Tommy was my brother-in-law. He died about 25 years ago. He was a gentle, generous man to my wife, the little sister of his wife.
Tommy was a car salesman all the years I knew him. I had heard he was a boxer in a previous life, but I never asked him about it. I guess it wasn’t interesting to me at the time. I had my own stuff going on, with kids, being unemployed, and all that beer I had to drink.
Recently, we had a big family get-together for a few hours and Tommy’s wife and daughters were there. As we were leaving they brought out a scrapbook the girls created for their mom.
It was filled with clippings and stories and photos of Tommy’s boxing career. Photos with Jack Dempsey. Tommy was a little guy, a Golden Gloves amateur. He lost only 4 of his first 36 fights. He won the California State Featherweight title. He fought in Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, and the Cotton Bowl.
His family has a gold badge giving them lifetime admission to any Golden Gloves event.
I never knew
I’d love to ask Tommy about that fight with Ricardo Moreno. It was Moreno’s first fight in America, and 6,000 of his fans from Mexico filled the stadium. Another 2,000 were turned away.
What was that like, to have everyone booing you and rooting against you, screaming for another guy to clobber you? What was it like in the dressing room after you lost?
And when you were knocked out in the first round of your last fight, did you know at the time it was your last? Why’d you retire? You were only 24.
I’ll never know
* * *
You don’t have forever to ask questions, to be curious, to care. Things change fast, and when they do it’s permanent. Your chance to make a first-hand connection with someone’s heart, life, and story, evaporates. Instead of a flesh-and-blood, eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with a scene from your family movie, you get to stare at flat yellow clippings in a scrapbook. If there is a scrapbook. Your loss.