I don’t like Floyd Mayweather the same way I used to didn’t like Muhammad Ali.

Mayweather is undefeated but wears it with the kind of arrogance that gets you pulled up short in the schoolyard one day. Ali was the same and seemingly all mouth turning his opponents into saps and soundbites. Each time he stepped into the ring I waited for his knockdown. But it was a long time coming. And by then, I learned that showmanship and talent aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ve only been to one live boxing match when I went to the Golden Gloves in Madison Square Garden with the older group from the print shop. There was an Argentinian kid that worked with us, all tall and good looking, with the skin and speed that never failed to impress. He would shadow box along the skid aisles or tag back and forth with the floor manager while your heart would break watching him stick and move

At The Garden that night we first had to sit thru an opening card with a dump of an amateur against someone with flash. Curled up with his gloves covering the sides of his head, The Amateur kept advancing forward against the jabs and crosses from the obviously better trained fighter. But he paid his entry fee, wouldn’t go down and wouldn’t stop. He kept moving forward, kept rolling and diving, the Flash stepping back and snapping his opponent’s head left and right with crosses and upper cuts that became all spit and sweat. The audience moaned and ducked thru the rounds but The Amateur kept coming like Freddie rising up out of the lake every time you thought he was done. The Flash was opening his eyes wide wondering why his opponent wouldn’t go down no matter how many times he was hit with the style and substance that always used to work. Finally the three rounder was over and the decision inevitable.

The ring was cleared and then the Argentinian came in and hopped onto the canvas like he was sent directly from heaven with a face so beautiful it would have made Ali cry. We were on our feet calling his name and he turned to give us his best showing his southpaw style until the bell rang.

It didn’t go past the first round. The Argentinian went down hard and surprised.

We stood and left silently, skipping the remaining bouts. The Argentinian disappeared. He didn’t show up for work on Monday…

cassius-clay-gold-1960-romeMuhammad Ali (fighting as Cassius Clay) wins his Golden Gloves title match
against Gary Jawish in 1960
photo Frank Hurley/New York Daily News

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