By Ziggy Shah: It’s another hot day in Detroit and a young amateur boxer called Joe Louis is leaving his house for the gym. Once again as he looks over his shoulder, the same kid that has been following him everywhere is walking behind. “Hey Joe, can I carry your bag to the gym please,” he asks.
Joe looks at the little boy and tries to figure out how on earth he was going to carry his heavy bag all the way to the gym. Nonetheless, he agrees and lets the smiling kid assist him. For many months the young kid becomes a regular at Joe’s gym and is always present, watching eagerly as Joe learns his trade.
The kid in question is called Walker Smith, who went on to become Sugar Ray Robinson. Now you can call it a coincidence or maybe fate, but when young Walker Smith carried Joe’s bag to Brewster Gym, he was inspired to become a fighter. The morale of the story is this; Inspiration can change people’s lives in a second.
In comparison, I was at a boxing show recently and witnessed a school boy amateur boxer shouting to a former champion for an autograph. He stood and waited for 25 minutes but the ex- champ just kept glancing at the upset kid and ignored his plea for an autograph. The youngster left the arena in tears.
I understand that boxers, whether champions or former champions, have a private life and want to enjoy their own time. But, they must also understand that they have a duty to act as role models and promote the sport by inspiring the younger generation of boxers. If that means taking ten minutes to sign autographs and shake hands, so be it. It is what you call, ‘part and parcel of the job’.
By no means am I suggesting that all boxers behave in this manner, but sadly, the celebrity phobia is beginning to spread amongst the champions. But only if they knew, that by scribbling an autograph or even shaking a hand, they could change someone’s life, maybe then they would think twice about ignoring the very people who idolise them.