with him every night for the rest of his life.
It's magic to hear your boxer gagging in the dressing room after losing a title fight. It's magic because
your fighter had sweated himself dry and he's drinking fluids for maybe an hour, and he's waiting for his kidneys to kick in so he can pass his piss test, because if he pisses drugs, he doesn't get paid. It's magic because this same guy had the fight won, except he tried to trade punches with a puncher he'd nearly knocked out-magic because in the split second of that mental error he got himself flattened, like Billy Conn did, but this time with an uppercut that traveled no longer than half the distance from wrist to elbow. And it's magic
because his life will never be the same, magic because he would have been champion of the world, and now he will never be. This is the magic of winning and losing in a man's game, where men will battle with their minds and bodies and hearts into and beyond exhaustion, past their... more
back ...Mexicans pushing my gurney sang along with me.
Open-heart surgery ain't no walk in the park. But three months after a triple bypass and the complications of what is called an ileus, my memory half shot from morphine and the other junk they pumped into me, I was back in the gym jumping rope. Only a minute at first, but then three minutes. And then three rounds. I couldn't do four, because I never regained the conditioning I had before surgery, and because I have pain in one foot that apparently resulted from their taking a vein in my leg to rewire my heart. So there I was, doing the same workout I'd done before but only three
rounds instead of four. Except that by then I had already been training fighters, working corners, bringing my own magic, and stopping blood. In fact,
the morning after one of the angioplasties, I drove to Del Mar and hung out all day at the fair so I could work a title fight that night.
I started in the amateurs, took nights off from my job so I could work three-rounders in VFW halls, recreation centers, and the back rooms of spaghetti joints. Then four-rounders, and ten, and traveling around the world to work twelve-round title fights. I've worked seven title fights of one kind or another, and I've been licensed in ten states--from Hawaii to New York, from Missouri to Florida. There
the magic of men in combat, the magic of will, and skill, and pain, and the risking of everything so you can respect yourself for the rest of your life. Almost sounds like writing.
Real magic, the real McCoy, imagine! To be a part of that! Whether in the gym or during a title fight. Or standing beside the canals of Picardy at five in the misty morning while your fighter is doing roadwork. It's magic to hear frogs plop into the water as your fighter jogs by, to smell apples in the air. And it's magic to see your fighter stretch
himself on the rack of his lungs and legs, his goal to take his opponent's heart as mercilessly as an Aztec priest, to leave him blinking up into the lights with his will so shattered he will take the pieces to bed
He died as he had lived, wanting to write. His last words... "Doc, get me a little more time, I gotta finish my book".
are plenty of guys who have done much more in boxing than I, but there are many who've done less. And I've fought in Mexico, France, Germany, and South Africa-where, in Cape Town, by the
way, they produce a champion Cabernet Sauvignon, Fleur de Cap, that will do wonders for your spirit.
About the only thing I haven't done in boxing is make money. it's the same for most fight guys. But that hasn't stopped me any more than not making money in writing has. Both are something you just do, and you feel grateful for being able to do them, even if both keep you broke, drive you crazy, and make you sick. Rational people don't think like
that. But they don't have in their lives what I have in mine. Magic. The magic of going to wars I believe in. And the magic of boxing humor, the joke almost
always on the teller, that marches with you every step of the way.
There's no magic in street fighting. Street fighting may be lethal, especially when one guy is bigger and stronger than the other. But boxing is designed to be lethal, designed to test lethally the male will of both fighters, designed to see who's boss, who will stake out and control the magic territory of a square piece of enchanted canvas.
The magic of the fighter is also part of the mix, the magic that attracts people from around the world to him, the magic of seeing him play Cowboys and Indians for real. The prettier the fighter-and I'm not talking pretty as in girlie-boy movie-star pretty--the
harder that fighter has worked. The prettier the fighter is, the more money he'll make, too. But what you must understand is that fighting and boxing are as different from each other as hitting is from punching, as different as a wild dog from a Chihuahua. By definition, boxing and punching are lethal. So being able to box pretty and be lethal-that makes the magic that drives the whole world wild.
Ring magic is different from the magic of the theater, because the curtain never comes down-because the blood in the ring is real blood, and the broken noses and the broken hearts are real,
and sometimes they are broken forever. Boxing is