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If the Flaherty-Olson combine seems a bit mercenary in its predeliction for folding money, it's because both men know they're champions in a tough tax and TV time. The real reason for Flaherty's signing up with Norris was probably tipped some time ago by Flaherty himself. "Nowadays," he said, "you can't just please a crowd. You've got to please a nation. If you fight a bad fight, maybe you don't get another whack at that little screen so soon."
THE QUICK BLOW
Olson and Flaherty are TV vets, but after the last round neither one of them cares very much about pleasing anyone. Sid and Bobo have always liked to be left alone?Sid at his ranch at San Martin, and Bobo with his family in San Francisco, 70 miles away.
Bobo still remains the wary kid from Hawaii, shuffling with his head down, remembering the toe lines in the dust and the dares, the sudden imbroglios on summer nights when no bells rang for ends of rounds. There was no time to talk against taunts: the quick blow counted. He was born in Honolulu on July 11,1928, the son of a World War I soldier who had stayed on in Hawaii as a federal narcotics agent. Bobo's then wife-to-be, Helen Cavaco, who lived nearby, remembers him when he was only six. "He was such a skinny little fellow," she says, "I felt so sorry for him. The boys liked to kid him about his freckles and it made him fighting mad. He'd take on anyone who teased him. Size made no difference." Helen, who was something of a tomboy, adds wryly, "I tried to protect him, but I wasn't always around."
At the age of 12, Bobo?the nickname was his younger sister's version of brother?found himself on his own. He began to run with a gang of tough Kalihi teen-agers. "We'd hang around Bethel Street, where the servicemen came," he recalls. "The sailors would pass and shout 'Jap-dodger' at us. We had at least one good fight a day." Although most of the boys in the gang were older, Bobo's skill with his fists soon made him the leader. To establish his status further, he had himself tattooed?the word MOTHER was needled across a bluebird on his left arm and a dragon on his right.
A friend named Billy James, who did a little boxing, took young Olson to a small gym one day. Bobo did some sparring, and eventually caught the eye of Dado Marino, who later became the flyweight champion of the world. Marino, an expert craftsman, taught Olson how to feint?a skill usually neglected in street fighting. Olson today is one of the best feinters in boxing.
One day while Olson was working out in the gym Sid Flaherty saw him. Flaherty was then an Army sergeant, arranging boxing bouts for Special Services, but, being Flaherty, he also had his eye cocked at the future. "Bobo impressed me right away," he says. "He was just a spindly-legged kid, but even then he had grace you couldn't miss, a remarkable gift of coordination and a solid set of reflexes. If you can't see a punch, you can't move, you know. I watched him for a month without saying anything. Nobody comes to a conclusion in this game quickly. But one day I told Bobo that if he was interested in fighting he should look me up after the war."
THE PARTNERSHIP JELLS
Bobo did, but the partnership did not really jell until 1951. In the intervening years Flaherty, who looks like a cross between a truck man and a dour Dublin pub poet (actually he's one-quarter Irish, one-quarter French and one-half German), had established himself in California and elsewhere as a shrewd, stubborn and honest boxing man. Olson had meanwhile turned professional in Honolulu under the direction of Herbert Campos, a local dairyman. In 1945-46 he had made one quick foray to the mainland, where he won seven fights for Flaherty, but he had returned to the islands when Sid, with his blunt immovability, had resisted the pressure of the California Athletic Commission to overmatch him.
Campos had sent Bobo to the Philippines and Australia (where he lost to Dave Sands, the British Empire middleweight champion) and late in 1950 booked him against Sugar Ray Robinson in faraway Philadelphia. That was a mistake. Robinson knocked him out in the 12th round. The defeat and the pitifully small pay-off?$1,066?sent Olson back to Honolulu wiser but hardly richer. Then Flaherty stepped back into the picture and invited Bobo to San Francisco and into his own household. Campos filed a suit, which is still pending, but Bobo had made his decision.