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CONVERSATION PIECE: SUBJECT: A MANAGER AND HIS FIGHTER

July 30, 1956
July 30, 1956

Table of Contents
July 30, 1956

Milwaukee Braves
Events & Discoveries
The Wonderful World Of Sport
The Manager
  • In the dimly lit world of boxing, the classic—and therefore most closely guarded—relationship is that between the manager and fighter. One of the few persons ever permitted to penetrate the protective shadow which conceals their everyday dealings is Robert H. Boyle. On the pages that follow, Boyle recounts his conversations with a manager and a fighter on a day climaxed by a bout. For reasons which are obvious, the names of the principals are withheld. The facts are not.

Acknowledgments
The Outdoor Week
  • Edited by Tom Lineaweaver

    Based on regular weekly dispatches from SI bureaus and special correspondents in the U.S., Canada. Mexico and overseas; and on reports from fish and game commissions of the 48 states and Alaska

Uncle Lou's Dream Boat
Sports Of The Presidents
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

CONVERSATION PIECE: SUBJECT: A MANAGER AND HIS FIGHTER

In the dimly lit world of boxing, the classic—and therefore most closely guarded—relationship is that between the manager and fighter. One of the few persons ever permitted to penetrate the protective shadow which conceals their everyday dealings is Robert H. Boyle. On the pages that follow, Boyle recounts his conversations with a manager and a fighter on a day climaxed by a bout. For reasons which are obvious, the names of the principals are withheld. The facts are not.

THE MANAGER TELLS HOW IT IS

This is an article from the July 30, 1956 issue Original Layout

When you get a fighter, you got to sit down with him and explain there can't be two generals in the army," the Manager remarked one recent Friday morning as he walked down Broadway to the New York State Athletic Commission offices on West 47th Street for the noon weighin. One of the Manager's fighters was going that night in Madison Square Garden, and, according to the agreement I had worked out with the Manager, I was to accompany him and the Fighter around for the day.

"I have to tell a fighter that there's one general—me," the Manager continued. "I have to tell a fighter that there's one soldier—him. All he has to do is get in shape. I get the opponents. An opponent is someone I believe my fighter can whip. That's what an opponent is. Well, anyways, I line up the opponents, and my fighter fights them. That's the way we start out. If my fighter fights a bum even, I don't let him know it. As far as I'm concerned, the fighter knows nothing. He don't need to know nothing but how to get in shape."

"What happens when you get a smart fighter?" I asked.

"One thing you got to learn," said the Manager. "If a kid goes into the gym and says he wants to be a fighter, you know he isn't smart. If he was, he wouldn't be there. Now that don't mean there are no smart fighters. There are smart fighters. But they're smart about fighting. They're not smart about anything else. A kid that maybe you would figure is smart about things other than fighting is not smart to me. To me, he's a wise kid. And wise kids you have to watch out for. That's why you tell him in the beginning that you're the general and he's the soldier. You get everything straight then. You can be okay with him, but only up to a point. The nicer you are to a fighter, the less he respects you. When he don't respect you, he don't take orders."

"What about your boy tonight? Is he a smart fighter?"

"A real nice boy," said the Manager, shaking his head fondly. "A real nice boy. Quiet. Doesn't say much. A good boy. Maybe not much of a boxer, but a good puncher. A very good puncher."

"Is he going to win tonight?" I asked.

"I wish I knew," said the Manager. "This is a real tough fight for me. This is no opponent we're fighting tonight. This is a boxer, a very clever boxer. Very clever. But I figure we got a chance. All we need is have the other kid get sloppy and mix it. Then he busts him one. I hope anyways. If he wins tonight, I'll take on a few bums. I figure we're in if we win tonight. I'll tell you something. This fight's got me so jittery I'd put it in the bag if I could. At least I think I would. I would love to go in tonight if I had the officials."

"You mean you would fix it?" I asked.

"Are you kidding?" the Manager asked. "Of course I would—if I could. Who wouldn't? That's how much this fight means to me. And I'm legitimate! But I had to take it. You don't get too many fights with television."

