29.06.06 – By Ron Lipton: Photo – NJ Golden Gloves Feb 5, 1965, Elizabeth Elks Auditorium, Ron Lipton in black tights V Billy Beam of Elizabeth NJ. Lipton won the fight
The Arena gym known as Mooksie’s was a famous Newark boxing landmark which used to be located at 230 Market Street. I heard about it one day while training at the East Orange YMCA in New Jersey in the early 1960’s.
While training at the East Orange “Y” for hours on end hitting the speed bag and the one heavy bag they had in the weight room, I ran into the famous bodybuilder Bill Grant who later held the IFBB title “Mr. World.”
We became friends and he and I had some gut busting workouts together having contests to see who could do the most free dips on the dipping bars without weight and the most wide grip chin ups to the upper pecs.
While sipping the small cans of apple juice from the vending machine, I would glean whatever knowledge I could from him about sets, reps, diet and technique. It later helped me in boxing tremendously and when I became a physical culturist and trainer at Figuretone in West Orange working for Mr. North America, Robert Sorge..
It amused Bill Grant to watch me intently hitting the bag and one day he asked me if I wanted to be a fighter, a real fighter. He told me that his father used to box and there was a boxing gym called “Mooksie’s” in Newark near Broad and Market street. He told me to go down there and check it out, but to be careful as it was in a rough area of Newark.
I always got along with most folks by being very quiet, showing respect and always minding my business but at the same time I was too head strong, foolish and confident in myself to be smart enough to be afraid of anything. I decided however to ask someone who I thought would know, about this Newark boxing gym.
I had a much older buddy I used to visit in Newark, a pretty tough and solid brother named Al Andrews, not the famous fighter but the man had the same name. He had a beautiful wife who was a nurse and a little boy named Val.
I was having some real bad problems at home, and despite the love I had for both parents things were getting worse and worse and I was spending less time at home, and trying to survive on my own while making it through school.
I took whatever work I could get, delivering Pizza’s for Ralph Rafanelo’s Capri restaurant in West Orange, and breaking my back loading heavy wooden soda cases onto trucks at Hoffman Soda company in Cranford NJ for $2.66 an hour.
I hungered to try and channel my street fighting skills and the speed and balance I absorbed from Judo into the sport of boxing, and armed with Bill Grant’s suggestion I was hot to trot to check out Mooksie’s.
Al Andrews knew everything going on in Newark as he had lived there all his life. This guy had respect on the street from everyone wherever he went and when he spoke he always made sense to me.
He was one of the most street wise guys I ever met in my life and we both had the ability to make each other laugh with raw honest humor regarding our daily outlook on anything and everything.
This guy was like Richard Pryor times 10 with his wit and every word out of his mouth had me breaking up so bad I would beg him to just shut up so my ribs would stop hurting.
He was about 5’7” and 165lbs with very strong arms and a good street fighter, but not a skilled boxer.
He had to have a good sense of humor to stay alive. He worked packing parachutes in a factory while his wife worked nights at the hospital. Little Val was the love of their life and he would go everywhere with me and Al.
The little boy had played with matches one day and burned himself up so badly, it required a series of operations, skin grafts, burn center treatments and Al was besides himself with grief over it.
Val survived and Al showed me the massive medical bills he was hit with. He would work himself to the bone to help pay the ongoing medical bills to continue the boy’s treatments.
His only love and relaxation was watching boxing and with me he had the right guy with him. He told me to go down there to 230 Market Street by myself and check it out. He was always trying to stay out of any kind of trouble so Val would have a father to take care of him and I respected that, and he avoided being in places where trouble would find him, while always placing his family’s welfare over any wandering wolf calls of the wild that might whip at him now and then hanging out with a roughneck like me.
So I had to go it alone, but he said I should be ok down there if I just zipped in and out of the gym and did not hang out too long on the streets.
With his advice I decided to go to the gym by myself and see if I could find a trainer. My hunger for boxing had been sparked by a variety of things that happened to me in my life which is another story, but this was the first step of a long journey into that world.
In doing my research for this article on the old gym, I recently spoke to NJ Hall of Fame member George “Buddy Gee” Branch the former Newark Councilman and my old trainer, who was one of the first men I met in the gym back in the early 60’s and who went partners with Tommy Parks calling their stable of fighters, “Park’s Branch.” I fought many hard and bloody fights with one or the other in my corner mostly scoring quick knockouts over the years.
