Boxing dope payoff possible, impossible or lunatic?

My lady had a birthday Wednesday night and two dozen of her friends gathered at her daughter’s digs at 93rd and Broadway. As birthday’s go, everything was fine, nothing was strange or out of the ordinary, everything was just about right. It was an usually friendly meet and greet, what do you do, where do you live, typically New York.

Making the rounds I at some point mentioned to a man named Carlos, who described himself as a registered private male nurse, that I had a connection to boxing and he had a boxing-related story he wanted to share about one of his patients. This patient (Carlos refused to divulge his name) is in a hospice dying of AIDS, probably contracted by sharing contaminated needles. Living above 110th Street, that news didn’t even register a shrug. But then Carlos mentioned that his on-death’s-doorstep patient is a former professional boxer, and he told Carlos that he got paid for his fights in heroin.

I took a good hard look at this Carlos guy, gave him the quick once-over, made him submit to the old reliable scratch-and-sniff test to see if he was full of it or not, and Carlos, not surprisingly, reeked of legitimacy. My five senses are going south fast (my sixth sense is better than ever), but I can still smell a rat and the cat Carlos wasn’t one. But since I’m wary of conclusions and skeptical by nature and experience, my first thought was to wonder if this former fighter dying of AIDS created this fabulous tale out of thin air to dramatize his life and generate sympathy from his male caregiver but why a man in his condition would need to waste his last breath generating more sympathy than his reality already warranted was beyond me.

And then there was the issue/question of boxing, the sport we love and loathe; the complex, contradictory, integral, illogical game that routinely eats it young; the vampiric demographic mélange of wolf, hyena, snake, vulture and shark: a real live petting zoo for sadomasochists. Would it be possible, let alone likely, that some soulless promoter or greedy manager or lowlife factotum would pay off a fighter in junk? I thought about it for a second, before I realized I was wasting my time. The likelihood of what Carlos was telling me being true seemed sadly obvious, unfortunately likely, regrettably, mournfully, characteristically, somehow just so boxing.

I again asked Carlos if he would give me his patient the former fighter’s name so I could get his side of the story in his own words, but professional ethics caused Carlos to shake his head and purse his lips. He said, Maybe it’s just an idea you’d like to investigate. I replied, Investigate? I don’t have time to investigate sleep or TV. Are you sure I can’t speak with him, Carlos, on the phone. I’ll only need a minute.

Talking to Carlos had suddenly become like talking to a brick wall. But that’s what this former professional boxer told me, repeated Carlos. That they paid him for his fights in heroin.