Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE DEATH STAR: Last 'My Boy Tommy' entry


Think I have explained enough about how despite being as atheletic as a kid can be, I didn't get picked for pick up games. This led to not being able to socialize with the neighborhood folks who would steer cats into organized team sports. Other than playing hockey as a pee-wee and a summer of hardball in jr. high, I couldn't find a spot on in the team games.

My 'Confidence Aunt', the one who finally got me to understand how to look at myself with an objective eye and not worry about what other people thought they 'saw' when they saw me, was a boxing fan. Not only did she watch the big fights that people made a fuss over (note to all y'all ... the KNOCKOUT KING Randall Bailey fights for a title NEXT FRIDAY on ESPN 2... try to watch and DON'T BLINK!!) either. No just because it is a Tyson fight spectacle, or because Oscar De La Hoya is cute ... she liked boxing the way Donna enjoys hockey. It was close to being a passion for her.

She followed local amateur boxing as well as the pro scene. Did have an uncle that was a top flight middleweight in the early 80's before fate reached up and the streets consumed him. This is where I would catch Tommy Hearns and his spindly frame trying to hurt someone!

As an amateur, he wasn't a knockout puncher. Not going to get all technical as to why, but I think he won well over 150 bouts with only like 15 knockouts. This isn't to say that he didn't hit hard, because he did.

And he had that sweet style, flicking out punches with his left hand purposely held low. Couldn't fight through everyone to get a chance at the 1976 Olympic team, which along with the 1984 team, produced a load of world champions and a couple of all-time greats.

Didn't mean that the cats who didn't make the team wouldn't have good careers. Along with Tommy, Aaron Pryor was a fighter who could say was jobbed out of a slot. He beat Tommy, Ray, Howard Davis, Jr ... anyone who was anyone from 132 to 139 lbs. But his story is a digression. I wanted to use him as an example of the depth of truly great boxing talent that era produced.

From sitting on the bench of my jr. high basketball team, I went to competing as an amateur boxer. And I found myself in boxing.


Not that I was ever going to be lost to the streets, but boxing made sure to keep me from being in them. I am sure that it did the same for Tommy. Gave him confidence and a place where he could get lessons in being a man. He came from a single parent home and I think if he wasn't the oldest of multiple children, he was close to it. With Tommy growing up on the notorious east side of town, it would have been expected that he fell in and became a thug or worse.

But he didn't. He would find boxing and catch the crosstown bus to train over at Kronk. And what a career he had!

The two biggest fights of his career, Ray Leonard and his bout with Marvin Hagler, Tommy loss. But even in defeat, it can be argued that he took more out of his opponents than they did him. Not only did they incur the physical damage and scars from their matches but you can say they bore pyschological wounds as well. Neither Ray or Marvin fought much longer after their matches with Tommy. As for Tommy ...

After losing to Ray, he pulled himself together to fight and blow away Roberto Duran, the uber-macho Panamanian great. After his loss to Hagler, Tommy would find his way to the 160, 175, and 195 lbs. titles. He did not let his losses keep him from finding out how good he really was. And this was even with his weak chin. It didn't take a lot to get Tommy in trouble. That is primarily how both Ray and Marvin beat him as far as I am concerned. They survived him as much as they defeated him.


After the twelfth round of their epic 'Showdown', Angelo Dundee told Sugar Ray after getting it handed to him in that round, that 'You're blowin' it, son!" That was the best round of the fight for Tommy. He had reverted to his 'Motor City Cobra' style of boxing and moving after getting hurt in the middle rounds. He boxed Ray's ear off!

With his left eye badly swollen (it would be discovered that he suffered a detached retina, possibly in this fight) and behind on points, Ray simply sucked it up and walked through and to Tommy to do what he had to do.

In the Hagler fight, so much was poured into those three furious rounds that it is hard to imagine that there was anything else other than just two of the baddest guys around, trying to knock each other out.

At some point in the fight, Tommy had ripped open some ugly cuts on Marvin Hagler's forehead and over his eye. The referee took a time out and had the doctor inspect the cuts. In my mind, it was there that the realization was made by Hagler, that defeat was right there waiting for him. He went out most directly and smacked my boy out of there.

See, that is why I have used 'the Death Star' as the way to describe beating Thomas Hearns, because you could beat the machine in 'Star Wars', but gee, was there a price to pay!! And there would be no other way for you to get the job done, because if you simply sat there, you were going to be overwhelemed.

It has been a very draining time around here for me. But rather give in to the 'whatever's' and the 'wowsy woo-woo's', I found myself watching this fight over and over again. I used it as a lesson yesterday afternoon with two of the teen boys that come thru the place. Thursday morning, I randomly was watching it, and it beat back some of the blahs that were reaching out for me.

I liked how Tommy was able to make himself a truly great fighter despite his losses. He beat up everyone else that was around and that was no joke.

The activities around here of last night and even in the early morning hours have only made me want MORE to go somewhere and be by myself. For two years, I thought that was what where I was heading and for a very good reason. Time to do some 'scope control' and see where I am going, if it things are indeed headed towards a goal I can live with.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Wow, two awesome rounds by Tommy. I used to watch a lot of boxing, Suguar Ray Leonard being my favorite.

Hope your early year plan with SFC is still on track.

Beth said...

I remember watching Sugar Ray in the Olympics, and he was my favorite, too! How funny!

I think what you wrote is a tribute to what athletics can do for kids. You mentioned that you never would have taken to the streets anyway, but boxing was a way to ensure that. The discipline, the physical work, the determination...all great things for kids to learn, and I'm glad that opportunity was there for you. Love, Beth