Class


The professor handed him a stack of stapled sheets, and he passed them back.
      "Dempsy-Tunney.  This is a synopsis of the fight, from bell to bell.  Read it.  This is one of the most important heavyweight bouts of all time, and you're going to give me a thousand words about the turning point of the fight, and what a different outcome might have been.  Due Tuesday."
      A young woman raised her hand.
      "When do we get to Tyson?"
      "Tyson," he sighed dismissively, "What do you find so interesting about Mr. Tyson?"
      "He's a bad-ass.  The real thing."
      "He's a thug.  You are taking this class to learn to box, not brawl."
      Another hand.
      "Don't you think there is more skill in the lighter weight classes?"
      The professor twirled the whistle he wore around his neck on a lanyard, a small smile creasing his scarred face.
      "You tell me — class?"
      A chorus of voices:
      "Heavyweights just go for the knockout—"
      "Without the weight you have to be faster, smarter—"
      "Hello?  Anyone remember Ali?"
      "Give me welters, lights, light-heavys — they have the speed and the power—"
      "What's the difference, it's all about the money now anyway—"
      "OK, OK," the professor waved his gloved hands, "hold those thoughts, because that is exactly what we'll be talking about next week — think about three fighters who changed weight classes, and how it affected their strategy.  That's all for today."
      Chairs scraped, notebooks disappeared into backpacks.  The professor asked a pretty girl who always sat in the front to help him get the gloves off.
*
      On the sidewalk he tried to think of something to say to her.
      "Dempsy-Tunney . . . shit, that's like ancient history.  You think we'll ever make it to any modern fighters?"
      "All the professor wants to talk about is Dempsy, Marciano, and Louis," she rolled her eyes, "as if nothing worthwhile has happened in the last fifty years."
      "Exactly."  He shook his head and smiled at her, and she smiled back.  "Who do you like?"
      "Number one?"  She lowered her voice.  "All time?"
      "Yes."  He moved closer.
      "Hagler."
      "Oh my God, me too!"
      "Marvelous Marvin—"
      "Brockton Mass, could lead with either hand—"
      "I think he was the best."
      "So do I.  Underrated."
      "He beat Leonard and everyone knows it . . ."
      "Jesus, is that all you can talk about?"  The guy, skinny and pale, had appeared at her side and grabbed her arm. "Come on, Bonnie, we're gonna be late."
      "Maybe you better let go of her arm, pal."
      He didn't see where the punch came from, but it banged into his temple and hurt like hell.  The guy had terrible technique, wild and sloppy, but still, somehow, knocked him to the sidewalk.
*
      He didn't show up for class on Tuesday.  Instead he went to a bar near the campus, drank whiskey, and said to every guy bigger than him, "Hey, what're you lookin' at?"  
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