prison stay had what can only be called a beneficent effect upon Carter. He
entered a hostile, aimless, angry youth, emerged a young man with determination
to become a prizefighter, perhaps a champion. Considering what he had been
before, this was a most laudable ambition. And the presence of a worthwhile
goal had a remarkably uplifting effect. Reflecting on that subject recently,
Marty Pettiford, a desultory light heavyweight and once Carter's sidekick (he
spent 67 months in Jamesburg), remarked: "I can remember when Rubin
would've hit you in the head with a brick just for laughs, because there was
nothing else to do. But not long ago I seen him tell a kid, 'Don't do that.
You'll hurt somebody.' "
Having your nose
mashed regularly in a ring, apparently, is a gentling experience. Randy Sandy,
a journeyman boxer who spars with Carter from time to time, puts it this way:
"The more you know about fighting the less you realize you know. It makes
you a nice fella. It's the guy who knows a little and thinks he know's
everything what's dangerous."
"burn" a bird, it is not difficult to conjure up the man who was
dangerous to meet on the street. But despite the fierce look he cultivates so
assiduously, there are glimpses of gentleness. "He seems to enjoy things
now," his father says. "Before, he was always wondering about his next
"I got a
goal," Carter says. "I know what I got to do. I'm not a man to be
messed with, but I'm not a man to be feared. Now, for the first time in my
life, I'm happy. I'm...I don't know how to say it. I'm interdependent. I need
the milkman. But I don't have to beg for anything."
ring," says Manager Tedeschi, a man given to ornamental expression,
"Rubin is a leopard. Outside he's a kitten with a heart of gold."
Not exactly. As he
says, Carter is not a man to be messed with, especially when he's drinking, a
form of recreation he has not given up, despite the trouble he has seen. "I
don't believe drinking is bad," he says. "It's all in the mind. If you
can do it moderately it's all right." Then he says defiantly, adding a
little to the puzzle: "I smoke, too."
came on the scene when Carter decided to quit his first manager, a man who was,
by profession, a prison guard. "He was money-hungry," Carter says.
"To him $100 was like $1 million to anybody else. I remember I'd ask him,
'Buck,'—that was his nickname—'Buck, let me have $2 or $3.' I starved. I mean I
starved. I didn't have anything to eat for two or three days. And he'd say he
didn't have the money."
Carter blames his
first losses as a pro, both of which were reversed, on his former manager who,
he says, forced him to drink a dehydrating concoction. He was ready for a
change when his uncle, who worked for Tedeschi, introduced them. "I used to
kid his uncle," Tedeschi recalls. "I'd ask him 'When you going to bring
me a champion?' I've always had champion pigeons. [Tedeschi has an elaborate
coop in the backyard of his middle-class split-level in Saddle Brook, N.J.
stocked with some 100 sleek, chesty birds he says are worth $100 each.] And I
always wanted a champion fighter. Well, one day he brings Rubin around and
says, 'Here's your champion.' "
The first thing
that impressed Carter was Tedeschi's vast lack of knowledge about the boxing
business. In the end, though, Tedeschi charmed him by being honest—even
generous—financially. Also he got him fights. Tedeschi, rated a substantial
citizen in the north Jersey area, knows a lot of people and sold a lot of
tickets to Carter's fights. "I used to eat $250, $300 worth of tickets for
every fight," Tedeschi says. "What did I care? I could tell Rubin was
going to be a champion." (One of the ways he could tell is that his wife,
Nicoletta, is an amateur astrologer. "I believe in the stars," Tedeschi
says. "I'm also very superstitious.")
Carmen Tedeschi (pronounced Tedeski) is a puzzling figure. He is a short,
fleshy man with slicked-back jet hair bearing the signs of new gray and,
although he never has been a fighter, a light, hoarse voice of the kind Anthony
Quinn affected in Requiem for a Heavyweight. His manner is so sincere it is
dangerously close to oily. Yet there is no reason to suppose he is not what he
says he is—a wealthy contractor, a fancier of racing pigeons, a man dedicated
to building a champion in a business he knows almost nothing about. "I'm
not looking for money," he said not long ago, as he tooled along behind the
wheel of one of a succession of Cadillac convertibles he was delivering to camp
for Carter's inspection. "I'm looking for honor. The only thing I ever took
from Rubin was expenses. I think God is on my side. I'm gonna have a champion,
and he's not gonna be broke."