According to George, it had formerly been run by a man named Tom Garner and was taken over by the new owner, Mr. Mooksie Daniels around 1945.
Photo: Ron Lipton 140 lbs in the Ring at Channel 47 TV, Symphony Hall Newark, awaits the entrance of Lt.Heavy Steve Quinn, who is filling in for Mike Riley of Cliffside Park. Lipton stopped Quinn in 6 seconds of the 1st Round plus the 10 count. George Branch mentioned in the article is in Lipton’s corner.
If the walls of that old building could talk they would tell you that some of the toughest fighters in the NY and NJ area were melded into pieces of steel inside that ancient and dilapidated fistic oven.
Guys like Arnold Cream better known to you as Jersey Joe Walcott trained there along with men like heavyweight Bill Gilliam who beat Nino Valdes and went 10 rounds with Ezzard Charles.
I took the long bus ride from West Orange and walked there from Broad and Market Street all the while getting looks that said I must be crazy for even being there alone.
Walking past Ken’s Famous Flame Steak House I had to fight the urge to go in while the colorful sign overhead called out to my hungry belly to come on in and partake of their famous $1.29 sizzling steak dinner. I breezed by Chock Full of Nuts with their tempting buttered grilled frankfurters and coffee, and passed the famous elite men’s clothing store in Newark called “Cornwall’s.”
You had to walk several long city blocks from Cornwall’s Clothier down to the gym’s entrance passing by an atmosphere reminiscent of 42nd street and Broadway in New York City.
I remember Cornwall’s Men’s Shop as the sharpest place I have ever seen to this day. The suits, sweaters, shirts, ties, pants and accessories they had there, were so unique that if you purchased anything there, no one anywhere would be wearing the same thing.
Like in the movie the Whiz, the color of the day would change, and the color of the day then was an intoxicating purple. The brand new and shocking availability of clothing items in that color was blowing people’s minds back then. It was a new age of clothing changes with the advant of shirts in Orange and bright electric colors, that were only now being offered to the color hungry public who had been forced for too long to wear only limited and mundane apparel.
Suits, V-neck sweaters and ties in dark Royal purples and electric violets graced the panorama of their windows, along with vests and flashy ties and cufflinks that made you want to take your rent and food money and give it all to them for the enchanting garments they had inside.
I had to pass it all up as I cared for nothing but boxing and getting the right equipment.
Wall to wall hustlers, grifters, thugs, hookers, headknockers and pimps lined the walkway along with any brave shoppers who loved the streets like I did. They risked their lives just to be around the action. It was all in Lady Luck’s hands whether you made it there and back to the bus without a fight or a mugging.
I tempted her everyday for years and had my share of both kinds of luck until finally I was known and left alone, but the first scary time I visited the gym this is what happened.
If you drove a car, which I did in later years, you could park right around the corner in a small parking lot and risk walking at night around the corner. If you were lucky you would make it alive up the stairs A cafeteria was downstairs next door and guys were always hanging around outside looking for trouble.
I entered 230 Market Street and gazed up the long set of staircases. By the time you got to the top floor of the three long and steep steps you were lucky not to have a nosebleed from the altitude.
I soon found out that there were wonderful gentleman waiting up inside for you with delight in their hearts to give you that nosebleed by other violent means as soon as possible.
When I finally made it up the stairs and turned right into the gym, I could not believe my eyes as to what I saw. It was smaller inside than I expected and it was jammed packed with loud activity.
By the time I had arrived there for the first time, the real alumni of the gym were part of it’s internal fabric and their territories were staked out as definitively as a State Prison yard with fighters, trainers, managers and cliques ruling every square inch of wall space.
Back then in the Newark NJ of the 60’s what went down inside those walls would make the gym wars at Detroit’s Kronk gym look like pillow fights at the YWCA. There was a constant air of danger and tension in the gym between rival factions. It came from the turmoil and turbulence of the times and here in the gym, was a catharsis available for all who carried chained lightning in their fists and anger in their souls. It was the place where left hooker Joe Louis Adair from Witchita Kansas knocked out Rubin Carter as surely as Chico Rollins did years before in the Army.