Enter the Fighter

By this time we had reached 48th and Broadway, and I let the Manager walk on ahead. He didn't mind talking to me, but he didn't want us to be seen together too much, especially at the weighin, with a lot of other managers around. I waited for him in a restaurant across the street from the commission, and at about 12:15 he came down. The Fighter and the Trainer were with him. The Fighter was wearing a jacket, a pair of black pants and a cloth cap. The Manager introduced me and we shook hands. The Fighter was, as the Manager had said, very quiet. "A very good sign," the Manager said in an aside. "A very good sign. He hit 38 on the nose." The 38 meant that the Fighter weighed in at 138 pounds. No one in boxing ever uses the prefix 100.

"Let's go to McGinnis'," the Manager announced to our small group, and off we went to Broadway and 48th. The Manager got a table in the back and ordered beef broth for the Fighter. The rest of us had coffee.

"When a fighter ain't feelin' good at Stillman's, we send 'em here," the Trainer said. "They order beef brot'. It makes 'em feel good. Good beef brot' here at McGinnis'."

"What time did you get up this morning?" I asked the Fighter.

"Nine," he said.

"He was in the country two weeks trainin'," the Trainer said. "This mornin' for breakfuss he had two poached eggs, a coupla pieces toast, tea."

The Fighter had a second cup of beef broth, and when he finished, the Manager picked up the check. We went out on Broadway. "Take him back to the hotel and let him rest," the Manager told the Trainer. "We see you outside Stillman's at 3. Then we go out for lunch." The Trainer nodded. "We'll get a steak," the Manager said to the Fighter. The Fighter smiled. The Trainer laughed. "A steak," the Trainer said to me. "He [the Manager] got a skwartze, and he says to him, 'Hey, ya supposed to be a hungry fighta. Knock off steak. Go back to franks and beans, like when I found ya. How can ya be a hungry fighta and eat steak?' "

"What was the word you used?" I asked the Trainer.

"What word?" he asked.

"You know," I said.

"Oh," the Trainer said, "shwartze."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"Dark," said the Trainer. "It means dark. It's Jooish. Lotta Jooish words in boxin'."

"What's a white fighter?" I asked.

"A weisse," said the Trainer, puzzled by my questioning. "That means light. Also Jooish."

"Let's go," said the Manager impatiently. The Fighter and the Trainer left for the hotel, and the Manager and I set out for Stillman's. "Why you ask all those questions?" the Manager asked.

"It's interesting," I said. "Aren't you interested in things?"

"Boxing is all I'm interested in," said the Manager. "I can't bother with anything else. Haven't got time. All I read maybe is LIFE in the barbershop once in a while and Parker at night. When you're in boxing you don't have no time for anything else. This is a 24-hour-a-day thinking business. Maybe I should say conniving business."

About burns

At Stillman's the Manager left me for a while to talk to some other managers. When he came back I was standing against the lunch counter watching the fighters work out.

"You know something?" the Manager added when he came back. "I'll bet you don't know about bums. How good bums are for boxing. Boxing is built on bums. If it weren't for the bums, there wouldn't be no boxing. All the time everybody is yelling about there being a shortage of fighters, good fighters. Well, I got news for them—there is a shortage of bums too. You need bums. What for? To build a boy up. How else is he going to get on top and get experience unless he fights bums? That's the only way you can move a kid. That's the only way he learns. In my stable of fighters I got bums. What for? I use them as opponents. When some manager got a kid, and they're looking for an opponent, I give him one of my bums. It gives the bum work, it gives me money and it gives the kid experience. But I don't throw the bum in with some puncher. Maybe the bum will even win. About two weeks ago I had a bum fighting, and one of the commissioners, he makes a squawk. What right he got to squawk? No right. He says, 'Your boy is a bum. He shouldn't fight.'

" 'All right, all right,' I tell him. 'Get rid of him and you only get a worse bum to take his place.' The commissioner don't say nothing, he just walks away. But it's the truth. Without bums, nobody would be anywhere in boxing. Marciano was built on bums. Look at his early record."

