Pastrano, unheard of in northern rings, is the latest product of Whitey Esneault's wonderful New Orleans stable, in which Ralph Dupas, second-ranking lightweight, was groomed.
One-legged Whitey has 14 or 15 professional fighters and some 75 amateurs under his wing. He has an uncanny eye for spotting ring talent in 12-year-olds and the knack for developing them into flashy, will-o'-the-wisp boxers, like Dupas and like Pastrano. They are nursed along until they are ready for amateur bouts held weekly at the St. Mary's Church Catholic Youth Organization gymnasium in the French Quarter. Then Whitey leads them into professional preliminaries and, if they survive, into main events.
The explanation for Pastrano's nearly impenetrable style lies in Whitey's training. His boys work out daily in a gym-set up in the St. Mary's courtyard, because Whitey likes them to have a church environment. He teaches them to be God-fearing and polite. Then he teaches them to take care of themselves in the ring. There are fans who urge Whitey's boys to wade in and trade punches, but the manager counsels care. Characteristically, his fighters dance nimbly away from perplexed opponents, lunge in with incredible speed to land a blow or two, then prance out of harm's way, all the while piling up the points needed to win.
"I don't want any of my kids to get punchy," Whitey explains. "I teach these boys to keep from getting hurt. They learn to box to protect themselves. But they also can punch, and they'll show it when the time comes."
Willie lost some earlier fights to boys who would give him no trouble now. It was no disgrace, at 17, to lose to the clever veteran Del Flanagan.
"When Willie first started," Whitey explains, "he liked malted milks."
Happily married and looking forward to fatherhood, Willie has won his last six fights with his wedding ring tied to a shoelace. It gives him the feeling, he says, that his wife is with him.
NEW BOY RETIRES
The Hazards of prizefighting are multiple but what boxers fear most, to the extent that they laugh loud and nervously at jokes about punch-drunk fighters, is injury to the brain. It can happen to any of them at any time.
It will be news to millions of television viewers that they probably saw it happen to Chamrern Songkitrat, an ambitious young Thailander who wants to be his country's J. Edgar Hoover and came to the United States this winter for the double purpose of studying FBI and American police methods and doing a little boxing. By the grace of the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, president), he had been matched against Raul Macias of Mexico, for what IBC and the National Boxing Association called the world's bantamweight championship but the California boxing commission insisted on calling just another fight. (SI, Mar. 14). Songkitrat was beaten last September by Robert Cohen of France, the champion, and a few months before that by Jimmy Carruthers. He had, in fact, fought only ten times as an occidental boxer. Until 1951 he had fought in the Siamese style which legalizes kicking as well as punching. Macias won by a wide margin. The bout, scheduled for 12 rounds, was stopped in the 11th.