Territory was a daily issue, as was use of the gym equipment and the heated rivalries in the strangling battle for advancement in this world of boxing inflamed the atmosphere as much as the sweat. This tension would soon erupt into one of the worst bloodbaths I had ever witnessed.
At that time I was the only white fighter in the gym along with Hungarian born Freddie (Ferenc) Martinovich. No one bothered me in the gym other than standing in line to blast my novice ass to pieces in the ring.
As I went through the entrance to the right at the top of the stairs, Mooksie’s domain was directly to the left. If you dared to enter his little room without permission and ventured through the portals of this particular bucket of blood, you trespassed where devil’s feared to visit, his inner sanctum.
Later Archie Moore would call his San Diego gym by that very name, “The Bucket of Blood,” and later a West Orange gym copied that, but this gym had our blood in its buckets back then before anyone else.
In his room which contained a cot like bed, a low ceiling and the aroma of all the jails in NJ combined, was a large Steamer Pirate’s trunk which would have been appropriate to take on a sea voyage.
In it contained all the brand new boxing equipment a fighter could dream of having in the 60’s. Brand new leather ball bearing jump ropes with hand carved wooden handles, and a variety of satin boxing trunks made in the color combinations of the day, along with exquisitely beautiful black and white high top leather boxing shoes for sale.
The great color combinations available for boxing trunks and the variety of modern boxing equipment which would later become the trademark of Ringside Products over 40 years later were not even a dream in a fighter’s imagination yet, but I was determined to find a place that would make them up for me in different colors, like G&S at 43 Essex Street in Manhattan.
It was the day of black and white television and fighters invariably wore black trunks with a white stripe or the reverse of that. Since the days of Joe Louis wearing his Royal Purple Ben-Lee trunks, there were few choices to make in those days from the Everlast, Spartan and Tuf-Wear trunks Mooksie had to sell.
If you were Irish, you could choose the Kelley Green and white trunks, or Red satin with white trim, and there were still the blue trunks with gold trim too that I took into battle in my lightweight fight with Elizabeth’s tough Billy Beam in the Elizabeth Elks Auditorium February 5, 1965. I dressed with black woolen tights with the trunks worn over them trying to look like the Pioneer fighters like Jack Johnson, just to be different.
He also had very long and short skin tight black, green or red woolen Spartan trunks for sale along with black kangaroo leather speed bags, ball bearing speed bag swivels and anything else you might need if you had the dough.
He had black Tuf-Wear heavy bag gloves and brown leather Everlast speed bag gloves and absolutely beautiful 12 oz sparring gloves too. If you bought something from him, which I always did, his demeanor softened a bit.
The only nourishment ever supplied that I can remember was a table with clear glass mugs of hot tea with lemon for sale for a nickel, for the famished fighters at the end of a grueling workout. The tea there was nectar of the God’s and the price was right.
Two fixed metal high speed bag braces with strong heavy and professional circular wooden platforms hung over in the right hand corner and 3 or 4 heavy bags hung from the rotten ceiling on long swinging chains. The heavy bags were taped up from being ripped to pieces from the constant blasting of some of the hardest hitting fighters active in NJ.
Some bleachers surrounded the ring where everyone could come in and watch the fighters spar. The blood and sweat was constantly flying from the elevated ring more often than the water at The Shamu show in Sea world and it represented the price you paid for watching the action too close.
The spray of those unpleasant body fluids would back up the hustlers more than once and it later would amuse me to see them cringe at getting nailed. Every betting man was always cataloging everything each fighter did and the wagering at the fights was as serious as a winter on welfare. This is where they got their edge if they knew how to study tendencies, and I learned that art to perfection.
Image: Article from the fight in the Newark Evening News
If you wanted to take a shower and risk getting athlete’s foot or worse you were welcome to try your luck all the way in the back of the gym. I always passed on that area.
The whole gym was simply one of the only boxing factories in the area other than the Newark Dukers AC for producing the most hard core gladiators who asked for no quarter and gave none, but the best in NJ trained there and each day was a war zone with much to see and to learn for the brave of heart.
The gym was fraught with talent and some incredible things happened there that I witnessed.
Lou Stillman, who had ruled his roost in New York City with an iron fist and the heavy duty gun in his shoulder holster, had nothing on Newark’s Mooksie.