There was a call for the Manager in one of the phone booths against the wall. When he came back he said, "You know who that was? That was a promoter. He got breaks in his card. So he calls me. What for? Two bums. One for a four, one for an eight. That's all. Just two bums. But where he is, bums is so scarce, he got to call Stillman's. It's awful. Boxing is founded on bums."

The Manager wandered off in search of the two bums. A little after 2, Lou Stillman began to chase everyone out so he could close up. I went downstairs and waited for the Manager. He came down and said, "Let's go for a walk."

I brought up the question of bums again. "What makes a bum?" I asked.

"A bum is a bum," said the Manager. "A bum can be anything."

"Well," I asked, "what about a fighter who's supposed to lack guts?"

"That kind of fighter," said the Manager, "is a dog. A dog. Any fighter who doesn't have guts is a dog. A dog. But I want to tell you something. Any fighter should have just a little bit of dog in him, maybe. It's good for him. Without that little bit of dog, he wouldn't learn defense. And if he don't learn defense, he's not going to get very far."

"Do you know any fighter who could use a little dog in him?" I asked.

"Danny Giovanelli," said the Manager. "Watch him in Stillman's. Everything on the chin. Everything. He catches too much. Giovanelli, he could use a little dog in him."

"Have you got any other kinds of fighters?" I asked.

"It's this way," the Manager explained. "On top, that is the fighters who fight on top, are name fighters. They got a name. Then you got club fighters. A club fighter is a fighter who don't know how to box too well but is always in there punching. A crowd pleaser. Then you got what is called tomato cans. A tomato can is a tomato can. Just a fighter. Maybe box a little, punch a little, not a dog. That's a tomato can. Then you got dogs. I told you what a dog is. Then you got what is called a kioodle. A kioodle, he is a dog, a hound, a mutt, a pig even. That is a kioodle. A dog, a hound, a mutt, a mutt—that's a kioodle."

"Where does the word kioodle come from?" I asked.

"I don't know," said the Manager. "A kioodle's been around for a long time. Who knows where it comes from? All you need to know is what it means."

"Then, roughly," I said, checking my notes, "you have name fighters, club fighters, tomato cans, dogs and kioodles."

"Roughly," said the Manager, a bit bored by the questioning. "But you got to remember this. A name fighter can be a dog or a kioodle too. Kioodle and dog is, maybe, a quality. That's it, perhaps more of a quality. Though that isn't right either. For example, Rocky Castellani is a name fighter, right? Castellani, maybe he's got a little too much dog in him than's good for him. Left, right, then hold. The referee breaks them. Castellani does the same thing. Left, right, then hold."

It was getting close to 3. We walked back to Stillman's. The Fighter and the Trainer were there. The four of us walked up Eighth Avenue and over to a steak house on Central Park South.

"After the steak," the Manager said, dropping back to talk to me, "we'll walk him around for a couple of blocks. Let him digest it better."

The headwaiter greeted us in the restaurant. "He's fighting in the Garden tonight," said the Manager, pointing to the Fighter. The Fighter smiled, the headwaiter appeared pleased. He gave us a table on the side and took care of us himself. The Manager ordered for the Fighter first.

"A steak, a good thick one," he said, holding up two fingers side by side to indicate the desired thickness. "No horse meat. A good steak. Medium rare. Medium rare, right?"

"Medium rare," said the Fighter.

"And a pot of tea and some toast too," said the Manager. "A little salad, just lettuce and tomato, on the side. Nothing on the salad for him." The headwaiter left with the order.

