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Tex Maule
March 01, 1965
Big Julie (above) is a horse lover, a horse loser, a big talker and the manager of Bigger Ernie Terrell. One or the other of them is going to fight Eddie Machen next week
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March 01, 1965

The Mouth And The Mitt

Big Julie (above) is a horse lover, a horse loser, a big talker and the manager of Bigger Ernie Terrell. One or the other of them is going to fight Eddie Machen next week

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"A hundred and fifty, he tells me and I like to go out of my mind. But he was very serious, and I figure this way about a fighter. If he is unhappy, he ain't no good to me or to him or to anyone else. I got maybe $20,000 in Terrell so what is a yard and a half? So, O.K., I say to him, 'You get it for a hundred and it's yours.' I give him the hundred. A friend of mine goes with him and sure enough he gets it, for a hundred."

Terrell's family is not one that would be called musical. That is, his parents did not surround the children with music or training. They had neither themselves, any more than they had an ancient Mississippi boxing background to hand on to their offspring. But there is definite talent—more, perhaps, than Ernie realizes.

"They is only four of us is musical," he said. "Me, J. C, Leonard and Jean. And I didn't study about the guitar until just before a fight maybe four years ago. I didn't have anything to do in training camp, and I bought a secondhand guitar and fooled around with it. I never studied music, but I like it. I got a group called the Astronauts, we play spots around in Chicago. And I want to make some tapes and see if I can sell them. Fighting for me is just a way up. When I get through, I want to go to college, get me a business. I don't know what business; maybe music."

He began to sing, and Jean and Leonard and J. C. joined him, the voices blending cleanly. The song was one of his own and it sounded like folk music, not rock 'n' roll. The long fingers of his left hand flickered easily over the frets and the right hand strummed the strings.

Julie was on his way back to his seat to watch the race, sure that Ussery's mount was a shoo-in. Suddenly, he stopped.

"There's Joe," he said and walked over to intercept Joe Louis. Louis looks fit, but old. He greeted Julie warmly. They moved aside to talk privately for a moment, then Julie came back.

"I got him," he said. "He's going to come to Chicago, show Ernie how to throw that right hand. With the left he got, if he can throw a right like Louis, he's gonna be the champion for sure. I don't see how I can miss. I'm gonna be the next heavyweight champion. Me, the kid from Brooklyn."

In Chicago, Leonard, the youngest of the Terrell children, took over the guitar and played hesitantly, but well. Most of the Terrell boys are tall—Ernie is the tallest—but Leonard, at 15, is not. As he played and Jean, the youngest sister, sang in a voice as clear and melodious as Joan Baez', Ernie pondered his chances for getting a match with Clay.

"If Liston win, I'm gonna be all right," he said. " Liston will fight me. But I told you, Patterson don't want any part of Terrell. And here's what Clay gonna do. He got to fight Liston. If he beat Liston, he's trying to con that poor Patterson into the ring with him. When he beat Patterson, you think he gonna fight me? I don't. I imagine Clay will go to the graveyard and try to dig someone else to fight."

Leonard gave him back the guitar and Ernie started another song. Big Julie's horse, with Ussery up, was leading by four lengths as it turned into the stretch. Another horse made a run at it, and Ussery went to the whip. As he tried to change the whip from one hand to the other, he dropped it and then lost the reins. As he grabbed for them, he caught only one. The horse behind came on strong and caught Ussery's in the stretch. Sadly, Julie tore up his ticket. "Got left in the gate," he said, speaking as much for himself as for those around him. "Then the man got to drop his whip."

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