- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Haywood makes an exception, because it's opening day. But he tells Hooker a story about what happened to a welterweight in Dallas who got another man's beard ground into his eye.
Another boxer, known only as Kenny, is a tall, pencil-thin 125-pounder with very quick hands. He is sparring ferociously with a heavier but less agile youth. Haywood calls Kenny out of the ring, takes him aside and demonstrates a combination that Haywood says he learned from the old lightweight champion Ike Williams, for whom, he says, he was once a sparring partner. A left jab is feinted and then curled like a hook and followed with a short, hard, overhand right. "Ike Williams, he learn that because he study hisself and othah mens," Haywood tells Kenny. "He doan do what he has to do, doan do what othah man make him do. He do what he want to do cause he in charge of hisself."
Kenny is assigned to a far corner to practice the Ike Williams combination. He says he hopes to be the welterweight champion of the world, and he thinks he can be if he stays with Haywood. "Sometimes I get so mad," he says, "I feel like being mad puts me to sleep so I don't understand anything. Mister Nick, he understands that and explains it to me, and sometimes I get mad at him because he is right, and I am mad because I don't understand enough to be right. Mister Nick, he always here. You call him at two in the morning, it don't make no difference."
Members who are still in school are expected to bring their report cards and read them to Haywood, and tell him about interesting things they've learned.
"Nick, you've got a good job, raised a good family, have a club, been a promoter. You've got lots of friends and people who respect you, but you don't read or write. Do you ever think about how things would have been if you'd learned? Maybe they wouldn't be as good."
"Yessah, Ah think about that. Ah think maybe Ah be daid."
"Ahez third chile, and they say in Mississippi that third chile got a curse on him. He do lot of things very good, things othahs caint, but third chile always have one thing he caint do ever-body else do. Ah know when sow is gonna farrow by juss looking at her. Talk to the animals. Ah know what some mens gonna say foah they say it. Ah can look inside othahs, but Ah caint read. Thass my curse. If Ah go agains that, learn to read, it take me places Ah ain't meant to be and Ah probably be daid. Thass a curse from old days in Mississippi, but Ah doan think it true these days for these youf. They curse if they doan read and write, cause it agains what they should be, lead them to do bad things agains their nature."
Kenny is called back to the ring to demonstrate what he has learned of the Ike Williams punch. Then Haywood leaps onto the mat and performs half a dozen impersonations of famous boxers: Kid Gavilan throwing his bolo punch; Hammerin' Henry Armstrong and his windmill style; Floyd Patterson and his peekaboo, Joe Louis doing his shuffle and Jersey Joe Walcott going into his weave. As a finale Haywood squats down, as if on a stool, his arms hanging slackly at his sides, head swinging in a daze, scowling like a confused bear. It is such an entertaining turn that even the youths who have no recollection of Sonny Liston retiring in his corner in the first Clay fight hoot and holler and leave the warehouse, to go back home or wherever, on a high.
Two weeks ago, Nick Haywood himself got a special high: possession of the armory. Anonymous benefactors agreed to back him, no strings attached, in open bidding for the building, and his offer of $70,303.25 was accepted by the Missouri authorities. If all goes well, Haywood's Hall will be back in business within 60 days.