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The Combers of Jacobs Beach
Frank Graham Jr.
November 23, 1970
They hung out on a stretch of sidewalk near Madison Square Garden, waiting for fighters to make them rich
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November 23, 1970

The Combers Of Jacobs Beach

They hung out on a stretch of sidewalk near Madison Square Garden, waiting for fighters to make them rich

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"Mind you, Moran was out of Birmingham but his people were Irish. But he says: 'I'll murder him. I never saw an Irishman I couldn't lick.'

"That was too much for me. He had a bottle of ale in front of him, and I reached over and grabbed the bottle and I said, 'Is that so? Well, here's one Irishman you can't lick!'

"I was going to bust him over the head, but my brother grabs me and takes the bottle away and yells, 'What's the matter? Are you crazy?'

"And I say, 'No, but I'm sick of listening to him. I hope O'Toole knocks his brains out!' "

They told the story on the Beach about a struggling manager who had tried to convert "a large marshmallow" into a champion. Through long hours in the gym he patiently taught the young man all the proper moves.

"But the kid did them like a monkey, not knowing why he was doing them," one of the mob recalled. "He was matched with a pretty good puncher this night, and he made all the right moves for a couple of rounds. Then the puncher nailed him right in the mouth. The kid went back on his heels. You could see he didn't know what to do next. There was this second of silence in the fight club, and then somebody hollered from the rear rows: 'Now turn to page eight!' "

Harry Lenny was just such a manager. For years he worked with a young giant named Ray Impellitierre. Lenny would talk for hours about the Imp. There came a time when other members of the mob slipped off the Beach when Lenny came in sight; they were not able to take any more of the Imp. Yet Lenny believed implicitly in the skill of his fighter and in his eventual success. His faith persisted through repeated disasters. One night Lenny left the Garden after having seen the Imp flattened by Bob Pastor. His despondency lasted only until he saw a newspaperman on the Beach.

"What are you going to do now?" the reporter asked him.

"What do you mean?" Lenny asked indignantly. "We're going after the title. Just name one fighter who can lick the Imp!"

The reporter was about to mention the licking he had just seen Impellitierre take in the Garden. Then he thought better of it, shrugged and moved off down the Beach.

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