"In boxing," the Manager said, "you are only as big as your fighter. Don't forget that. Write that down. 'A manager is only as big as his fighter.' If the fighter's a bum, the manager's a bum. Now you take a guy like Bill Daly. A helluva manager. You people got all upset when he had the trouble with Martinez, right? Don't get so upset. Martinez had no right to break away. And don't give me this stuff about the contract ending. Believe me, he had no right. If he did, I would tell you. You know what happened there? Martinez was a piece of nothing when Daly got him. A piece of nothing! And Daly moved him. He moved him! How Daly moved that piece of nothing. Only a Daly, a helluva manager, could move a piece of nothing like that. He fed him one bum after another. Real tomato cans. Who did Martinez fight, really? Nobody. It was beautiful. A helluva manager Daly, moving that far with a piece of nothing. And what happens? The old man and the brother—who know nothing, but nothing, about boxing—they move in and want to manage the fighter. They want to manage the fighter! It was awful, I tell you. That's why no manager would fight Martinez. Forget about the Guild. I know all about the Guild. But every manager felt that way about Martinez. They seen what Daly done, and they lost fighters like that. It's terrible to lose a fighter. Just when Daly had made something out of this piece of nothing, the family wants to take over. Finally, they get their senses back when nobody won't fight them, and they give the kid back to Daly. Even the fighter believes in Daly—and he don't know what happened! And it's Daly who done it all. Now Martinez believes in himself so much I wouldn't be surprised if he won the title. Daly maneuvered that kid like nothing, and there isn't a manager in boxing who don't know it. A helluva manager."

Table talk

The Fighter was half through his steak before the Manager and the Trainer ordered. The Manager ordered lasagna. The Trainer ordered a bowl of soup. I had cheesecake.

"How do you feel? Okay?" the Manager asked the Fighter.

"All right," said the Fighter.

"That's my boy," said the Manager. "Not a nerve in his body. A real class fighter."

The Fighter smiled.

"You get him tonight," said the Manager, doubling up his fist and grinning.

"I'll try," said the Fighter.

"That's what I like to hear," said the Manager. "With you, I'm going to move."

The headwaiter brought our orders. No one spoke much; in fact, the Manager made the only remark while we were eating.

"That soup sounds good," he said to the Trainer.

"Funny man," said the Trainer, looking up from the bowl.

When we finished, the Manager paid the check and tipped the headwaiter $3. "Now we walk a little. Digest that steak," he said. We walked down and over to Eighth and 55th. There the Manager told the Trainer to take the Fighter back to the hotel. He gave the Fighter money for a cab and said he would see them at the hotel at 7:15. They hailed a cab and left.

I asked the Manager why he had given the Fighter cab money. He gave me an odd look. "I handle the money," he said. "Why should he pay the cab? It's none of his business."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Cause it ain't," the Manager said with emphasis. "Cause fighters don't bother with money. What I give him after the fight is his. That's it. I pay the expenses."

The Manager suggested that we go into a nearby cafeteria for coffee. "This money business," he said, after we had settled ourselves at a rear table with coffee, "I handle the money. One thing you should know. As I told you, I'm the general and he's the soldier. He knows the money business is my end. All he does is fight and get in shape."

"How much does the fighter get?" I asked.

"Let me explain it all to you," the Manager said, pushing his cup away. "We'll go back to the beginning. You cut the fighter from the first. Know why? He knows then what's coming to him, he gets. What's coming to me, I get. What's coming to the trainer, he gets. Now the commission says that the cut is to be one-third for the manager, two-thirds for the fighter and the expenses off the top. The same with the money for the trainer, off the top. Okay. That's what the commission says. Now before the fighter even fights once, you got headaches. A manager's headaches. The manager has to lay out the gym dues. That's $6. He's got to get the license and a doctor. That's $10. Then you got to get a mouthpiece, a hand-fitted mouthpiece for each tooth. That's $15. Then you got to get for the fighter a headguard, gloves, skip rope, cup protector, punching bag, punching bag gloves. Altogether, these things come to $70. That's just the initial things come to $70. That's just the initial outlay. If he wants a robe, that's an extra $25. All that's before the kid starts. If he quits, you're stuck all that money.

"Then there's the additional, additional headaches," the Manager continued. "Like borrowing money. 'I need a few dollars for room rent, for food.' Whatever comes up. So you lend him. Comes the first fight and there's not enough money to take back. Or suppose he fights and he gets a bad eye cut and will be out for a month. You got to give him the whole purse—cause if you don't he's going to come back and borrow some. It's cheaper that way. Now the fighter will complain his wife got laid off, she lost her job, they haven't got the room rent. So you look to borrow from a friend or a shylock—if you can get it from a shylock cause shylocks don't trust managers—cause when the fighter is in action, you're in action.

