03/13/1989 at 01:00 AM EST
It's show time at Manhattan's Great American Clubhouse, and that means violence—sort of. To a blaring disco beat, two buxom gladiators strip down to skimpy cutout bathing suits, slip into 16-oz. boxing gloves and climb into an undersize boxing ring for three rounds of throwing the leather. That rumbling you hear deep in the earth may be the Marquis of Queens-berry a-spin in his grave. "We're not out there to cream each other," says Kristi Lear, 5'9", 117 lbs. "Then we won't look pretty, and we won't have a show."
Yes, it has come to this: Billy Dean's Knockout Foxy Fighting Revue is the latest entry on the New York nightclub scene. "We agree it's sexist," says former amateur fighter Billy Dean, 33, who worked up the act in the suburbs before its January Clubhouse debut "We have gorgeous girls, and we're exploiting it"
Though Dean claims his fights are all on the level, the action looks as choreographed as a scene from Flashdance, if a lot less graceful. His 12 pugilists, including models, students and a couple of aspiring actresses, earn up to $500 a week, despite a minimal aptitude for the womanly art of self-defense. Waltzing awkwardly about the ring, the combatants rarely seem in danger of injury. "I think I felt some blood way inside," says Lear, who lost one match on a TKO after defaulting with an incipient bloody nose.
Unlike serious women boxers, who couldn't draw flies after they won the right to be licensed in New York, these playmate pugs aren't hurting for an audience. The mostly male yuppie fight fans—many of them putting up between $25 and $75 to stand next to the ring and "manage" the fighters—turn out Tuesday nights. Postfight rubdowns, though, are out of the question.