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Russell Hoban
August 20, 1956
On the moon in the year 2056 the kid looked like a great fight prospect but the machines said he'd never win on Earth. Then—
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August 20, 1956

The Sweetheart From Luna

On the moon in the year 2056 the kid looked like a great fight prospect but the machines said he'd never win on Earth. Then—

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"This Nothin' "

"Has Buffo got his speed back yet?" I asked him. He don't look at me funny or anything, so I figure Manny kept quiet about who touted him on to this nothing.

"Well," says Patsy, "Willie finally drags himself back to the gym after two months. He walks like in a crouch with his knees bent. He don't wanna look at speed bags or heavy bags or jump ropes, he says 'Lemme for god-sakes at least stand inna ring!' He was kind of pathetic."

"Could he box?" I could hardly keep a straight face.

"I'm getting to that," says Patsy. "We figure all right what's the difference anyhow, so we put him in the ring to work with Joe Sebastian. Willie looks a little bit happy again when he gets his hands taped and puts on his headguard and we lace on the gloves. We hadda help him up the steps. All the fellas in the other ring stop to watch. The whole gym is quiet. Willie got beads of sweat on his face."

"Don't gimme the whole screen play," I says. "Tell me, could he box?"

"Lissen and you'll hear," says Patsy. "The bell rings and he shuffles toward Sebastian with his knees bent, almost squatting. Sebastian moves in easy, jab, jab, a right, a hook, works inside with both hands, and away again. Willie just barely has his hands up. Sebastian's punches don't move him at all, just knock off drops of sweat, and his face gets red.

"For three rounds it goes like this. Fourth round Willie cocks his right, and the muscles in his back and shoulders stand out like he's lifting a safe. Sebastian is inside again and Willie shuffles back a little. Sebastian starts a hook and Willie starts a right like he's pushing a truck."

I'm starting to worry a little and I ask Patsy, "He could punch? Did he hit him?" Patsy has to give me descriptive material. "What a weird thing, with his knees bent and that slow right hand, it looks like it takes a minute to reach Sebastian's chin and Joe's feet rise up in the air and he goes flat on his back. He was out for a minute and a half and Willie is so exhausted he throws up in the spittoon.

"How he does it I don't know with such a freakish kind of a punch but he knocked Sebastian out with 12-ounce gloves. He knocked out three guys in three workouts and always with the headguard and the big gloves and one time I seen him faint afterwards. Always the same—one right to the jaw when, he got the opening. A real freak but what's the difference how he does it? The big thing is he does it, and looking all the time so weak and tired. But nobody could knock him down, nobody could move him even. How that Manny could pick 'em, huh? Who else would find a weirdo like that? He got the instinct for picking a winner, that Manny Klein!"

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