A Pugilist's Destiny Is in His Hands
I won't kid you. I'm embarrassed.
For years I've been writing, here, about the evils of boxing. If you check the files, you'll see that I've called it a racket infested to its foundations with unscrupulous crooks.
But now, I'm mired in it as deep as Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo.
I own a fighter. A 126-pound amateur named Davey Alanis.
It happened quite suddenly yesterday afternoon when I got a call from Frank Elmquist, a legitimate reporter for an unidentified newspaper who, after hours, engages in little illegitimacies like flacking for the Golden Gloves Tournament which begins tomorrow at the Olympic Auditorium.
"Paully," he said, in his syrupy, after hours voice, "how'd you like to own a fighter? Won't cost you a cent."
"No man can own another man," I told him curtly. "It's a basic concept of our democracy that all men--"
"It's just a stunt," he interrupted. "We give you your own fighter so you'll write about him and the tournament gets publicity. Whatta you say, Paully?"
He hit me where I'm vulnerable. I can never say no to anyone who calls me "Paully." Besides, he knew that in my whole life I had never, ever really owned anything, or for that matter, anybody, outright. Everything I have is either mortgaged, rented or gummed up in the confusion of the California community property law.
"I'll send your boy around to see you so you can get acquainted," he said hurriedly. Then he added, in a voice choked with genuine emotion: "And Paully, thanks a million. You're a brick."
He hung up. And I sat there staring at the phone. I was the owner of a fighter. But what were my responsibilities? Elmquist never did tell me.
Later that afternoon, a dapper youngster in fancy gray gabardines came to my office.
"I'm Davey Alanis," he said. "Frank Elmquist sent me."
I motioned him to a chair. We sized each other up for a long moment. I cleared my throat and said, "I guess Elmquist told you all about it, didn't he?"
"He didn't tell me anything," Davey replied. "He just said to come over."
"Oh," I said. "Well, Davey, I'm your new owner."
"Okay," Davey replied.
"Listen, Davey," I pleaded after a moment. "Am I supposed to do something for you? Like, get you a pair of trunks? Buy you a mouth guard? You got a kimono?"
"Kimono?" he asked.
"Kimono. Bathrobe. Whatever you call it. You got one?"
"Sure," Davey said. "I got all that stuff.
"Well then," I said irritably, "whatta you want?"
"Nothing," Davey snapped. "The guy just told me to come over here. So here I am."
We stared at each other again. After an uncomfortable lapse of time, I said: "You look like a nice kid. Why do you want to be a fighter?"
"I like it," he told me.
I walked over and gave him a paternal pat on the shoulder. "You know the odds?" I said gently. "One guy makes it for every 10,000 who don't. And when you get to the top, what have you got?"
"Money, man," Davey replied.
"Money," I snorted. "And the mob cuts it up a dozen ways before you see any of it. And peroxide blonds fawn all over you. But they don't like you for what you are. It's who you are. Is that the shallow existence you want, Davey?"
Kid Allergic to Diving
"Yeah," Davey said.
I gave my cigar a thoughtful puff and sidled back up to the youth. "Kid," I whispered conspiratorially, "if that's the way you really feel, let me ask you something. Would you be willing to take a dive?"
He looked at me in honor. "That," he said disgustedly, "is dishonest."
And that's my luck, right? As long as I've been forced into this vicious, unscrupulous racket, you'd think I'll be able to make a fast buck out of it.
But no. Not me. I got to wind up with a Joe Palooka.