By the time he came back to the West Coast to fight for Flaherty, Olson was married. While Bobo was learning to be a boxer, his tomboy neighbor, Helen Cavaco, had become an acrobat. When she was 17 she deserted the E.K. Fernandez Circus to become Mrs. Olson. With a family to support, fighting became the same all-important business for Bobo as for his manager, who drove him rigorously.
When Flaherty had first seen Olson, out in Hawaii, Bobo had tended to slap at his opponents instead of striking solid blows. Flaherty taught him to hit more directly, and harder, using his left as well as his natural right to jab and to strike for the tender spots around the liver in close infighting. Flaherty also taught him to follow an opening with a quick barrage of punches to the chest and midriff and then, when a man's eyes started rolling, to the head. Olson learned these lessons well, though daylight can still be seen occasionally between his thumb and the rest of his glove.
NINE BY KNOCKOUT
In the summer of 1951 Bobo defeated Chuck Hunter, Charlie Cato and Bobby Jones. October of 1951 brought a second fight with Dave Sands, the rough Australian. Bobo lost to Sands again, as he had done in Sydney, but it proved the turning point in his career. It convinced him that he had to be a more aggressive fighter.
In 21 fights since, Olson has been the victor in all but one, the second Robinson battle, and nine of his wins have been by knockouts. In June, 1953, in the American final of the elimination contest for a new titleholder to succeed the retired Robinson, Olson trimmed Paddy Young, and in October he gave Randy Turpin, the heavy-hitting Britisher, a severe trouncing to gain the world title.
In the role of champion Bobo has impressed many observers as surly and morose. It's true that some of Flaherty's personality has touched him, the manager's dour methodicalness above all. "I was an old man long before my time," says Sid. "I guess it rubs off." Even though Flaherty clamps down on publicity for Bobo and often has him tied to his paternal apron strings, Olson has become one of the most popular champions, especially with kids. Any smear-faced boy on the block who gives him the big idolatrous hello will get a winning smile where an older man will get a natural Kalihi grunt.
Olson has become as much of a fuss-budget homebody as his manager, with more of a home to go to. When he fights away from San Francisco he invariably catches a plane for the West Coast with the grease still on his face. In his new 12-room house in Burlingame, he will follow a bout with prolonged play with his kids, Carl Jr., 7, Vincent Haywood, 5, Brenda Lee, 4, and Arthur Donald, 1.
His hobbies are few. He plays checkers and collects bebop. His ear for jazz stirs his feet, which are as nimble out of the ring as in. Like Flaherty, who won't even allow his close friends to come to his apartment, Olson avoids guests and keeps his phone number unlisted. Except for teaching his two older boys how to box, Bobo says, "When I go home, I want to forget about fighting."
Occasionally, however, particularly when he is eating?which is when Bobo is happiest ("They talk about the Seven Wonders of the World," he says, "but the first is food")?he will relax and speak of his past. And when he does it is without either shame or bravado.