The Manly Art by Keith G. Laufenberg
In every battle, every war, every trial, every tribulation and every contest, be it a sporting contest or a real-life duel, there is always a winner and there is also, always, a loser. In boxing, whenever there is a draw or one fighter loses a decision it is the trainer's, corner-men, and managers' job to scream: "We wuz robbed!" Contrary to popular opinion boxing, in today's world is not the "art of self-defense" like it once was -- like it was meant to be -- it is, like almost all competitive sports are -- in the 21st Century -- all about one thing -- winning and winning at all costs. Boxing, football, baseball, basketball, you name it, these sports are big business and -- in America -- that translates into one word money -- big money!
When I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's, sports were different. Most sports stars had to work at another job besides their sport -- in the off season -- in order to support themselves and/or their families. In boxing, where there is no season, most fighters that I knew, many of them rated contenders, had to work for a living besides boxing. And I'm talking about guys that were sometimes rated the # 1 contender for the title and/or perennial contenders and even ex-champions guys like Bobby Foster, Harold Johnson and Holly Mims, Ferd Hernandez, Andy Kendall and Freddie Little, Ralph Dupas and Luis Rodriquez, to mention only a few that I knew of.
Back in those days although money was a big factor, in sports, I believe it wasn't the primary reason for many men becoming professional atheletes. In boxing, I know, that they did so because they were caught -- caught because they were poor or unskilled and most of them were of such a rebellious nature that a real job wasn't an option -- caught because they lacked either the educational skills or the confidence in themselves to get a real job and once they had been boxing for a decade or more they had developed no skills, references, self-confidence or the ability to get a decent-paying job. I saw them for the entire decade that I boxed. I saw them in restaurants and on construction jobs and in sales jobs, dishwashers, waiters, laborers, carpenters, bricklayers, car salesmen and in as many other professions as you could name -- almost always a job that demanded more physical labor than intellect, more following orders than giving them and -- almost always -- without exception, jobs that were hit hard when the economy soured or even slowed down and the first ones laid off were these ex-athletes. I saw them for those ten years and many years after that because I am one of them.
We were considered losers -- losers because we didn't have enough -- losers because we didn't have a steady job or a skill that we could turn into money. Losers because here in America you are judged -- rightly or wrongly -- for the amount of stuff you have earned, acquired or saved during your lifetime.
Will Rogers once said: "I never met a man that I didn't like." I don't know about that but I can say that in my decade in boxing I never met a fighter that I didn't like. These stories then are stories about boxing -- even if they're more about life -- you will still see the boxing gloves lurking in the background. These stories are not about the winners or losers inside the boxing ring; they are about the perceived winners and losers outside that ring. Most of these stories are about losers -- as the World would perceive them -- for two reasons: #1- I should know about losers, I lost enough, and #2- I always found the stories of the losers more human -- more interesting -- and so here they are. If you like them I am pleased that you do and if you don't I will try to be sure to tell you when I write that other boxing book -- the one about winners.