The thought of a possible $70—should we both win—toward airplane parts was what persuaded John to enter the tournament, because he knew that if I won he would be welcome to my purse, too.
Three of us signed up together: our friend Gig Flynn in the bantamweight class, John as a lightweight and I as a paperweight. I don't recall what names we used, but I'm sure they weren't our own. The tournament was held in a scruffy hall in East Hartford, then a semi-slum bedroom community for Hartford. The hall was of the sort usually associated with roller skating or dance marathons, and it stank of stale humanity, tobacco and urine. In the alleged dressing rooms, a nose-burning disinfectant added to the stench.
The "attending physician" had a stethoscope around his neck but he never used it. He had us take our shirts off and asked a few questions: "Had any headaches lately? You see O.K.? Got any heart trouble, hernia or other disease? O.K., have a good fight."
I figured to win my division without any problem. I was as tall then as I am now, 5'9", and weighed in at 103 pounds. I had been a boxing fan since age six and had taught myself to box by reading books and magazines. While John had done his exercises, I had done mine—shadowboxing and bag-punching, all the while concentrating on short, straight punches and hitting through, not at, the target. Hundreds and thousands of times I'd imagined an opponent's roundhouse swing and stepped inside it to deliver the straight left and the right cross. Time and again I'd ducked under a right and delivered Bob Fitzsimmons' pivot punch.
Those times when John was on his feet we sparred together. He never hit me, but just concentrated on picking off my punches with his gloves. In school I slaughtered all opponents, up to and including welterweights.
A goodly collection of our friends made the safari to East Hartford for the show. Some of them acted as seconds. I think Stan Klein seconded Gig, but if so, he wasn't very effective. Gig got KO'd in the first round.
My turn came next. I towered over my opponent, a dark-haired, husky little fellow, and kept my left in his face the full three rounds. His wild punches were always six to eight inches short of the mark. I didn't hurt him. I didn't throw a right the entire fight. Just kept rat-a-tat-tatting my left onto his nose, mouth and eyes. I won easily.
Then came John's bout. All our friends were accustomed to his bad leg and accepted it, but the moment John walked into the ring there was an audible indrawing of breath, followed by murmuring and more than a few boos. The ring announcer went into a huddle with the referee, and the two bent down to talk with the ringside judges and a few others. After they agreed to let the fight go on, the referee brought the fighters to the center of the ring for the instructions. The ref told John, "I'm against this fight, and I'm telling you, I'm going to stop it first excuse anyone gives me. We don't want no crips fighting here."
John said, "Don't worry about me, sir. I can defend myself, and I'll try not to hurt him too bad."
John's opponent was a well-made, sandy-haired chap with no front teeth and a misshapen nose. From the cheers he drew it was obvious he was the local favorite.