A fist of nerves, he walked down the glazed-tile stairwell to the finished basement, a space used for church dances and wedding banquets, but now an open locker room. Chandeliers glittered above the fighters trying to warm up and calm down, while the crowds upstairs cheered on the amateurs, including a sleepy-eyed 11-year-old who would knock out his grade-school opponent.
Taylor had longed for this moment. All those years of being picked on because of his size, all those street fights, all that anger needing redirection toward something constructive — all down to this. He had his hair in ropy dreadlocks and his tiger-patterned shorts, custom-made for $300, pulled high on his hardened torso.
Portable curtains in the basement separated the hometown favorites from the out-of-towners, the A’s from the B’s. Someone smart about boxing could walk in cold and tell which side was which. The local fighters are usually a notch above, in better shape, expected to win.
But Taylor’s been-around trainer, Jack Loew, heard this hammering sound, a whap, whap, whap-whap, from the curtain’s other side. He peeked and saw a sinewy teenager in red-and-white shorts pounding the outstretched mitts of his trainer with uncommon discipline. Whap-whap.
“We got a fighter,” Loew said to somebody.
Taylor was on his own side of the divide, warming up, when the curtain briefly parted to reveal his opponent. They made eye contact.
“Nothing like anger,” Taylor recalled. “Both nervous. Just looking at each other.”
The curtain closed.
This piece is told in several parts, from two different point of views, so it was hard to excerpt it. But I had to post it because it's beautiful writing employed to tell a terribly sad story about a violent sport. Savor this one.