Boxing back in Beantown, how bout that..
Beantown, dumb tag for the town but I think I’ve earned the right to use it, being that I grew up in the area.
Nah, this silly accent isn’t from living in NY since 1999, it’s a hybrid, and you’ll hear the “chowdah” dropped R from me now and again.
Big card, not A grade big, but big nevertheless on Saturday, in Boston, and good for Boston-area boxing fans.
They’ve been left to their own devices, as boxing in New England has dwindled over the past few decades. Really, aside from the occasional athlete exploding, they’d maybe get like two a decade, it oftentimes really isn’t getting above the “dwindling” zone…
I wasn’t able to soak up much in the way of A or even B plus grade action when I was making my bones as a fightwriter, hitting the Roxy for Richie “Used Cars” Cappiello shows, and filing recaps to Boxing Illustrated (or was it Digest, I guess that depended whether the editor was Herb Goldman, or Greg Juckett, or Ken Kolasinski, or Sean Sullivan). Hey, this is life, I didn’t see a contract upon exiting the womb that all would be swell and entrancing 24-7, so I took what I could get, and enjoyed the characters and the action in 1995, 1996, and beyond…
So what if the action featured too many guys with 4-44 records, from “designated loser” towns, like Springfield, Mass., who came to the ring wearing adidas hi-tops. I developed a fondness for the out of towners, the Dominic Monacos and the Jose Williams’—dude, c’mon, really, was his name REALLY Jose Williams—whose specialty was 1): losing to the local kid with any smidge of promise, or an ability to put butts in seats, butts which would buy beer, and 2): sitting on the lowest rung rope during a bout, like he was on the toilet, and catapulting upwards, wherein he would eat a punch, and then dip down again. No coincidence, maybe, that I live in Brooklyn and you guessed it, where did the record padders often hail from? You guessed it…
These guys were clearly in it for the money, and even at a non-advanced age or degree of maturity, I respected their traveling salesman ethos, their product being their willingness to not go all out, and make the local kid look good, and be able to pad his record. They’d occasionaly throw a shoeshine, or maybe an Ali shuffle, something that would be the pugilistic equivalent of a wink and a nod, to tell the smarts in the crowd that if they tried the whole time, the local kid would not neccessarily be leaving without a dented chin and with another W.
The area would get the occasional boost, an infection of excitement, when a Peter McNeeley would get maneuvered onto a big stage, or a Jawny Ruiz, with sidekick the ever combustible and charismatic maniac Norman Stone oscillating between hearty bouts of bonhomie and eruptions which portended a stroke which God bless his pulsating mass of tensed nerve endings he calls a soul hasn’t occured, would over-achieve his way onto those same big stages…or a gawky colt with some strength of body and will like a Richie LaMontagne would tease the locals into believing he had a shot at being a contender, being somebody and get a crack on a USA card, or what have you…
Through it all, I’d be more than happy to go home reeking of George Kimballs’ Luckys, when I’d be fortunate enough to get a seat next to him, and maybe hear Stoney chew him out, call him a fat bastard Cyclops emeffer for some candid thing he had written in the Sunday Herald the week before….and maybe hear a tidbit I’d tuck away and still recall, as when he told me if I was writing things that didn’t make someone mad occasionally, then I wasn’t doing my job properly.
Yeah, you covered the Boston boxing beat, and you had to make do with an appreciation of characters, rather than premier talents placed in marquee situations. That was fine with me, I generally prefer the characters, and their rough edges and offbeat personas, I enjoy the drums they beat to the more refined singsong of the more skilled folk who advertise their douchiness without reserve, and advertise to their rafters their fabulousness. Yeah, give me a Vecchione over a Mayweather any day of any week, because I can identify with the one who cut and scratched and clawed and BS’d some and did so charmingly, with a rogueish flair that had you liking him even if he sold you a lemon of a LeBaron when he told you that this heavyweight he was helming had the goods to hit the big time. I admired, covering boxing in Boston in the mid 90s, optimism in the face of ample evidence to indicate that pessimism was the wiser path to take.
There was a lot of that ill-advised optimism in the air if you were covering the Boston boxing beat in the mid 90s, and before, and after, and that’s always the way it is in this sport, and one of the reasons why it is the sporting proxy for our existence as humans. Most of us are the record padders, taking gigs we couldn’t have imagined in more promising times, and doing the occasional Ali shuffle, sending that message to them, and to us, that given a different alignment of the stars, we’d be the local kid, a can’t miss talent on the star track.
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