Like they say in England when they yell instructions to a fighter from the corner, urging him to take over the fight, they urge the fighter to “Be the Governor.” This guy governed his realm totally and no one gave Mooksie any trouble, not twice anyway if you wanted to stay, and many wanted to and needed to stay.
My social life had taken me through some nasty street fights before I arrived at the door of Mooksie’s University of higher learning to seek out some real boxing instruction and sparring for the first time.
I had experienced some nasty street fights at this time and was very strong for my weight. I had taken a few shots in those fights but always got those battles over with quickly with fast straight hard punches to the jaw or temple or with hip and shoulder throws, foot sweeps and Judo chokes.
I learned my mixed martial arts in Jerome Mackay’s Judo for Boys in New York City. I had a good background from training with Sensei George Hamlin and Yoshisada Yonezsuka, the young Japanese Judo champion from Japan, who I still write to today. He became the coach for the U.S. Olympic Judo team and his school in now in Cranford NJ. Yet nothing on this earth prepared me for what I would endure this day and later in the week.
The first day I climbed those stairs, looking for a trainer, I ran into Roscoe Manning an elderly looking black man who had 55 pro fights under his belt. He had fought a draw with Ben Jeby the former middleweight champ, and won an 8 round decision over one the hardest hitting light heavyweights I ever heard about, Mr. Frankie Zamoris. Zamoris had stopped Melio Bettina in 6 rounds and was a legend of punching power in Orange NJ.
Roscoe also fought a draw with Solly Krieger another 160lb champ and lost on a fifth round TKO to Billy Conn, so this guy was not exactly cherry.
He showed me how to hold my hands and charged me $5 which I paid. I told him I could not afford that each time but that was his fee. He put a pair of boxing gloves on me and put me in the ring with a borrowed foul proof cub to box with a rugged looking black fighter who resembled the scowling panthers I so admired and was my lucky charm since I was a boy.
Another trainer stood on the ring apron named George Branch, about 5’6” and a former pro fighter in the late 40’s and 50’s. Manning got his permission to let me box with Branch’s fighter. Little did I know it was Lloyd Marshall the deadly lightweight who would go on to beat Maruice Cullen in England and go 10 rounds with Ishmael Laguna, the lightweight champion of the world.
Lloyd was a killer and the terror of Newark. I think he went to Weequaic High School where he was a fighting legend. He later became a good mentor and pal and would eat with me in the cafeteria downstairs on occasion while helping me train.
He did not speak much and neither did I. He was very taciturn, melancholy and serious with his black goatee and was always in shape, but meant no one any harm. He had the goods to be champion of the world but for the likes of Laguna and Roberto Duran who he later lost to.
That day of our first meeting I tried to kill him and he had been told to take it easy on me.
That soon changed as I forced the agenda into a different category.
I came after him like I caught him sneaking out of my woman’s bedroom window and within seconds he bloodied my nose with jabs. He put some right hands behind it and he was stunning me with shots that I was taking flatfooted without rolling my head or shoulders, but I was an animal pursuing him and each punch landed on his shoulders knocked him back two feet and I had the fastest hands imaginable and always did, but was crude, unrefined and reckless. My punches were falling short and the snap at the empty air hurt my elbows.
His pro moves nullified all my extreme power and he moved with the grace of the big cats I admired so much, and would later strive to become in my learning process.
We tore up the ring as the slats in the ring’s floorboards were thumping with the heavy fast action as he timed me and caved my face in for me with every step. Yet later, Manning told me the whole gym stopped and was watching me try to hurt him everywhere with each punch just grazing him.
When he opened up on me Branch yelled for him to take it easy, but Marshall yelled back at George through his mouthpiece, “Bullshit,” as I kept hot on him and made him fight me off of him.
The whole thing did not turn out too cool, as Buddy Gee was upset with Manning as he suspected him of turning me loose like that, which he did not do, as I looked like I was trying to kill his fighter who after all was supposed to take it easy on me.
Manning was upset with me for going berserk and Lloyd wanted to go another one to knock this crazy white boy’s privates in his watch pocket.
They finally rang the bell and my nose and cheekbones had taken a pounding like I had never felt before in my life. I could see in Lloyd’s eyes that they were ablaze with a bloodlust at being forced into condition Red and into 5th gear so quickly and his inner warrior was fully awake chomping at the bit and chafing at his chains to break loose and tear my head off. It was beautiful!