"Okay, so now he's reached semifinal at the Garden," said the Manager. "Two days before the bout he* fractures a thumb in the gym. Or he suffers a cut eye in training. Or he gets a virus. The bout is out, and the fighter, who's not working, needs more help from the manager. It's things like that that cost money."

"How do you cut up purses with your fighters?" I asked.

"Fifty-fifty," said the Manager.

"That's not legal," I said.

"Hell, I know it," said the Manager. "But I do it. I don't run and tell Helfand I do it, but I do it. Fifty-fifty."

"You want to know how I cut up the purse?" the Manager asked.

"Sure," I said.

"Okay," said the Manager, taking a sheet of paper. "Here. Let's take a $5,000 purse, for example. It breaks down like this. We got $5,000. Okay. Off the top, first 10% for the trainer. Right? Okay. Ten percent of $5,000 is $500. Now we subtract the $500 from the $5,000, and that leaves $4,500," said the Manager, subtracting the $500 from the $5,000 on the sheet of paper. "Then, the expenses and training camp. Just for example, let's pick a round figure—$800. Okay, subtract that from the top, and that leaves us with $3,700. Okay. So now I take, say, $200 the fighter owes me back. That's $3,500 left. But I'm still not finished. Then I give, say, $300 to the matchmaker. I don't have to, but I do it. Maybe I even give him a little more, figuring that maybe some other manager gives him $400. Why do I do it? I don't have to. I want you to get that straight. There's nothing forcing me to give money to the matchmaker. But I do it on my own, cause that's the way the fight business is today. Fights is scarce, and when he's got a fight to fill, I want him to think of me maybe before the next guy. But I don't have to do it even though I do do it. Get that straight.

Balm for the newsboys

"Okay. That leaves $3,200. Out of that I give $150, maybe $200, to the newspapermen. Not all—but enough. I really don't have to do that either, but I better. One time I forgot and did they louse up my fighter! Did they! My fighter put up a good fight. He didn't win, but he put up a good fight. What did the newspapermen write? 'A bum, a crime, a mismatch.' This way, when I give them the money, they say, 'A good fight. Too bad he lost. Maybe there should be a rematch.'"

"How does it work. I mean, how do you do it?" I asked.

"You mean how I pay them?" said the Manager. "Like this," he said, reaching inside his coat for his wallet. "I take the bills like this," the Manager said, folding two $20 bills neatly and pressing them into the palm of his right hand. "And after the fight, I go up and shake hands and say, 'How the hell are you?' The newspaperman, he shakes my hand like this," explained the Manager, slipping the money into my hand, "and says, 'Oh, I'm fine. That was a great fight your boy put up.' That's it. That's how it's done."

"So I give the $200 to the newspapermen. We had $3,200 left, so that leaves $3,000. Now if I was to try to be legit now—and how could I tell Helfand that I gave $200 to the newspapermen?—and cut the money, one-third, two-thirds, that would only give the fighter about $2,000. Right? Now isn't it better that when I get the $5,000 that I give him half right away? That's what I mean by 50-50. Understand? He's got $2,500 that way, and he don't know nothing about the newspapermen or what else I do with the money. The 50-50 way means more money for the fighter. You know, sometimes, with a few postponements and things like that, they can wind up with a minus with a small purse. Then you have to give him a thousand maybe."

"If you do this," I asked, "how do you make money? I'm sure you don't do it this way out of the goodness of your heart."

The Manager smiled. "Right. No goodness in my heart. You see when you move a fighter big and you got the big purses, then you make more. Say we was to get $30,000. We cut down the middle. I get 15, the fighter gets 15. I take care of the expenses. But out of 15, the expenses aren't too heavy. That's how I get my end. Don't worry, I get my end."

"What about the gangsters? The hoodlums? Do they give you trouble?"

