I don’t know his name, I don’t know where he’s from, and I don’t know if he’s really out there, but I can picture him in my mind.
He stands about 6-foot-2 and weighs 240, give or take a couple pounds. He can bench press a Lexus, dunk a bowling ball, run a 5-minute mile and has the hand speed of a young Jesse James.
It doesn’t matter what color he is or what church he goes to or how you pronounce his last name, because it’s his first name that’s important. He should be called Mike or Joe or Jack or Steve, something simple and easy, a name we can all spell and pronounce.
He’ll probably come from the inner-city, maybe Philadelphia, Chicago or Detroit, some place cold and hard where men work long hours in foundries and on loading docks, a part of town where soot from smokestacks settles on the snow in winter and sometimes doesn’t disappear until spring. A place you want to fight your way out of.
He was probably headed toward a life of crime when some friendly cop caught him stealing a candy bar from the local grocery store when he was only 10. Seeing something special in the kid, the cop took him to a PAL gym and strapped a pair of boxing gloves on him. A natural fighter, the kid has never been in trouble since, if you don’t count knocking guys out of the ring.
I see him as a good athlete in high school, both an all-city running back and power forward his senior year, a hard-nosed kid with gifts he didn’t even know he had. He could have played Division I football, but his first love has always been boxing, and he learned fast, developing a simple, devastating style that featured a crushing left hook that could drop an elephant to its knees.
He doesn’t have to worry about his chin because you couldn’t crack it with a sledge hammer, though like all smart fighters, he likes to avoid getting hit. He’s got good footwork and uses it when he needs to slip out of harm’s way.
He doesn’t wear tassels on his boxing shoes and he doesn’t hang any chains around his neck with his name carved out in big gold letters.
His robe is simple, only two colors, maybe three, and he doesn’t have any fancy advertising on the back of it, nothing promoting Bill’s Bail Bonds, or Sam’s Casino and Pool Hall. At least that’s how I see him.
Soft-spoken, he doesn’t play blaring music on his way to the ring, and his trunks are as plain as a slice of white bread.
He’s got a little Joe Louis in him, but he’s also part Mike Tyson and Rocky Marciano. Mean and tough, but in a nice sort of way.
Once he’s champ, he’ll be even more humble.
When he’s not training for a fight he’ll be at the local hospital shaking hands with patients, or serving as grand marshal of the Easter parade. He’ll give thousands of dollars to charities and after every one of his fights, he’ll donate his gloves to help raise money for some needy cause.
He’ll also spend his time volunteering at a half-way house when he gets the chance. He’ll appear on both Letterman and Leno several times and they’ll keep asking him back.
Every chance he gets he’ll encourage people to come out and watch the fights, no matter who is fighting.
He won’t duck top contenders, won’t demand eight figures, and he won’t surround himself with people who get paid just to tell him how good he is. He’ll have an entourage of three, and that will include his wife and his trainer.
His favorite place to fight will be Madison Square Garden, but he won’t mind fighting anywhere as long as he doesn’t have to cross any international borders to get there. He’ll always insist on fighting at home, which includes all 50 states.
He’ll be willing to fight four or five times a year if there’s enough legitimate contenders out there that deserve a shot at the title.
When he finally retires, he’ll have single-handedly brought the fight game back to America’s living rooms and its water coolers, reviving a sport on the edge of falling off a cliff.
If you happen to see anyone out there like that, let me know. Or better yet, tell him to give me a call. Though he’s probably too good to be true, I keep looking. And hoping.
If it will help, tell him I know a short, bald, 90-year-old Italian guy who’d love to have one more shot at taking a guy to the heavyweight championship of the world.
What a ride it would be.
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