The others standing around the ring, looked like they knew they had witnessed some real raw fury that wasn’t just sloppy and crude but a force that given the right direction would be interesting to see again.
I climbed out of the high ring with shaky legs, I felt like my lungs would explode, and the pain in my head and taste in my mouth was very strange to me and unpleasant like a mouth full of dirty copper pennies and my swollen nose was full of blood, but somehow it all ignited a fury in my spirit that was not even close to being sated and was also the greatest catharsis I had ever felt, and I wanted more. I was home!
As I climbed down from the ring and tried to hold my head high while my bloody headgear was unstrapped, I noticed a very distinct and different looking black man staring at me while leaning against the wall in a white tee shirt. He was not a big man and was kind of slim and wiry and he had the fiery and deadly eyes I would see glaring back at me now and then when I looked into a mirror at my own reflection when the world was young and I was full of anger.
He had a pencil thin moustache over his upper lip and his whole slinky and restless body language just radiated danger. His name was Mark Murray. He had been a fighter and was now a trainer and had a reputation of someone never to trifle with on the street.
I of course did not know this at the time.
He had fought from 1957-58 as a welterweight, with a 2-2 record. He won two 4 round bouts by decision and lost two fights. He was knocked down twice and stopped in one round by Joe Shaw at St. Nicks Arena in NY and lost a 6 round decision in Mass to Tony Veranis.
I will never forget his stare as long as I live or the powerful and deadly menace of the man that radiated from him up close.
In my young mind it looked for a second like unbridled hatred, maybe racial hatred directed at me, but I was wrong. He had a toothpick hanging loosely from his tough looking mouth, and as I walked slowly by, I thought he was going to pick a fight with me.
I was ready to fight again if I had to but as I passed him he looked as deep into my heart, as the Sphinx in the “Never Ending Story”, and he nodded his head to me with a respect and awe at the anger and fury that came out of me in the ring while a novice against a pro. You could see he not only liked it but seemed to understand it more than anyone I ever saw in my life.
He glanced once more very quickly into my eyes searching for what I thought was weakness, I made sure that I showed him none and just kept walking. I had the strangest feeling that we had something in common that only he understood as an older man.
It was like someone who was secretly possessed by the same fiery fight demons as me that lurked in my raging abused spirit ready to pounce at the slightest disrespect. It was a look from one hunting cat to another, transmitting that he understood what had just happened in there and why. It was eerie, but for some strange reason I instinctively admired this guy for his instantaneous observation of understanding and appreciation of me that he communicated so quickly and knowingly.
The encounter with him stuck in my mind more than the sparring and I left the gym kind of quick to make the bus back home. While I rode home nursing my swollen face, I could only think of coming back to do better.
I was still curiously haunted on the bus by the thought of that bizarre encounter and puzzled how someone could smile like that and see right through me and know how much I liked the violence of the ring, not winning or losing but the turning loose of the fury.
Photo: Lipton at 14 -15 years old (A back shot throwing a punch) at time of the article
I kept coming back each day as my home life was horrible. There were more fights in my house than in the gym and all I cared about was getting back to the boxing. Reading about it, studying it and being around it.
So I went back to Mooksie’s everyday and waited until he opened the door and then stayed there not saying a word to anyone but watching everything.
I had never been prepared or could have imagined the bizarre feeling and horrible taste in my mouth from getting hit in the nose and face, side of the head and gut from a pro fighter over and over again in a sparring match. I thought I was in good shape and finding out I wasn’t even close was a rude and humbling awakening.
That first experience with a pro fighter made me want to quit forever but just the thought that other guys were sparring and surviving made me feel like a “Back to The Future,” Marty McFly chicken, to even contemplate not coming back. The hatred and loathing I would have had for myself would have been intolerable and was something I feared much more than anything they could have done to my physically in that ring.
I was determined that I could face the only terrifying horror of boxing itself, and that to me was not the pain, or the fatigue but the specter of possibly looking bad in that ring. I would learn that not being in shape was the only thing to fear.
Many years later my future daughter as a child would refer to the movie “Apocalypse Now,” as “Pocket Lips Now,” and Brando’s quote always stuck with me, “To make a friend of horror,” so it would not frighten and cripple you when it showed it’s petrifying face.
