The club in
Holyoke, one of the few stubborn survivors, functions Tuesday nights because of
television boxing Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
All the great
minds of the university have gone a few rounds with this problem, but none has
come up with a thesis that his colleagues at the lunch counter couldn't flatten
in the course of a couple of cups of tea. One school of savants holds that if
the television companies are going to monopolize boxing they should set up a
system of farm clubs to develop new talent. Another believes the situation will
cure itself, but painfully. "Without the little clubs, nobody new will come
up," a leader of this group argues. "The television fans will get tired
of the same bums, the Hooper will drop, the sponsors will drop boxing, and then
we can start all over again." Meanwhile a lot of fighters have had to go to
work, a situation the horror of which was impressed upon me long ago by the
great Sam Langford, in describing a period of his young manhood when he had
licked everybody who would fight him. "I was so broke," he said,
"that I didn't have no money. I had to go to work with my hands."
Manual labor didn't break his spirit. He got a fight with Joe Gans, the great
lightweight champion of the world, and whipped him in 15 rounds in 1903, when
Sam says he was 17 years old. The record books make him 23. (They were both
over the weight, though, so he didn't get the title.) After the fight he was
lying on the rubbing table in his dressing room feeling proud and a busted-down
colored middleweight named George Byers walked in. "How did I look?"
Langford asked him. "You strong," Byers said, "but you don't know
offended. He had the humility of the great artist. He said, "How much you
charge to teach me?" Byers said, "$10." Langford gave him $10. It
was a sizable share of the purse he had earned for beating Gans.
what happened?" I asked Sam. He said, "He taught me. He was right. I
didn't know nothing. I used to just chase and punch, hurt my hands on hard
heads. After George taught me I made them come to me. I made them
didn't lead I'd run them out of the ring. When they led I'd hit them in the
body. Then on the point of the chin. Not the jaw, the point of the chin. That's
why I got such pretty hands today." Sam by that time was nearly blind, he
weighed 230 pounds and he couldn't always be sure that when he spat tobacco
juice at the empty chitterling can in his hall room he would hit.
But he looked
affectionately at his knees, where he knew those big hands rested. There wasn't
a lump on a knuckle. "I'd belt them oat," he said. "Oh, I'd belt
When I told this
story to Whitey he sucked in his breath reverently, like a lama informed of one
of the transactions of Buddha.
difference from the kids today," the schoolman said. "I have a kid in a
bout last night and he can't even count. Every time he hook the guy is open for
a right, and I tell him: 'Go twicet, go twicet!' But he would go oncet and lose
the guy. I don't know what they teach them in school."