Meeting The Kingfish

boxer

Jerry and I were on our usual perch, the front stairs of his two flat. Jerry said he had to show me something (he was always showing me something). This time we went into his apartment and I followed him into his oldest sister’s bedroom, not a soul was home. Jerry stood on his tip toes and took something down from the shelf. It was an album. He walked over to the couch and beckoned me to sit beside him.

I was stunned when I saw what was inside. It was newspaper columns clipped from various newspapers chronicling the life of his brother-in-law, King Levinsky, the boxer. I had seen the Kingfish a few times staggering down the street and he had looked pathetic to me. He had been battered and knocked down so many times in his career he had more scars than a man who had just been lined up for a firing squad and barely survived. He had scar tissue all over his face, his nose was flattened, and his ears were grotesque. He had what is commonly known as ”cauliflower ears,” a common malady usually seen on washed-up, punch drunk boxers

He had two claims to fame. Before he fought title fights he had been Jack Dempsey’s sparring partner. For the uninitiated, a sparring partner is a boxer who is hired to warm up a champion caliber boxer. His job, is to bob and weave and make himself as elusive as possible so that the contender could get a nice workout and at the same time practice his moves. The idea was for the sparring partner to hit but not too hard. He had to ”pull” his punches so that his boss, who was a valuable commodity, didn’t get hurt. The Kingfish for some unexplained reason, swung and hit Dempsey with such force, he knocked Dempsey down to his knees. Dempsey was furious, rose up and went after the Kingfish. I’m sure the Kingfish saw his life flashing before his eyes. Dempsey chased him around the ring. When he caught him he made mince meat out of him. The handlers had to use every trick in the trade to revive the Kingfish who had been knocked stone cold.

He went on to many fights and many victories, but Dempsey would never fight him again. Finally, he got a chance to fight for the championship of the world. The belt was held by Joe Louis, the most famous boxer of all time. The Kingfish trained hard, with his sister overseeing every phase of his training for the bout. His sister, Hannah, was his manager and handler. She had been there for him at ringside for every bout he had ever fought. The night before the big bout with Louis, the two of them had a terrible argument and Hannah walked out on her brother and wouldn’t talk to him.

The day of the fight, Louis stood in the center of the ring waiting for the Kingfish to enter the ring but it didn’t happen. He was in his dressing room waiting for his sister to show up and she never did. He wouldn’t step into the ring without her there. They ended up disqualifying him, much to the chagrin of that sold-out arena. The fight fans booed lustily as the Kingfish sat and stewed in his dressing room. For all intent and purpose his career was over. He couldn’t blame anyone, because it was his own fault. He may have had bouts with third rate over-the-hill fighters, after that but they were meaningless. He quickly faded from the spotlight.

When I studied his pictures and the stories I was impressed how handsome and virile he was at the beginning. I really felt bad at how things ended up. He made his living selling ties…that’s right…selling ties. Every one knew the Kingfish and he would walk into storied nightclubs grab a potential customer by the shirt and even lift him up if he needed to. He was still strong and scary. After he lifted them and they were scared beyond description he would scream…

”Hey bud, ya wanna buy a tie?”

He frightened potential customers out of their wits and he sold these silk ties like they were going out of style. Irv Kupcinet, the famed announcer and columnist could always be seen sitting in booth one were all the celebrities dropped by. This was at the famous Chez Paree in downtown Chicago and the Kingfish would always nail Irv or the celebrities for so many ties they ran out of neck to wrap it around.

I closed the album with a new sense of respect for the Kingfisher. Jerry asked me if I wanted to meet him personally. I said I sure did. Jerry said he would be home in 20 minutes and I would meet him face to face.

We sat on the steps and waited. We saw the Kingfish in the distance walking in our direction, I don’t think he was able to drive any longer. He staggered down the street with an unsteady gait, he couldn’t walk a straight line. When he was almost upon us Jerry stood up and walked up to him.

”Kingfish, I want you to meet my friend Jerry,” Jerry said.

Kingfish looked me up and down and said in a hoarse, gravely tone, ”Oh no, another Jerry, just what we need.” With that he shook my right hand and I could feel the bones almost crunch in every one of my fingers. With his other hand he slapped me on the shoulder and it almost knocked me down.

He looks me straight in the eye and says…”Hey kid, ya wanna buy a tie?”

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Smiles For All