"The tough guys," said the Manager leaning toward me, "I do no business with them. Any fighter I move, I know I move. It's all me. I do the moving on my own with a fighter. That's why I have got no respect for managers who front for the tough guys. Like Hymie Wallman and Willie Ketchum. Both fronts. Both of them. Guys like that will step on you when you're down. All the time they're throwing their weight around because they're connected.

"I'll give you a story—a true story—about one of Carbo's fronts. Show you what a weasel he is. He takes his fighter out West to fight. Now Carbo has been cutting him pretty heavy lately. Don't let him have much dough at all. You know what this manager does? You know what? That louse figures he'll make it up on the expenses. So he starts putting down big breakfasts and things like that. After the fight he comes back here and sees Carbo. He looks at the list, and he gets the idea. 'You louse,' he says. And he hits the manager with a backhand across the mouth. 'Don't go padding no more expenses,' he tells him. I like to die laughing when I hear that. A true story, so help me. I got it straight. Now I ask you. How much can a guy like the manager take? He has to be a real louse. A louse."

(I made an additional note on my pad. The Manager, like other managers, has a strict, but unconscious, semantic code. The word "louse" for example. When a manager says, "I think so-and-so is a louse," one automatically assumes the person concerned is a manager. Much the same applies when talking about gangsters. A manager always calls a gangster a "tough guy," or a "racket guy." It would be a gaff of the worst sort, for example, to call a promoter a "rotten louse." He would, more properly, be a "cheap crumb.")

It was getting close to 6. "I'm tired of talking," said the Manager wearily. "First time in my life I'm tired of talking. Let's take a break. Let's go for a walk and maybe see the Fighter early."

"I have to go to the Garden," I said. "I'm going to buy a ticket for the fight."

"Take this," said the Manager, reaching into his wallet and giving me a boxer's pass.

"Thanks, but I'm going to buy a ringside."

"Then have this one," the Manager said, handing me a ringside ticket.

"No, I'll buy one."

"Don't be crazy," the Manager said. "Take it."

"Let me pay you for it."

"Take it," the Manager said insistently.

"Well, let me pay you for it at least."

"All right," said the Manager, sighing. "It's $2.25. The tax is paid."

I gave the Manager the $2.25. "Write eight bucks on your expenses," he said. "You'll need the dough if you get a kid."

We paid our checks and walked out. It was almost dark, and a bit chilly. We walked down Eighth, then swung east.

A half block from the hotel the Manager said, "I think Ketchum is maybe out front. Follow me later. Room 329." I ducked into a doorway and let the Manager go on alone. I gave him about five minutes, and then went into the hotel and up to the room.

The Trainer unlocked the door. The Fighter was on the bed, leafing through a copy of a magazine.

"You take this picture?" he asked.

"No, I don't take pictures," I said.

"I tol' ya he doan take pitchas," the Trainer said.

"What you doin' then?" the Fighter asked me.

"He's writin' about us. You, me," said the Trainer, smiling.

"God forbid," said the Manager, slumped in a chair.

"What's he doin' then?" the Fighter asked again, pointing at me.

"Nothing," said the Manager. "Read the magazine. Look at television. Take it easy. Don't worry."

"Okay," said the Fighter in a hurt tone, and he turned back to the magazine.

"How you feel?" the Manager asked the Fighter a minute later. "You all right?"

"Okay," said the Fighter.

"Nothin' wrong wit' him," said the Trainer.

"You're sure?" the Manager asked.

"Sure I'm sure," said the Trainer.

"Okay," said the Manager.

The Fighter threw the magazine on the floor, rolled over on his back and stared at the overhead light.

"What happens now?" I asked the Manager.

"We'll leave here in a little while," he said. "Go over to the Garden. Then wait."

"What time do you have to be at the Garden?"

Zero hour

"Eight o'clock," he said. "All fighters got to be in their dressing rooms by 8. Just sit around then and wait till it's time. That's all."

We sat around for about 20 minutes.

"What the hell," said the Manager. "Let's go now."

The Fighter got up from the bed, and put on a shirt. Then he put on his jacket and cloth cap. The Trainer checked two small bags. "Got every-thin'," he announced. We took the elevator downstairs.

