of boxing are gone, though the percentage of white fighters who fight well is quite high. In fact it surprises me that more midsized white athletes don't come into the game.
White trainers, with some exceptions, are faded memories as well. Angelo Dundee, of course, still hangs with the big kids, as do a few others. My situation is unusual: 95 percent of my friends and associates are of a different color than 1. 1 recently gave a rubdown to a 240-pound Ugandan who speaks English, Swahili, and Japanese. By the time I spread extra-virgin olive oil over him and then worked wintergreen liniment into him, he was black and shiny as a berry. He has a temperament
sweet as a berry, as well. He's a polite and gentle Catholic boy--outside the ring. He lives and fights out of Japan. His regular trainer is Hawaiian Japanese.
back ...second wind, through cracked ribs and swollen livers, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. They do it for the money, to be sure. But they do it for respect and for the magic, too.
And it is magic of the mind as well, because each thing they do with their whole heart and soul takes them to a new level of under standing. The higher they climb, the wider the horizon, and they begin to see and understand combinations they never dreamed of. Like the writer, the more the fighter knows of his game, the greater the magic for him and for us.
And then there's magic of stopping blood that maybe another cut man couldn't, the magic of maybe using stuff you shouldn't use, but you keep your guy in the fight so both of you can go home
winners. But it's also magic to see a fight you're winning end in the time it takes to blink, when a left hook cranks your boy's jaw into the second balcony. Even though you've lost and your guts are churning, it's still magic. And to be robbed, whether in the ring or with a gun while you are tending bar, even that's magic--magic because it's all real, every bit of it, and it's happening now and lasting forever in your mind and heart. And it's magic because it's a war you'll go back to every chance you get. And I'm still looking for the gentleman who pulled that Magnum on me, who made my heart hit the roof of my mouth, who showed me disrespect. Prior to
then you see the boy looking at you like you've been speaking Gaelic or Hebrew. So then you understand, and you say,"Breathe in!"
He breathes in through the adrenaline while you put pressure above his upper lip. The adrenaline gets to the tear, and the blood stops coming, and he's ready to fight again. Blood is pumping in your neck because you almost didn't stop the blood. But part of you has traveled to the place where the boy lives, to the place where no one uses words like inhale. That's magic, too, but it's the kind that hurts you, the kind that makes you better for hurting.
Today in the U.S., for the most part, the white boys
He died as he had lived, wanting to write. His last words... "Doc, get me a little more time, I gotta finish my book".
that experience, I wasn't sure if I could kill another human being. I know now.
Respect is part of the magic of boxing. Most outside the fight game expect the victors to denigrate the vanquished. That would destroy the magic. Ali was yappy before, during, and after a fight, but we always knew he was playing the fool, was a pup so full of life that he had to yip and yap, prance and dance. There are imitators, to be sure, but there's no fun to what they do.
But even if one fighter thinks he was robbed, and regardless of the trash talked before the fight, fighters will with few exceptions congratulate each other afterward, will say Good fight at the very least. There is a kinship between winner and loser
that outsiders don't understand because boxing, after all is said and done, is about respect. When a fighter doesn't get respect, say when he's a
ham-'n'-egger and someone says, "Get a job!" his skin turns to flypaper and dreadful things stick to him all the way to his grave.
Remember the humility of Mike Tyson at the press conference after his loss in the first fight with Holyfield? How he wanted to touch Holyfield, how Holyfield smiled and allowed him to shake his hand? When a fighter gets his ass whipped in a round, you don't tell him to go beat up the son of a bitch that did it to him. You tell him to go out and get respect. Besides, it's a small family. The members of it-the members of the fancy--need each other, not only for the money, but they
need each other so they can, ultimately, test themselves against themselves.
And there's the magic that breaks your heart. You've got a kid with a bloody nose. If it's broken, forget it,it's going to keep bleeding. But just a bloody nose you can usually stop. So you wipe the boy's face clean, shove a swab soggy with adrenaline into the nostril that's bleeding. You work the swab around, and you close the other
nostril with your thumb. You tell the boy to inhale, so the adrenaline will flood the broken tissue and constrict the vein and widen the blow hole. But the
boy doesn't inhale. You say, "Inhale!" Nothing. You
say it again,"Goddamn it!" Time is running out, and