Thursday, May 8, 2008

Boxing 101

The man in the picture is my great uncle, Randolph Dallas Price. Once know as "Blackjack Price". He was a professional boxer around 1917. He boxed in the West and Northwest and was at one time the middle weight Northwest Champion. He was a couple of years older than my grandfather. My grandfather had the first two knuckles on his left hand pushed back from their original location. I asked him once how that happened and he said that's how far up a bully's nose he pushed his hand in a fist fight. My father also boxed in the Navy during WWII. I did some boxing, and have enjoyed watching the sport over the years. My wife does not share my fascination with the sweet science. I don't enjoy the current boxing venue, but I occasionally watch to vicariously satisfy some innate need. It is probably something in the Welsh and Irish genes.

I wrote a short short story very loosely based on the life of Dallas. In real life Dallas and his brother Stanhoper went to Utah to work in the mines. Dallas met and married Bardella Smith in Utah and later the brothers went to Los Angeles and found work making movie sets. Around 1917 while in Utah, he fought as a middleweight and gained a minor championship. Other boxers in the area in the same general weight class were Sailor Pat Petrosky, Jack Dillon, and the famous "Manassa Mauler", Jack Dempsy. In his early days, Dempsy was a middleweight. Dallas was scheduled to fight Dempsy, but the fight never came off. I haven't verified all of this with Snopes. The following story is fiction. The names have been changed to keep relatives from sending me corrections related to the facts of the story.

Dallas “Blackjack” Bond, former world light heavyweight champ, had returned to New York City. Here he had once thrilled boxing fans in Madison Square Garden, and here he met and married Angela Minoni, a petite dark haired beauty he called Angie. Born in poverty to elderly parents, he learned to make his way in life early. In the sweltering heat of the Mississippi lumber camps, he swung an axe and pulled on a cross-cut saw until he was lean and strong. When his parents died, he went to New Orleans and took a job as a longshoreman working on the docks. There were always rough men around looking for a fight. They soon learned that the tall slender kid from Mississippi had a crushing left hook.
“It felt like someone hit me with a blackjack.” An opponent once commented after regaining his senses.
Angie was supportive, but as the years took a physical toll, she convinced him to leave the ring. They moved to Las Vegas, where he opened a gym and became a trainer. They had no children, but lived well and enjoyed each other. Last September she lost a hard fought bout with cancer. Her death hit Dallas like a liver shot in the twelfth round of a fifteen rounder. He was sixty eight years old, conscious, but on the canvas and unable to get up. He sold the gym and moved back to New York in December, hoping he could find something of Angie. It was the old neighborhood, but everything had changed. The coldness of the winter night seeped in through the wrinkles in the old building. Dallas stirred under the covers in his small bed. His six foot two inch frame took up the greater portion of its length. He slept in his gray sweats for added warmth. Throwing back the blankets, he arose and shuffled the short distance to his bathroom. The door frame barely accommodated the width of his shoulders. Standing at the sink, he splashed icy tap water onto his face. He ran his wet fingers through his wavy graying hair, and then dried his face with a tattered green towel. He stared into the mirror and wondered what Angie had ever seen in that mug. The reflection of his slate blue eyes looked back at him. The thick scar tissue drooped at the corner of each eyebrow and made him look sad. His nose was flat and slightly crooked. With age, his cauliflower ears had lengthened and now looked like unfinished candle wax sculptures. The line of his jaw didn’t exactly line up either. He turned away and moved to the living room. A framed photograph of a youthful Angie stood beneath the lamp on the end table. Dallas glanced her way and forced a smile as he lowered himself to the hard floor for some push-ups and sit-ups, but his heart wasn’t in it. He held his huge calloused hands at arms length while working his fingers to loosen the stiffness in his knuckles. Even though his once-chiseled body had smoothed with age, it was still impressive. He stood and moved to the window. The sun shone brightly. It was time for a walk down memory lane.He slipped out of his warm-ups and put on some heavy woolen trousers and a nice plaid dress shirt. He drank the last of his coffee, put on his coat and hat, and left the building. For a moment he stood on the sidewalk, basking in the contrast of warm sunshine and crisp air. Before him an ever-changing pallet of skin colors moved over the gray concrete, accompanied by a symphony of dialects. The city had its own atmosphere. He could smell smog, refuse, and people, mixed with the more pleasing and pungent odors of garlic and onion cooking.
“Let go of my purse!” A woman was screaming.
Dallas turned and saw a gang of young punks surrounding an elderly woman who was hanging on to the strap of her purse with amazing tenacity. He felt a surge of adrenaline as he ran toward her.
“Let go of her now!” he yelled as he waded into the group, shielding the lady who had now fallen to the sidewalk. “It’s not worth it guys, back off.”
A large young man sneered as he sauntered toward Dallas. The others watched and grinned. “Looks like you need a lesson in respect old man.” The bully threw a looping right as he spoke. Dallas ducked to the left and the punch found nothing but air over his right shoulder. Instinct brought his left fist in a short arc to the young man’s jaw. His assailant fell hard to the sidewalk. The others scattered.
“Are you alright ma’am?” Dallas asked, as he helped the frightened woman from the ground.
“Yes, I think so. Thank you so much. I didn’t know what I was going to do.” “Do you want me to call the police?” She looked down at the young man now lying at her feet. “No, I don’t think he’ll be bothering anyone for quite some time.” She brushed herself off, thanked Dallas again, and started home.
Dallas thought of Angie. She had fought so hard, but he couldn’t help her. He knew she would have been pleased with him today. You know Angie, I’m thinking about making a comeback. The legs are gone, the reflexes aren’t so good, but I still have my left hook. The adrenaline was wearing off and the cold air chilled him. I think I may do it in Biloxi though. He glanced heavenward and his blue eyes were smiling again.
This is Dallas in later years with his wife Bardella. They had children and lived a long and happy life together.

I have numerous versions of this poem, because I found it difficult to put verse and boxing together. This is my latest attempt. (9th edition)

The Fighter

Sweat covers his body,
forms dark stains on
satin trunks,
a sheen on
red leather gloves.
Years of training
in stale smelling gyms
to fight.
He shuffles forward,
Sweat drips pink
over scarred eyelids
to taut canvas.
The beauty of his work
lost in its brutality.