"I'll leave you now," I said to the Manager in the lobby.

"Okay," he said. "I'll see you after the fight. Out in front." We went out on the street, and the Manager, the Fighter and the Trainer began to walk west. I started east, walked a few feet, then stopped and called out, "Good luck."

"Thanks," the Manager shouted, waving.

When I got to the Garden there weren't many people there. In fact, when I checked the papers the next morning, there were little more than a thousand. Television has done that. "The people in the Garden are sitting shiva," a Jewish manager I know once remarked. He was right. The fans looked just like mourners, a handful of mourners, lost in the gloom.

I sat through the preliminary bouts. Most of the people around me didn't look like fight fans. Most of them seemed to be engaged couples who were there for a lark, just to see what a fight was like. The only cheers came from the Chicken Coop, the seats overhanging the managers' section. That's where the betting takes place. Small bets. Man-to-man stuff. Up in the Chicken Coop they carry their enthusiasm so far that they bet on the prelims.

When the time came for the Fighter's bout, the Manager, the Fighter, the Trainer, who had a couple of swabs riding pencillike behind each ear, and a handler, who was toting a bucket, made their entrance from the north side of the Garden. The four of them climbed up the stairs to the ring and through the ropes, the Manager solicitously separating the upper two strands for the Fighter. The Manager and the Trainer from time to time turned to wave to admiring acquaintances in the crowd. (The Manager and the Fighter get a percentage from each ticket they sell. A fighter who commands a wide following is known as a "ticket fighter." A ticket fighter is held in high esteem by promoters.) The other fighter and his entourage had also climbed into the ring. It wasn't until after the referee's instructions that the fighters took off their robes. The Fighter had, as the phrase goes, a good "built." The other fighter was a skinny kid, with arms like broom handles, with knots in them. But, like most skinny fighters, he was a "bang-ger." He was, it became quite apparent, also a boxer, and after two fast rounds, the bout showed signs of becoming what is known as You Mean I Paid To See This?

Not that the Fighter didn't have chances. He did, but he missed them. In the corner between rounds, the Manager began to talk to the Fighter with more than normal feeling.

The Fighter gets lucky

The fifth, the sixth and seventh rounds went to the other fighter by wide margins. But in the eighth the Fighter almost pulled it out. The other fighter got careless, and the Fighter got lucky. He hit the other fighter with a right cross and staggered him. As if awed by his own strength, the Fighter stepped back instead of following up, and the other fighter slipped away along the ropes until the punch wore off. For the last two rounds the other fighter was content to dance in and out, sure in the knowledge that he had the fight won. It was no surprise when the judges agreed with him, and after the decision, both camps Indian-filed out of the ring the same way they had come in, although this time the Manager didn't separate the ropes.

I watched the after-the-main-bout fight, as the ringsiders around me cleared out. When they had gone, I went out to the rotunda.

The Manager wasn't there, and neither was the Fighter. About 15 minutes later the Fighter came out. He had some of his neighborhood pals with him, and everyone was quiet. The Fighter didn't say anything. He just put his hands on his hips, and looked at the floor. Once in a while he would squash an imaginary cigaret butt on the floor with his foot. I was going to go up to him, but I changed my mind. He moved off with his friends just as the Manager came through the tunnel leading from the dressing room. He had someone with him, so we didn't have much of a chance to talk. Not that he felt like it.

"Well?" he asked. "Well?"

"Tough," I said.

"Tough, nuts!" said the Manager. "You know what? The bum froze up on me. He could have busted him wide open. He froze up on me." Then the Manager and his friend moved off, and I decided to call it a day.

ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"There's only one general—me!"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"If a kid says he wants to be a fighter, you know right away he isn't smart"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"Boxing is built on bums. Without bums nobody would be anywhere in boxing"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"I don't have to do it, but I do it"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"Two bums—one for a four, one for an eight"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"The bum froze up on me!"ILLUSTRATIONRUSSELL HOBAN"I have no respect for managers who front for tough guys"