It is always the
same when night reaches for morning. The few old dealers who have survived the
emergence of lawyers and syndicate ownership in boxing find it difficult to
forget the quite forgotten. When the room is scented with stale drinks and the
present has been fully tapped by roaming dialogues, they look back and see
forever and sound like those people at certain parties who talk about old
movies and ask whatever happened to Leon Errol. Only here they recreate past
subterfuges and summon the ghosts who kept them in cigars. How about the one
who would "go up against a mountain slide" for his manager? Yeah, and
how about the one who ordered his steaks "well to do" and worried about
getting a "conclusion of the brain?" Where have all the soldiers
Lou Nova, son of
a concert pianist, holder of the javelin record at Alameda
(Calif.) High and
once a part of boxing that is no more, is 51 now—a boxer: old. He belonged to
the '30s, that pernicious, giddy period in the sport's history when Mike Jacobs
managed managers, and Evil Eye Finkel could achieve a peculiar celebrity. Nova
came into the sport with nothing, and he left with nothing. Nobody bilked him,
nor, when it was over, did he run from his dream, frightened and desperate, in
the way that so many fighters before and after him have run. He just walked
quickly away from boxing, still a face card, he thought, and not a deuce. Yet
if he is mentioned at all these days he is painted as a circus clown, his face
turned upward toward the rain. How do you tell an old fighter, or anyone who
has been cut down by time, that the roar is not great and the round is not one
It is afternoon,
and it is empty inside the restaurant at a deserted, decrepit resort in
Ensenada, Mexico. Lou Nova, straight as a bayonet from the waist up, rises,
does a slow bow to the only guy in the place and then begins his act. First he
recites Alfred Noyes's The Highwayman, and then says: "Now I'd like to sing
a song I once wrote. It is called Slapsie Maxie." People are staring
through the windows. He sings:
A pugilist, so
you are told, seldom achieves mental stature.
But Maxie Rosenbloom, a tough fighting man, was a student of human nature.
And it's very
interesting to note his philosophy, and I quote:
People very often
hurt you, love's a thing that folks destroy.
You will find that dames desert you.
But I have found the real McCoy.
Ohhh, I love my little friends the boidies....
he says, "but I forgot the rest of it." Everybody outside is inside
now, and they are ordering beer and sandwiches and looking at each other. He
"I want to
thank Bill Smith for the very nice introduction. He read it just like I wrote
it. And it is very nice to have so many people who remember me. In fact, a few
minutes ago a sweet little old lady stopped me on the street and said, 'Well,
if you're not Lou Nova I'll eat my hat. What are you doing in town?' And then
she said, 'I saw you fight Joe Louis in the Polo Grounds before over 56,000
people.' I said, 'Is that so?' And she says, 'Yeah, and what happened? All of a
sudden all the 56,000 stood up and yelled, and when they sat down only Louis
was there. Where were you?' Well, I felt like belting her, but she was a little
old lady and I'm about 10 pounds overweight.
explained that boxing is a game of strategy. The strategy that I used to get to
the top was to keep my left jab in my opponent's face for a few rounds. Then I
would purposely drop my left jab. My opponent would throw his right, and I
would pull my chin back and make him miss. Then I would drop the cosmic punch
on his chin. So I told her that in the sixth round I figured I'd win the title.
So I jabbed Louis once more and dropped my left. Louis threw his right. I
pulled my head back. Perfect! Only he cheated. He didn't consider my strategy.
And when I awoke he was gone. In fact, everybody was gone. I guess I didn't
want to fight anymore. And that's why I say" (he sings):
business is a right business,
it's not a bright business, I know.
Everything about it is appealing,
when I'm in there slugging toe to toe.
Where else could I get this feeling that keeps revealing I dodged a blow?
There's no business like this blow-by-blow business. You feel no pain. You're
When I fought Joe Louis I was feeling real swell, my puss looked good, I felt
But when the fight was over Nova looked like hell, so I got out. I'm not
I really mean it, I'm not dumb.