they had seen him on TV.
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd said he didn't officially know about his colleague's show biz plans, but he had a heads up early on that something like that might be in the works. "Foncie told me about it a long time ago," he said.
Liburd laughed when asked if he thought it might be handy having someone around who could give a blow-by-blow when Senate sessions get fractious. "That's a different kind of blow. That's an intellectual blow," he said. "That's a different kind of skill."
Donastorg has something else in mind. He said he thinks it would be a good fund raiser to have some of his Senate colleagues duke it out in the squared circle, the way it's done on the show "Celebrity Boxing." "I wish my colleagues would vent their frustration in the boxing ring instead of on the Senate floor," he said.
But unlike the TV judge and former boxing referee Mills Lane, Foncie said, he won't be the one telling his colleagues, "Let's Get It On."
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