Little did I know that life would show me very soon to be very careful of who you make friends with and what you let into your heart to admire in the foolishness of youth.
Between learning my fighting skills and being beaten half to death by the non ending list of experienced fighters in the gym, stood George Branch. He was always there standing on the ring apron telling guys like Lloyd Marshall, Joe Louis Adair and Martinovich to ease up a bit when my eyes started swelling or the blood flowed too much.
I finally started to learn how to slip punches and stayed there all day and night watching all the sparring sessions and trainers teach. George was going to night school and always had the perennial book under his arm when he left at night and was a good role model.
Finally Branch took pity on me and started training me everyday but I was still a babe in the woods. I still had to go home everyday into a world with my Father, Mother and two brothers who all fought so much among themselves they knew nothing about me, nor ever asked where I was or cared at all.
If the dinner table was not turned over in screaming anger, it remained totally silent while we ate, until one final explosive day the family finally broke up and I ended up sleeping at Mooksie’s on a cot.
Yet right before that happened something much worse went down at the gym.
I came in one day and worked out in the late afternoon. I was leaning against the wall by the speed bag braces watching a big heavyweight by the name of Thurman Johnson move around the ring.
His hands were wrapped with ace bandages and he was shadow boxing by himself in his ring togs as the bell and three minute timer clocked his movements.
He was a big 6’4” heavyweight who weighed close to 220lbs, who did not take boxing too seriously and he ended his career with no wins and one 6 round loss to a guy named Phil Smith.
The usual guys were there in the gym staying busy while ripping shots into the heavy bags, stepping and pivoting around them while the rusty ceiling chains creaked as the bags were driven back and forth with power shots. I was far off to the side while firing up the speed bag and the black leather tear drop little bag was slamming into the wooden platform with a machine gun staccato rhythm as the ball bearing swivel was smoking with the sound of the thunder.
Then as the rounds timer went off everyone stood still, sweating, heaving and waiting for the minute’s rest to end and the new round to begin.
It was during this last minute that time stood still and the Devil let death itself silently slip into Mooksie’s and glide like a hooded dark shadow into the far corner of the poorly lit gym. It found it’s spot of power against a paint peeled wall and the unholy wraith stood there waiting patiently eating life savers while it’s sister fate decided who to send him.
Mark Murray called up to the big heavyweight in the ring. “Finish up, Man, we’re gloved up here.” Murray’s fighter he was training had his headgear on, vaseline on his face and his foul proof cup was laced and tied tight over his sweatpants. He was ready to go and was starting to cool off. The other trainer on the far side of the ring had his fighter set to get in there and go and he was jiggling in place to keep his rhythm going.
It was an unwritten rule as it is in most boxing gyms, that actual sparring takes precedent over anyone just moving by themselves in the ring, shadow boxing.
Thurman Johnson yelled back, “I’m gonna move one more man,” “The fuck you are,” shot back Murray and he jumped up onto the ring apron and slipped through the ropes.
The big heavyweight met him head on and grabbed his arms pinning them and picked him up placing him outside the ring onto the apron like a feather. A brief heated scuffle broke out and vicious words and a push were exchanged.
Mark Murray left the gym quickly and the sound of his frenzied footsteps flying down the staircase out of the building sent up red flags of danger cutting through the silence. Several fighters, trainers and regulars grabbed their coats and left. Someone yelled to Thurman Johnson to get the f…k out of the gym as fast as he could. He ignored that suggestion and stayed.
I kept hitting the speed bag as I had two more rounds to go. The other fighter who was supposed to spar with Mark Murray’s guy had his trainer escort him quickly out of the gym into the cold night.
Too many people were leaving too quickly and I was told to get out of there too. I was riveted to the bag work and ignored the warning.
While Thurman Johnson was still up in the ring, Mark Murray returned. This time he was wearing a long rain coat. He had one hand behind his back and the other hand inside the long coat. He covered the ground to the big heavyweight as fast as an Olympic sprinter and the big man tried to back up into the corner at the side of the ring.
He never made it. He was hit with a lug wrench and a meat cleaver. His screams and the blood spray were mixed with the horrible sound of the lug wrench smashing into his skull over and over again. The meat cleaver sunk into his neck and then took his fingers off and they lay on the floor in a pool of spreading dark blood which stained the old wooden floor for eons afterward.
