Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Everlast used a different kind of velvet rope to pull guests into its party. The action at last week’s event centered around the showroom’s boxing ring, where the brand showcased its activewear. Most guests dodged the official weigh-in station and the Boxer dog outside the elevators, and headed into the party, where boxing types mingled with retailers, models, acrobats and New Jersey Nets cheerleaders.
George Horowitz, president and chief executive officer of Everlast Worldwide, called the bash a celebration of the purchase of Everlast in October by Active Apparel Group, the former licensor of Everlast activewear. The brand generated $200 million at retail last year.
Kathy Collins, an Everlast-sponsored boxer, summed things up this way, “This is huge. Everlast has been around forever and now that George has taken over, he will help the brand grow and get better. It’s a wonderful evolution.”
Decked out in a Bebe miniskirt, lace camisole, white fur jacket, sandals and sequined bag, Collins said she squares off with Christy Martin at Madison Square Garden in May.
As her husband danced beside her, Collins told him, “Frankie, you can go watch the girls dance.” What he was missing was “The Human Slinky” wearing a gold thong bikini shimmying numerous hula hoops up and down her well-toned frame.
Former heavyweight fighter Gerry Cooney, was one of the hula hooper’s new-found fans, wanting to know how she got those abs. Hula hooping, of course.
Cooney was in the house because Everlast supports FIST, his foundation that helps struggling ex-fighters go back to school or find solid jobs. He’d also checked out the brand’s fall line, but missed the python shorts, which had gone missing — much to a sales rep’s chagrin. Cooney said he is talking with Everlast about a deal.
Arthur Mercante, a referee who has seen his share of knockouts in in his 70-year career, reminded Cooney of how he pulverized Ron Lyle and left him hanging half out of the boxing ring’s apron, prompting Mercante to call the fight.
Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, the Sugar Rays — Robinson and Leonard, Mercante has shared the ring with them all. One night shy of the 30th anniversary of the Ali-Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden, Mercante recalled more than stopping that fight after Ali’s 15th round knockout.
Prior to the showdown, Ali was a Vietnam War conscientious objector who wasn’t allowed to fight for three years, while Frazier had been whipping all challengers. The energy at the Garden was at a fever pitch, and the fight was so intense that two men died of heart attacks, Mercante recalled. Frank Sinatra was ringside as Life magazine’s official press photographer, Burt Lancaster was part of the broadcast team and Diana Ross was among the 2,500 celebrities in the crowd.
“Talk about fashion. That was the most fashionable night in boxing,” he said. “Everybody wanted to get the whitest fur coat and the most expensive apparel. Women came in with hats. Generally, a boxing match attracts people in T-shirts and jeans. But people wanted to be seen on TV, and the cameras panned into the crowd continually.”
With the exception of Mercante’s wife, Gloria, who turned out in a Cossack hat and green silk dress, the Everlast event was more dressed down. As for the models in the boxing rings, they were just plain underdressed in midriff-baring tops, bra tops and bike shorts.
Guests rolled up their sleeves to sample the Stone Spa’s warm stone massage. Light heavyweight boxer David Teslesco tried to sidestep the treatment and the bit about the spa’s new line of packaged goods by asking masseurs how he might try it at home.
In other news, Everlast will offer a boxing clinic to shoppers at MacySport with boxers Clarence Vinson and Jerson Ravelo this afternoon.