The Grand Olympic Auditorium -- the Grand described the address, not its condition -- was a concrete vault, built for the 1932 Olympics but long since consigned to the indignities of weekly boxing and wrestling. By the time I got there in 1979, to cover the fights for the
Still, in 1979, dying or not, this was about as authentic as it got. My first Thursday night at ringside: Who knows who fought, or even how well for their $400 payday. All I know is he produced a terrific arterial spray that turned my Christian Dior shirt (
Although I subsequently learned escape routes and thereafter was able to anticipate most chaos, I never did penetrate all the mysteries of the Olympic, not in a hundred or so Thursday nights there. The fans, almost entirely Hispanic by now but still peppered with Hollywood sportsmen, had a passion for boxing that I never again observed, not for any sport. They cheered their heroes wildly and enforced fairness as best they could. Unpopular decisions unleashed hell -- anything might come out of those upper decks, mustard jars, cherry bombs and, in one famous riot, sections of seats.
Others, more civilized, flashed signals across the ring, betting the fight dozens of ways. There were parlays even for the ring announcer, the ridiculously dapper
The fighters themselves, produced from dungeon-like recesses in the building (where the smell of urine and lineament was overpowering), were a shifting demographic, even during my short time. It was no longer possible to build up
That didn't interfere with the ethos of desperation, though, and I doubt I will ever again see such urgency, some 18-year-old from the barrio fighting for his life (or, in two cases, right before my eyes, to the death), getting stitched up afterwards by the Fight Doc.
Another mystery by the way. The Fight Doc, who reclined ringside in his white smock (looking