Boxer

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I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, back in the late fifties and early sixties. One day a few friends and I went to Columbia Auditorium. We wanted to learn how to box; we knew how to street fight. Street fighting and boxing were different, like night and day. There was this program called “Tomorrow’s Champions,” an amateurboxing show on television every Saturday evening. We had told our family and our girl friends we would be on television. All three of us won our first fight. We thought we were all that. So the next week we would be on again.

My friend Ronnie was to fight some kid by the name of Cassius Clay, Jr. We had seen this kid working out in the gym. He was always in the ring sparring around by himself. We thought, he’s nothing: “Ronnie, man, you can take him.”

Paul and I won our bout; then it was Ronnie’s turn. The kid weighed just eighty-nine pounds. Ronnie was ninety pounds. The bell rang, and they both came out. Ronnie got knocked out, knocked cold. Paul looked at me. I looked at him. We couldn’t believe it. Only later did we find out the reason this kid was sparring by himself was because nobody in the gym would get in the ring with him.