In the sweaty dressing room after the fight, Tommy (Hurricane) Jackson stretched his nude, battered body on the bare mattress of the iron cot and tried to pay no attention to the babble and confusion around him. Inexplicably, a tear suddenly glistened by the side of his nose and coursed down his cheek, inexplicable because it was hard to see where it had originated in the pulpy mass that had been his right eye. Tommy Jackson was crying silently, the worst kind of grief.
"I tried," he whispered piteously to no one in particular. "I din' want to lose. I tried." Around the room, hardened fight writers looked at each other in some embarrassment. From the fight they had just witnessed it would be hard to tell exactly what Tommy Jackson had tried. The one fact his "fight" with Eddie Machen in San Francisco last week underscored is probably that it should never have been fought.
A young man whom nobody ever taught to read or write, Tommy Jackson is as little at home in his environment, in the ring or out of it, as, say, a dog in an orbit. His sole qualification for the profession of prizefighting is an infinite capacity for taking punishment. His "offense" consists solely of hurling himself senselessly on the fists of his opponent. His weird locomotions in the center of the ring frequently cause the scalps of ringsiders to prickle, and there is usually no sense of coherence or rationality to his methods of boxing or of living.
Against Eddie Machen, a lithe and bronze-muscled young lumberjack who is from Redding, Calif., Jackson was no exception. Appearing in the ring slightly over his best fighting weight (201), he went after Machen in the first round as though to smother him with affection, not aggression. Somehow, one of his half gropes, half punches fell below the waistline of Machen and the referee bellowed at Jackson, "Hey, raise 'em up! Raise 'em up!" Jackson stopped fighting, indignant, and began to retort. In the process, he left himself a little more exposed than usual—which is to say he not only wasn't protecting himself, he wasn't even looking. Machen cracked him hard on the jaw and knocked him heavily to the canvas. Jackson sat there and looked reproachfully at both the ref and Machen, but, when he got up, he continued merely to paw at his opponent, occasionally jangling his arms vigorously at his sides as though trying to shake the gloves off.
For round after round, he continued in the same vein. He appeared to have no real interest in the business at hand—of hurting the clean-cut, businesslike young Machen. And he couldn't have been hit more himself if his hands had been handcuffed behind his back. It was not at all what the Marquess of Queensberry intended, nor even, probably, the IBC. Machen smashed and jabbed and hooked his helpless, hapless opponent with crunching regularity, and it was as sickening to watch as a man beating a hobbled dog. Jackson occasionally looked at him with a "how could you?" look, but Machen at the end of the round would drop his eyes and hands and turn curtly to his corner.
Twice at the end of the round Jackson stood smartly at attention in the center of the ring as the bell rang and threw Machen a swift, gloved military salute. Once or twice, through split lips, he undertook to taunt Machen, Heaven knows why: "C'mon, boy, let's fight." To Machen's credit, let it be said, he answered simply: "Seems to me I'm fighting enough, Tom."
It seemed so, also, to every one of the 14,107 fans who paid $56,877.50 to jam San Francisco's Cow Palace and watch the pig-sticking. Jackson had been billed as a "test" for Machen, who has some half-formed notions of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, but he was a test only in the sense a French aristocrat's neck tested the guillotine. Sometimes, Jackson would cease paying attention to Machen at all and would close his eyes in the center of the ring and begin to do his inane little dance and shadow-box. By the ninth round, he didn't have to close his right eye any more. Machen's punches had done it for him. At the end of the 10th, Jackson's manager, Lippe Breidbart, who should have been ashamed of himself for ever starting it, stopped the fight. He called Referee Frankie Carter over and snapped, "We don't wanna go any more." Carter spun without hesitation over to Machen's corner and raised the Californian's hand.
It was a shameful fight, which reflected little credit on its participants and less on its organizers.