Posted in Uncategorized, tagged A First-Class Sport, Boxing, Boxing Gyms, Dennis Andries, Detroit, Duane Thomas, Emanuel Steward, Fighters & Writers, Hilmer Kenty, Jimmy Paul, Kronk, Michael Moorer, Milton McCrory, Ralph Wiley, Steve McCrory, Teddy Roosevelt, Tommy Hearns on October 28, 2012 |
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Appropriately, I think, given the book’s dual subject, I write about the great boxing trainer Emanuel Steward in Fighters & Writers in connection with another author’s work. In the essay “A First-Class Sport” (which takes its name from a comment made by Teddy Roosevelt), I consider how Steward and others used boxing as a way to help youngsters:
This desire to aid children’s development through boxing is common among both trainers and cops. In his memoir, Serenity, Ralph Wiley recalls his early days as a sportswriter on the boxing beat and visits he paid to the New Oakland Boxing Club, where he met a police officer representing the PAL who worked with young fighters. “Boxing breeds respect,” Jerry Blueford told Wiley. “I don’t care if any of these kids ever become pros, or even good amateurs for that matter. I’m trying to get them into something they can work at. Off the streets. If they leave here in a couple of years and rob a bank, at least they didn’t rob it while they were here.” In a section that harkens back to Roosevelt’s remark about tough neighborhoods, Wiley describes visiting Detroit’s Kronk Boxing Club, in “the bottom of the rundown bunker of a recreation center on an otherwise barren lot of the decayed inner city.” Wiley calls the place “a haven of sorts for the children of Detroit” and he cannot help being impressed by its principal, trainer-manager Emanuel Steward, because of “how Emanuel had overcome long odds, and helped his young men overcome long odds, just to be strong and functional.”
Wiley refers to the original Kronk location on McGraw, where Steward taught Tommy Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Jimmy Paul, Duane Thomas, Dennis Andries, Steve McCrory, Milton McCrory, Michael Moorer, and so many others, not the later location on West Warren, which according to reports started being dismantled almost immediately after Steward’s death on October 25.
Detroit still needs the kinds of havens Steward provided.
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Posted in Essays, Fighters & Writers, tagged A First-Class Sport, A Noiseless Patient Spider, Boxing, Boxing Gyms, Gleason’s Gym, Kronk, Nancy J. Rodwan, One Ring Circus, Poetry, Poetry in Pictures Series, Stuffy Shmitt, Walt Whitman on June 6, 2010 |
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Movies and books can have underlying quasi-autobiographical elements that might not be immediately apparent. Often these have to do with where the works were made or where their creators once resided. Announcers introducing fighters entering boxing rings often say where the athletes came from, even if they don’t live in those places anymore. They do this because of a belief that such background matters, that location affects who people are and what they do. There may be something to this conviction.
Soon after we moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Portland, Oregon, my wife made a short film that slyly connects the two places. Part of the Poetry in Pictures Series, A Noiseless Patient Spider is based on a poem of the same name by Walt Whitman, a poet closely identified with Brooklyn. Stuffy Shmitt, a musician and actor living in the borough, read the poem at a recording studio there, and his son, Dylan Shmitt, composed and recorded music at a studio in Portland. Also in Portland, Nancy painted and filmed images of spiders (who thrive in the city) and combined them with the Shmitts’ sounds.
I think of one of the essays in Fighters & Writers as a kindred effort. “A First-Class Sport” is not explicitly about places I’ve lived, but it does involve three of them. In it, I write about boxing gyms like the Kronk in Detroit, the city where I grew up, and Gleason’s in Brooklyn, where I lived for nearly eleven years and where I wrote many of the pieces in the book. Indeed, I started writing “A First-Class Sport” there. I finished it in Portland, where one of the last things I added was a short discussion of One Ring Circus, a collection of articles on boxing by novelist Katherine Dunn, another Portland resident.
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