Fight Club

You Could Throw In Space Aliens And Pirates And It Wouldn't Make Boxing Any Less Reputable.

THEY HELD A boxing match in Tucson the other night. At first I thought it was an attempt to draw attention to Tucson's next minor-league hockey team, which will be either its fourth or 17th, not that anyone's counting. But then, upon further review, it turned out to be a real boxing show, or as close to real as one can get considering that the main attractions were a mother of four and a big, fat white guy who looked like he was carrying quadruplets.

The night of pugilism or whatever was put on by Dave Sitton, one of my ever-growing circle of Republican friends. I had always thought I would be able to go through life without going bald, getting fat, or having Republican friends. I'm not sure which is worst.

I'm not a big fan of boxing; haven't been since Ali retired. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to go down to the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. to watch the fights. There were local heroes like Art Aragon, who caught punches with his face until he was about 50, and then went on to a decent career in movies and TV, never speaking but always playing a mobster's muscle who would get whupped by Rockford or Hunter or Shaft. Didn't matter much which show it was; he was an equal opportunity whup-ee.

My favorite boxer from those days was a guy named Windmill White. He was an ex-Marine, 40-ish, with a haircut that made him look like Sgt. Carter on "Gomer Pyle." White was a brawler with almost no boxing skills to speak of. He fought flat-footed, grabbed, pushed, tackled, and held. He earned his nickname by throwing punches from every conceivable angle, including his trademark behind-the-back punch.

There's no real way to describe it, and having it come from behind his back probably meant that it couldn't knock down Calista Flockhart, but the fans loved him.

However, it should be noted that most of the fight fans were also roller-derby fans who never stopped to question why the L.A. T-Birds always played home games or why you could see members of the rival Dallas Outlaws at the movies or the mall on a year-round basis.

A few years later my next-door neighbor, Bobby Chacon, was fighting at the Olympic. Bobby was the toughest kid in the neighborhood, even though he maxed out at around 128. We had played football and baseball together, but he drifted toward boxing because of his size. He had boxed at the Boys Club and got into Golden Gloves. Some wiseguy got the idea of having Bobby enroll in classes at Cal State-Northridge, and in the beginning he fought under the name of "School Boy" Bobby Chacon. This was akin to referring to the former House Speaker as "Ethics Man" Gingrich.

He was fighting once every three or four weeks back then, just smacking people around. Pretty soon he was going out of town, to Bakersfield and Fresno, making four-figure and then five-figure purses. His dramatic come-from-behind victory over Cornelius Boza-Edwards is considered by many to be one of the greatest fights of all time.

By 1975, he was the bantamweight boxing champion of the world. By 1980 his wife Val had committed suicide, sick of the brutality of his sport and the violent mood swings it prompted in him. By 1990, his son was killed by gang gunfire while visiting Bobby's mom, who still lived in our old neighborhood. And by 1995, Bobby was back in the news, having wandered away from the Phoenix home in which he was living. He was found later, walking around in a state of confusion, if not complete boxing-induced dementia.

Maybe that's why I don't like boxing so much any more. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that boxing is a refuge for pimps and thugs and rapists and lowlifes. A fringe sport which is neither sweet nor scientific. Oh, occasionally there will come along a skilled practitioner of the sport, such as Roy Jones, Jr., or a lion-hearted individual like Evander Holyfield. But, for the most part, it's half-a-step above pro wrestling, which is half-a-step above flatline brain activity.

Having pontificated all that, I can now state that the other night was kinda fun, what with Butterbean in town and all. The main attraction earned his following by dominating the brutal anything-goes Toughman circuit for years and earned his nickname putting the Sir George's chain out of business. Butterbean destroyed his opponent, whose name escapes me and whose skills had escaped him quite some time ago.

The women's bout was rather ugly and unathletic, but the sport is in its infancy. Let's give it another 20 years before we start making fun of it.

The night worked well mostly because nobody took it all that seriously, with the exception of these two guys sitting nearby who let their exasperation pour forth every few minutes.

After Butterbean mugged for the crowd, one guy uttered the immortal line, "This is a disgrace to boxing."

How is that possible?! You could throw in space aliens and pirates and it wouldn't make boxing any less reputable.

It had been quite a long time since I had seen a boxing match here in Tucson. Back in 1978, they had some junior amateur championships, and the talk of the town was a spectacular newcomer named Toney Ayala. He obliterated his competition and was about to make a big splash in the pro boxing world when he went wildly off course. While on probation for sexual assault, he raped another woman and went away for a long, long time.

Recently released from prison, he's currently launching a comeback.

I asked the guys if Ayala was a disgrace to boxing. One of them shook his head and said, "No, he's served his time," as though that were some sort of prerequisite.

After Butterbean got bored and dispatched his unmoving target, I was able to leave. I, too, had served my time.

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