Boxing Fight Story

I think that if you examine the origins of most men's interest in boxing, you will find that the first fights they have are on the street, with bare fists, and that later on they either decide for themselves or are motivated by others to channel their fistic enthusiasm into the ring, with gloves. Certainly the vast majority of boxers are tough street kids who fight first and box later. There are of course guys who see boxing on TV or in a film and gravitate toward it it, and ultimately yield to the magnetic siren's song of the gym. A boxing gym is an absolute treasure of sensory experience. There are the sounds, unique to it, of fists in Everlast 4308's -the padded, steel cored bag gloves - thudding solidly against an old heavy bag crisscrossed in duct tape. Mine are no longer black, but a washed out gray. They look as though they have been polished with sand paper. There is also the rhythmic staccato rap of wrapped fists working a speedbag. The metronomic bump of feet skipping rope. And then there are the smells, of male sweat and liniment and the occasional old guard promoter with a stogie. And of course there are the sights and colors, of shiny flesh in many hues, of soggy gray sweats and scuffed, ancient boxing shoes. My Pony's from the 70s were once white, now light gray, and my Lonsdales, once black are gray too.

My own journey to the sport includes both of the elements I mentioned above- as a very small child I was endlessly fascinated by a black and white photo of my father in an intercollegiate boxing tournament in the late 1930's. I also had a naturally pugnacious streak as a child, and after my first few fistfights - odd, in a gentle, bookish child - my father, having caught leaving my bed to stand in the hall ans watch the Friday Night Fights - recognized my fascination with the sport with delight and "taught me the moves." They served me well in junior high school phys ed class boxing, though I had to do a lot of unlearning and relearning when, at 17, I went to my first boxing gym.

Of all the fistic experiences I have had - and I admit that I sought out fistfights of many types, in addition to my experiences in the ring - there is one that has always replayed itself endlessly in the video archives of my memory. I was 26, and had begun the relationship I am in to this day.
I was sparring regularly, as well as fighting in a few rather Mickey Mouse tournaments at a place called The Harbor House - in Boston speak that's Hah-bah -
in Lynn, MA, a few miles north of Boston.
I was also hanging out with some rather downmarket straight guys who regularly got into fistfights with guys from neighboring turfs. There was a guy I had had a fistfight with, a hunky kid who had a rep, named Don Beckler. He knew I boxed and, with the intuition that some Neanderthals have, he also knew - through instinct rather than empirical instinct - that I was "different."

Don was very resentful that when we fought I had taken him out with a rather effective combination that ended with an always reliable right uppercut to set up the hook. Don approached me some weeks after our fight if I would have a "Mexican Fight" with him. I had never heard the term, and, bewildered, asked him what it meant. He explained that it was a sort of game of "take your best shot." we would take turns punching each other, each one just allowing the other to take a shot. Don said it would be a way of testing ourselves, of seeing not just who could give more, but also who could take more punishment. I was very reluctant - the balletic rhythms of a boxing match or the more staccato violence of a fistfight were one thing, but to stand there and await a man's fist to crash into one was something else again. I just didn't know if I could do it.
But a challenge is a challlenge. I agrred to meet Don on the following Saturday night at the parking lot of the bank where we all gathered for this sort of thing. The bank backed on to the Mass Turnpike, and there was an anchor fence, quite high, many feet below which the cars whizzed by, east into Boston, and west toward Worcester. I got there earlier than Don did and was schmoozing with a couple of the guys - my dada always called them "hoodlums" -who were in that compartment of my life. I asked named Richie about "Mexican fighting" and he offered only minimal elucidation, explaining that you could throw only head shots, which I hadn't known.

Don arrived presently. He was an atractive guy with very light brown hair bleached by the sun, and very light blue eyes. I stripped off my shirt, as did he, we went over the rules again. I was terrified. We flipped a coin to see who got the first shot, and he won. I stood there, doing the obligatory swaggering and pec-rolling that accompanied these things. I stood still, tense and expectant. Don wound up and smashed a rather roundouse right to my jaw. To my surprise, though it was agonizing, I barely moved. I am a solid guy and always had a good thick neck, and though the impact was considerable, it wasm't devastating. The punch HURT, but it wasn't what I would call great firepower, and God knows I had taken worse int he ring. I could feel the warmth of confidence creeping into every bone and muscle of my body, and I actually smiled. It was my turn.
My hair was long then - it was 1977 - and was getting in my eyes. I ran both my hands through it, making sure that my biceps flexed as I did so. I have always had a vain, shallow streak. Don was standing right in front of me, waiting as I had waited. I had always had to work inside in the ring, a short guy with a short reach, who often gave inches in height and reach - though rarely anywhere else - to my opponents. I was a body puncher because I had to be, but I loved to work upstairs, and was a closet sharpshooter. I measured Don carefully and banged him in the left eye with a short vicious right hook, as if to show him how a right hook SHOULD be thrown. He cried out in pain and his hand instantly flew to his. which instantly started to puff up in a very satisfactory way. I let my arms fall rather theatrically to my sides and moved forward,
waiting. I was rewarded with a very creditable right uppercut to my chin, the kind that, especially without a mouthguard, jolts the head upward and crunches the neck and shoulder muscles painfully as your lower teeth collide with your upper teeth, and there is an instant of very white light. This hurt. I felt like an idiot, and needed to end it soon.

Don was gloating now, capering almost. I was angry. I waited a moment, catching my breath. I stood there, my chest heaving, trying to figure out what to do. Don was looking too cocky by half. I thought, and for what seemed like hours but was probably under 30 seconds. Don had a smirk on his face. Then I haulded off and slugged him with the best overhand right I had ever thrown or was ever to throw, an epoch-making punch of such grace and power and bad intentions as to be remembered forever by giver and receiver. It landed with the power of a sledgehammer square on Don Beckler's nose, breaking it in several places and causing it to blees gratifyingly. The guys rushed around him and agreed that he needed to be taken to the emergency room. I was very grateful to that punch. It made Don look bad, me look good - and it ended the fight.

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