We soon got word in Paris that Brown was fighting and winning again, knocking out such second-raters as Christobal Jaramillo and Mariano Arilla.
Then came the war.
In June 1946, as a special representative for two big newspapers, L'�quipe (formerly L'Auto) and an evening paper, I left for the U.S., where I had not been since 1937.
The first person I visited was Lew Burston, the boxing promoter, whom I found in his little office in Madison Square Garden. I asked him for news of Al Brown, but he did not know what had been happening during the past two years. Nat Fleischer's Ring Record Book simply informed us that Brown had fought eight contests in Panama City, in 1941 and 1942. He had scored four K.O. victories, won one decision and lost two fights on points, and nearly two months after his 40th birthday he had managed a draw in 15 rounds against Leocadio Torres in a contest for the featherweight championship of Panama—of Panama, not the world.
The last match of his life was fought on January 25, 1944 in Panama City. Now 41, he was knocked out in the fifth round by Chalky Wright. That was all I found.
In March 1950 I was once again in New York. Lew Burston telephoned me at the Waldorf very early in the morning. He said he had arranged a meeting for me with Al Brown, who was expecting me that very evening at 10 o'clock at Small's Paradise in Harlem. So now I was to see the poet's fighter once more.
When I got there, Brown had not arrived. Small's Paradise was a curious establishment divided into three parts—bar, restaurant and nightclub. Mr. Small, the manager, greeted me with a huge smile as I came in.
"I have reserved a table downstairs for you," he said. "You can see part of the show while you are waiting."
On a very narrow stage singers with strange voices took turns with nimble dancers clicking castanets. Thinking of Brown, I was already concerned at the setting, for I knew he was poor and did not eat every day. And then he was there, wearing a dark blue tuxedo and an immaculate shirt. He sat down, and in that still rather husky voice of his, as if we had left each other only the week before, he said, "Do you remember that night in Tunis when I told you the story of my youth and my boxing debut in Panama? And the Hotel Regina in Valencia? What a long time ago that all is! Now I'm an old man. I'm nearly 48 [for the first time since we had known each other, Brown was admitting to his age]. Ah, if I could only get back to Paris and see my friends. Life is too hard for me here."
I knew what Al Brown was doing. George Gainford, Ray Robinson's manager, had told me. Brown was a sparring partner for second-rate boxers in a Harlem gymnasium. He earned a dollar a round, and sometimes left the hall staggering and dazed under blows he had received.