His punishment for manhandling the smaller man came in waves of savagery until he lay still on the floor broken and mangled. Finally his bloodlust for revenge ended, Murray stopped and took hold of himself. No one moved, no one tried to stop it except for the screams, “You’re killing the man,” “God Damn, brother, enough is enough.”
His eyes were glazed with a vengeance sated, as he walked around the heavybags guys were jumping out of his way with cringing fear. He ignored all the brothers on the way out and then he passed me slowly standing by the speed bags.
Long before this happened I knew that life had painted me into a corner. I had been bullied long before by many bigger foes while sick and helpless and endured many years of torture in and out of hospitals until I got better and stronger.
While the carnage was going on, I was hyptnotized and fascinated by only one thing. How big the other guy was and how fast this other man took him down with weapons, speed and a vicious attack.
I felt terrible for the fallen man, but the realization that such violence existed was new to me as a boy. As he walked by, I neither admired what he did, nor feared it, nor feared him, I understood why he did it, and seeing it was possible held my macabre interest and in that moment, he passed me again and stopped. He looked at me, saw the look in my eyes again that he saw in me when I came out of the ring and growled softly and without any menace at all, “You, You, know, don’t you.”
He gave me that same smile and split into the night. The police aftermath was expected.
I heard that most everyone in the gym, all the “Tough” fighters and some guys who went on to hold high positions in boxing, told the cops everything they saw. They were visited by the cops and told them everything. With hindsight they did right and told the truth.
I went home that night, a long bus ride home. I made it inside the house while everyone was finishing up at the dinner table. I came through the garage and made it quickly into a hallway bathroom to wash up. I could hear the family at the dinner table inside getting ready for my Father’s coffee and desert which I never ate.
I heard my Mother ask my brother Bobby who was three years younger than me what was new, he said, that he had to finish a report for English class and wanted her to type it. My brother Jamie, 8 years younger who would later become a Dr. and Commander in the Navy taking care of the S.E.A.L.S. was talking to my father about bringing him home a gift he wanted that he saw in my Father’s store in New York City.
I looked into the mirror and there was blood on my shirt. It was blood from the arterial spray from Thurman getting hit in the neck with the meat cleaver. I could not get it out.
I sat down at the table. No one noticed it. No one asked. Finally little Jamie said, “Why doesn’t someone ask Ronnie how he is?” An embarrassed silence followed. Finally my mother said, “Whose having desert, and what’s new with you?” “Nothing” I said and I got up and went upstairs.
I called Al Andrews. It was late, but he listened to the whole story. When I was done, he was quiet for a long time. I said, “Well, what do you think?” He said, “What I always knew, a big man will hurt you but a little man will kill you.”
The Newark cops finally came to my home about a week later after getting every name in the gym from someone. I told them I knew nothing. I did not want to rat out anyone for anything and my misplaced sense of justice had a long way to evolve, but I felt stronger and tougher than all the guys who told on him.
I was told that he was convicted and did some time. Thurman had a bunch of operations on his hand and never fought again after an excrutiating recovery.
I made many more mistakes in my life in respecting the wrong kind of guys at times, but I came to understand them, the streets and how important it is to always know where your children are and what they are doing. It all helped me to end up being a good cop and understand why things happen and how to prevent them.
I also learned how to show love to your kids everyday they are with you and to listen to them.
Boxing, the love of my life is controlled violence, beautiful, ugly and visceral, it is the jungle itself come alive in a sporting arena, it has it’s Charlie “The Devil” Greens, Rubin Carter’s, James Butlers and it’s Joe Louis.’ Sometimes they meet and like Sonny Liston used to say, “Sometimes the Bad Guy wins”.
I learned something from all of them, all their personalities, what can happen in a split second from disrespect, or how sometimes, just sometimes something tragic that is in the works can be prevented with intelligence, kindness and reason.
I read a long time ago in my favorite book the original classic by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book, that Mowgli knew how to speak to the Tiger, Shere Khan, and how to speak to the great black panther Bagheera in their tongue. They spared him, let him walk among them and showed him the respect of life.
I used what I learned to spot things bad before they happen, I am proud of all the work I do with kids, wild kids that I have saved because I know how they think.
You see I went to that University of higher learning ; I have a Doctorite from Mooksie’s in Newark.
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