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Look at the picture below. Here are a boxer and his father. Nobody has heard very much about them yet. But everyone will—and soon.
The boy is Vinnie Ferguson, 18 years old, first-team freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His father, Ed, a peppery, voluble Irishman, is a Tammany Hall politician in New York. Five years ago Ed sat down with his son Vinnie and planned out a campaign to win an Olympic boxing championship in 1956. Vinnie's dad knew what he was talking about: in his younger days he had been an amateur boxer and is a fight manager today (" Carlos Ortiz, outstanding undefeated lightweight prospect from New York's East Side"). The plans were carefully laid, exactingly carried out. The result: until the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in Madison last week Vinnie Ferguson had won 51 of 51 fights, 25 by knockouts.
Those wins were not easy to come by. Since 1951 Ed has had Vinnie campaigning in the amateur ranks, and Vinnie has responded by winning six amateur titles, among them two international boys' club championships, one in London and one in New York. Furthermore, Vinnie has been just as familiar a sight around Stillman's Gym as Lou Stillman himself. In the Still-man's ring Vinnie has perfected his art by sparring with such fighters as Car-melo Costa, Frankie Ryff, Chico Vejar, Hector Constance, Del Flanagan, Billy Graham, Walt Cartier, Gene Fullmer, Bobby Dykes and Hurricane Jackson. All in all, Vinnie Ferguson has had ample chance to show that he is truly a prodigy of the ring.
The Five-Year Plan is almost fulfilled now. This month Vinnie, a light middleweight, competed in the three-day National Collegiate Athletic Association boxing championships at Madison. An NCAA championship qualifies the winner for a tryout for the U.S. Olympic team, so the goal was in sight. For the occasion, Ed flew out to Madison to help guide his son through to victory.
On Friday morning Vinnie, who had drawn a first-round by the day before, weighed in at 154 pounds (or simply "54," as Vinnie says, just like the Still-man's crowd). After the weighin, Ed took his son back to the Hotel Park for a strategy conference in his room. The talk concerned Gus Fiacco of Syracuse, Friday night's semifinal opponent. Ed had scouted Fiacco the day before.
"Now listen to me," Ed said, stripping his coat off. "We go from fight to fight. I want you to remember that. You've fought this guy before, and you beat him. But from what I hear, you fought his fight!" Vinnie tried to get a word in, but his father cut him off. "Just listen!" Ed cried, assuming a stance. "You're not arguing with me. You're out to beat him! You beat him to the punch. He jiggles," said Ed, jiggling. "He gets inside, then boom! You don't let him get inside. Now you know that when he jiggles from side to side that he's getting ready to go in with a jump." Ed jiggled from side to side.
"You keep your head down in behind that jab," Ed said, as he pushed Vinnie's head down and straightened his left arm out. "You're a boxer. You're a class fighter. Show him that class. Even show him a piece of chin. Sucker him in. Then biff-bop-bam!" Ed cried, thrashing the air. "Two things to remember," he shouted. "You keep this guy busy by going to the right. And no two-punch deal. No boom-boom. But biff-bop-bam. You set him up with the jab, then hit him with the right hand. If he ducks the right hand, then throw the left hook. But don't throw that left hook around. He'll be waiting for it. Box with him."
Vinnie nodded. "Biff-bop-bam," he grunted.
"That's it," Ed said, approving, from the bed. "Keep in action, keep circling and don't expose yourself with that left hook."
After the strategy talk, Vinnie left for a steak at Troia's Steak House. Ed waited in the hotel. When Vinnie came aack, he rested until 6:45. Then he jumped out of bed and roused his rather.