The rev. Willie M. Calhoun, pastor of the West Oakland Baptist Church, Atlanta, sat at Madison Square Garden ringside a few nights ago and for the first time saw his son, Herman, fight. In the course of his New York stay the Rev. Calhoun heard a number of disturbing things that people are saying about his son—that he is, for instance, "vicious" and a "killer."
These are characterizations to upset any father, especially one who wears the collar. They are, fortunately, true. Herman, whose ring name is Rory Calhoun, is a vicious killer of a middleweight who may one day be a champion beloved of all the people for these fine qualities. Outside the ring he is a gentle lover of Mozart and Beethoven as interpreted by Toscanini (pronounced Tiskarini). He lives at the YMCA and is taking correspondence courses to improve his mind, but his mind is doing nicely anyhow. Rory can't stomach Mantovani or progressive jazz.
At 21, Rory has had 22 fights and has won them all, 12 by knockouts. Since this is not only the year but the era of the slugger, in boxing as in baseball, Slugger Calhoun would seem to have a bright future. The basic requirements are there.
Some of the refinements are missing, as he made clear when he fought the experienced Willie Vaughn at the Garden while his clergyman father looked on. Vaughn is a fairly clever boxer, a puncher of some ability and a fellow who can take a punch too—up to a point. A Californian who has had manager trouble, Vaughn had been out of action for 11 months when he had the ill luck to encounter Rory. He had won perhaps three of the first seven rounds when, in the eighth, Calhoun put him down with a right to the jaw for a count of nine. He took four more rights before going down again for eight, after which a succession of rights so staggered him that Referee Ruby Goldstein called off the fight. A left hook had knocked him down in the third.
July 1, 1956
The fight made it clear that long layoffs are bad for boxers like Vaughn, who depend so much on sharpness, and that Rory Calhoun, given a year or so more of tutoring by his trainer, Charlie Goldman, is any man's threat. He has weaknesses. He knows little of boxing and is especially vulnerable to the left hook but, on the other hand, he can take a hook and come back. And, Lord, he can throw a punch. His right seems to come from outer space and, you would think, might very easily be ducked. But it lands like a meteorite. His left is shorter and sweeter, probably will be much more efficient in the long run. It is his punching ability that has made Calhoun. As Goldman has said, and it is so very true, "A feller with a punch has a short cut to a win."
Frank and Al Bachman, the father and son who manage Rory, believe their charge is "at least a year away from the championship," but at the same time Frank Bachman was talking after the Vaughn fight of matching Rory against none other than Gene Fullmer, the No. 2 man among the middle-weights. This seemed strange, since Rory is unranked, and Bachman believes he cannot hope to be a finished performer until he has had some 20 more fights.
"But," Bachman explained, "Fullmer's style is just made for Rory. Gene keeps swarming in." It seems likely, however, that Rory must meet lesser fighters before taking on Fullmer. Then, someday perhaps, Champion Sugar Ray Robinson.
Rory came out of the Police Athletic League, which in New York works with youngsters who might otherwise get into trouble. On the recommendation of Sergeant Joe Dickers, in charge of PAL's boxing division, he was accepted for development by the Bachmans.
That was a compliment to the Bachmans, for the cops of the PAL do not like to undo boxing's good work by turning over their amateurs to any but the most reliable managers. If, from time to time, this space has suggested that a few managers are soulless trolls who fix fights and rob fighters, nothing on that score could apply to the Bachmans. Frank has had some 30 years as a manager of champions like Maxie Rosenbloom, Lew Jenkins and Bob Olin. With his son, bespectacled Al, he operates a printing business, the Bachman Reproduction Service. Al, who wanted to be "a botanist like Luther Burbank," was forced to leave the University of Idaho forestry school because of poor eyesight. He became a YMCA boxing instructor and eventually, with his father, a professional manager.
Rory likes to fight. The first time Al saw him he started instructing him in the art of punching the bag.
"Why don't you and I get in the ring instead?" Rory suggested.
Al boxed with him only once.
"He's too strong," Al says. "As a matter of fact, Rory wants to kill you in the gym."
This is a trait that delights Charlie Goldman, who has seen what this winsome desire did for Rocky Marciano. Rory, indeed, fights very like an uncouth Marciano. He is a wild swinger when excited. There were moments during the Vaughn fight when he might have finished off his man had he but coolly taken time. Only experience will teach him to do that.
Under Goldman Rory has improved his left hand and his infighting. He has a splendid jab when he uses it.
"He is better than Rocky was when I first saw him," Goldman says, "and Rocky was four years older then. He is young and he wants to learn."
He is also a vicious killer. In the ring, that is. Otherwise as nice a boy as any minister would want to have for a son.