By John McDonnell
Petey and Muggs were leaning against the ring ropes watching the Princeton Strongboy sparring with another fighter at the gym in New Jersey. The Strongboy was tall and blonde, and threw quick, sharp jabs that splattered sweat from the other man’s head when they connected. They sounded like wet towels smacking against a cinderblock wall. He smiled and danced on his toes between jabs.
“Nice looking fella,” Petey said. “Went to college, I hear.”
“Why’s he a fighter then?” Muggs asked. “He should be one of them Wall Street boys.”
Petey laughed. “He’s doing okay knocking out the tomato cans they’re putting in front of him. Mr. Donovan has made a few shekels from him too.”
“Then why are we here?”
“Because he’s got to go down next week when he fights Irish Tommy Nolan. It’s all set up, only he’s not convinced he wants to do it.”
A bell rang, and the round ended. The Princeton Strongboy slipped through the ring ropes and stepped down to the floor. He spit his mouthpiece into a bucket held out by his trainer, a wizened man with stubbly white hair. The trainer gave him a towel and proceeded to unlace his gloves. When that was done, the trainer whispered in his ear and pointed at Petey and Muggs.
The Strongboy came over. “Can I help you fellows?”
“We’re here about some business,” Petey said.
“Yes, I know.”
“Mr. Donovan has an idea about your next bout.”
“I don’t like that idea.” He rubbed the towel vigorously through his hair, then draped it around his neck. “Sorry that you fellows had to come all the way out here, but you wasted your time.”
“I have too much to lose. If I beat Nolan, I’ll be the toast of the town. I’m different, you understand? I went to Princeton. The press loves me. Not your typical pug, if you know what I mean.”
“How come you’re not on Wall Street?” Muggs said. “Ain’t that where you boys go to work?”
The Strongboy laughed, showing his white teeth. “I’ll end up there eventually, working for father’s firm. For now, though, I’m making a better return beating up my social inferiors.”
“Any way we can convince you?” Petey said.
“Not a chance, boys,” the Strongboy said. He turned on his heel. “Have a nice ride back to town.”
Later, on the way back to town in the Packard, Petey said, “I’d a bet money he could take a punch.”
“Aw, you can’t fault him for that,” Muggs said. “He wasn’t looking.”
“He’ll need some dental work now.”
“I still can’t figure why he didn’t go to work on Wall Street,” Muggs said. “That’s where I’d go, if I was him.”
Petey whistled. “The size of you, why didn’t you ever go into the fight game?”
“I did. I fought a few bouts when I was a kid. Had a manager and everything.”
“Why didn’t you stick with it?”
“I had a problem. I never could remember the rules.”
“Like when to stop hitting.”
“That would be a problem.”
“Yeah. I almost killed a fellow because of that. They had to pull me off him. After that my manager said I should retire.”
“Good decision,” Petey said. “You can’t go far if you don’t remember the rules.”
Copyright John McDonnell 2010
The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told: Thirty-Six Incredible Tales from the Ring