It Happened One Night

Although I regularly hike through forests and up and down mountains, the better to stay in shape and thereby delay Crossing Over to the last possible moment, I also do other things to delay The Crossing, like boxing.

This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, for, here on the Pacific Rain Coast, there are almost no men for me to box because they would rather play ice-hockey than box. However, they do like to fight, but only with bare hands, often in bars, or while playing ice-hockey. I, on the other hand, like to fight only with boxing gloves, and under the Marquis of Queensberry rules.

So, instead of landing my boxing glove clad fists on other men’s heads, I land them on a heavy punching-bag and a speed-bag, that I’ve hung in my back garden where no other men can see. They mustn’t, else they’d talk, and the police would hear, and would come looking. I just can’t have this.

I also skip rope, lift weights, do pull ups on a tree branch, do squats and stomach crunches, and other things of this ilk. I shadow-box too. But, throwing fists in thin air is no substitute for landing them on men’s heads. To throw a left hook that lands on the point of a man’s jaw – so he drops as limply as an anti-Hitlerite at the end of piano-wire – is to experience an experience like no other.

Why the lure of boxing for me, and for all true men? It’s that we men have always fought each other, right from when we emerged from our caves in Paleolithic times. We’ve always done it. It’s in our blood.

There are, of course, other forms of fighting, but boxing is the most gentlemanly. So I regret that it seems now to be dying. No doubt those effete doctors have convinced you all, that being punched on your head isn’t good for your brain. I know this to be rubbish because there’s nothing wrong with my brain, despite my head being punched regularly throughout the 100 years since I began boxing as a boy.

That my brain still works well, is because my head has been punched so many times. Each time my brain ricocheted against the wall of my skull, it was developing new protective tissue. Hence it’s now about the toughest brain inside the head of any living man.

Had I not decided to enter the army full-time I would have entered the ring full-time. Consequently I may well have become a world champion, and I would today be as much a household name as any of the great boxing champions.

This is no idle boast, for I was always thought very good as a boxer, even though a mere amateur. In 1946, when old even for an amateur (I was 51), I won the middleweight championship of the British Army.

I remember the fight as if yesterday. It was at the Royal Albert Hall in London on a humid July night. My opponent, a 21-year-old corporal, Angus “Slugger” McGee, was as tough a man as you’ll ever meet, and totally unawed that he was to fight a general. He had won by knock-out all his bouts leading to this one. I, on the other hand, had eked out only close decisions, for, because I was relatively so old, my timing wasn’t what it once was. Slugger was therefore favoured by most as the bell clanged for the first round.

I’ll not go into the minutiae of the fight, except to say that I fought it with the objective not to be knocked out, and to win only by decision. I was confident that the judges, being not only army men, but officers, would see it in their interest to award their decision to me as a general, rather than to a corporal, should the fight be close. It was, actually, and the judges did the right thing.

I could see in Slugger’s face that he was angry. However he congratulated me, and bared his teeth that I took as a smile, after the referee raised my hand. I later let it be known to my fellow generals that I hoped Slugger’s magnanimity in defeat would be acknowledged. I heard, but only many years after, that he had been almost immediately promoted to sergeant, and rose to be a regimental sergeant-major.

Slugger, do you still live or have you Crossed Over? If the latter, I do hope I’ll see you there, and we can fight again if you wish.

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8 comments on “It Happened One Night

  1. Ladybugg says:

    Well, Jeremy, I believe this story is a fusion of several men. You are a hiker with the singular individualism of a Hillary and a boxer, with the guts of the most carnal heavyweight champion of all time, Joe Lewis.

  2. Jeremy says:

    To use the lingo of those psychiatrist fellows, I’ve always had a poor sense of identity. I’m aware of being several different men inside. However, as it is with me, so it is with all other men I think.

    Who among these several men is the real me? To speak more would be unseemly. There are certain things, private things, that should always remain private, is what I say.

  3. Pierre says:

    Vous dites que vous étiez 51 ans quand vous avez gagné le championnat de l’armée britannique.

    Pourquoi prenait ça si long?

    • Jeremy says:

      A pertinent question, Pierre.

      My opportunities to become middleweight champion of the British Army much earlier, were few because I was always being posted throughout the ‘twenties and ‘thirties – the decades of my physical prime – to torpid fly-buzzing out-of-the-way garrisons throughout the Empire, where training facilities by means of which to bring one’s boxing skills to the highest, just weren’t there. Then came the Second World War, when for five further years I was totally otherwise engaged.

      I don’t believe I’ve spoken before in this blog about the other always-to-be-remembered boxing experience I had, which was my three rounds of boxing with Ernest Hemingway. It was circa 1930, and I was visiting Paris during one of those many-months-long Home Leaves I used to get as an army officer overseas.

      An acquaintance who had the ear of important men, introduced me to Hemingway who was then still living in Paris, and who was most interested to learn I was a good amateur boxer. He invited me to spar with him at the American Club.

      Flattered that the great Hemingway would want to box me, I was also apprehensive, for I had heard stories that Hemingway boxed as well as he wrote. And the six foot 200 pound Hemingway was in boxing terms a heavyweight, whereas I was a mere middleweight. So, Hemingway, who seemed to me of the bullying ilk, perhaps saw me as just another victim.

      I needn’t have worried. The stories that “Papa” (his friends called him Papa, even though he was not yet thirty) boxed as well as he wrote turned out to be……….well……..stories. While he was strong, he was slow. The more his would-be knock-out blows failed to find me, the wilder they became. My counter-punches dug into Papa’s fleshy ribs and jelly stomach easily enough, and he gasped as each punch dug.

      I realised I could easily have taken him out, but decided to not to. I had sensed his machismo was merely a facade to hide a feminine vulnerability. To be knocked out by a much smaller man in front of his retinue may have been more than he could bear.

      At the end of the third and final round “Papa” raised his arms, I assumed because he thought he’d won. I felt chagrined. But I grinned (sic) as a gentleman should grin after a world-famous man has accorded him the privilege to box him.

    • Jeremy says:

      J’espère que votre question est répondu dans mon article de blog plus récent.

  4. Ladybugg says:

    Are you really boxing? When my mother suffered her devastation in 1998 to bacterial meningitis and lost her balance forever, she took up boxing. She met with a very cute male trainer ( she began boxing in her mid-seventies) and it helped her balance. Alas, several strokes later and her numerous other maladies, she is now side-lined.

    • Christopher says:

      Your mother’s taking up boxing in her mid-seventies would meet with Jeremy’s total approval!!

      Although your mother can no longer do her boxing exercises, I feel sure she would have benefited much from them, and I hope she may in some way still feel their benefit.

      I, unlike Jeremy, don’t box. But I sometimes do boxing exercises, maybe like those your mom did. And, in my younger and foolish years, I followed closely all the happenings in the boxing world.

      When a boy I would – each time there was a Big Fight in far-away over-the-water America – get out of bed in the dark, in the wee hours, to go to the “wireless” and tune in to the Voice of America on shortwave to listen-in to the fight.

      This was in the era when last night’s Big Fight was, throughout the following day, the sole topic of conversation around water-coolers in office corridors, no matter where in the world.

      I remember it well………….

  5. Ladybugg says:

    I am glad that Jeremy is boxing.

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