Charlie Goldman was always dealt the big kids, the ones with the wild hands and stone legs. He gave them a hook and, with the patience of a dancing master, made their legs move, and nobody ever did his job better than Charlie Goldman. He is not in business anymore because the big kids stopped coming around. So, at 79 and in poor health, Goldman no longer is seen in his battered derby hat leaning over ropes and whispering into empty heads apothegms like: "Always finish with a left hook because dat leaves ya set to start another series of punches." Or: "Don't buy nothin' on the street, especially diamonds."
Goldman could never forget Rocky Marciano, whom he shaped out of nothing. Rubbing his gnarled little hands, the product of more than 300 fights, he acted always as if he wanted to reach out and build another Marciano. Finally, along came Oscar Bonavena. "Yeah, look at him," said Charlie, his eyes alive. "He's clumsy like Rocky was in the beginning." Goldman never had to worry about Bonavena buying diamonds on the street, but he could never even nick the lumber between Oscar's ears. Eventually, Bonavena fired Goldman, dismissing him as just a feebleminded old dreamer.
Saturday afternoon in Louisville, with the sensitivity of a mountebank, Bonavena dedicated his fight with Jimmy Ellis to Charlie Goldman. The fight was the first semifinal match of the World Boxing Association's heavyweight elimination tournament. It drew 3,000 people, and the vast Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center was really just a television studio. Even so, the bout provided Ellis and Bonavena with $75,000 each and it demonstrated once again that Bonavena, who sometimes resembles a runaway beer truck, is paid more for courage than for talent.
Conveniently for the promoters, the tournament is now rid of Oscar Natalio Bonavena, among others, and everything is falling neatly into place for Sports Action Inc., ABC television, the sponsors, and the World Boxing Association, a band of confused bunglers who authorized the tournament. Ernie Terrell, a guitar player who is box-office poison, was eliminated, and then Floyd Patterson, the ever-popular Captain Ahab of boxing, got his. Sports Action has not made a dime out of its caper yet, but ABC's ratings have been quite high, thus allowing the W.B.A. to proclaim itself the savior of boxing. The promoters of each fight, except for the one bout in Germany, are not proclaiming anything.
Artistically, the tournament has been just palatable. The first two fights in Houston, Ellis vs. Leotis Martin and Terrell vs. Thad Spencer, were good, solid performances. The third bout, Bonavena vs. Karl Mildenberger, removed the German contender. The fourth match, between Jerry Quarry and Patterson, was interesting only because of Quarry, who has inspired spectators to bet not so much on his ability as on the round in which he will begin to run away.
Last week's production was hardly memorable. Ellis, a sort of picture fighter, did the best he could with Bonavena, a difficult opponent who has no style and does not fight from a right-handed or left-handed stance. Ellis did succeed in following his fight plan, which was not exactly what Muhammad Ali advised. Early on Saturday Ellis picked up the phone and it was Ali on the other end saying, "We goin' to dance, baby, dance." Ellis told his old friend, for whom he once was a sparring partner, "I'll dance, but not like you. There's more than one way to win a fight."
Ellis was going to move a little, slip, slide and wallop. The idea was to work everything off a stiff straight jab while keeping the short-armed Bonavena at a safe distance. Ellis did just that in the early rounds and owned Bonavena. "I expected Oscar to come out fast, but Bonavena kept backing up so I just went out and took charge," he explained. The first punch Ellis threw in round I discouraged the Argentinean. It was a left hook that came close, but missed.
Bonavena did not need the message translated. He was impressed by the power of the punch, and chose to back up. With two-thirds of round 3 over, Ellis caught Bonavena high on the temple with a right-hand chop, but, as at various other times during the fight, he could not find the second punch, the finisher. Bonavena went down, then rose to survive the round.
Ellis began to neglect his jab in the fifth and sixth rounds. Instead of snapping it out fully extended, he merely flicked his hand. Without the jab to contend with, Bonavena came rushing in low, battering Ellis with clumsy combinations. Ellis suffered little damage, simply because he either spun Bonavena or folded on top of him. He did, however, acquire a couple of bruises, one on the point of his right hip and the other on the inside of his thigh.
Tiring somewhat in the eighth, Ellis took a butt over the left eyelid, which later needed seven stitches. Because of his fatigue, he started lying inside too long. "Bop, bop, bop, Jimmy," shrieked Angelo Dundee, his manager, "get the hell outta there, Jimmy."