Before the second weekend of May 2012, there was no one on Earth that could claim s/he’d seen Ray Robinson and Cassius Clay on the same fight card. The “Show Down in Newtown (PA)” changed that, as a couple hundred honest folks can show off their programs and say “I was there” to their grandkids, not that the kids will care about a Dead Sport.
Newtown Borough proper is a classic Bucks County enclave: brick crosswalks pass under deciduous arches that shade a Cosi and other assorted monied, high-rise one-story storefronts containing general retail and chain restaurants. After some curving and dipping to get out of town, the Newtown Athletic Center is found on one of those once 40-acre farm developments, sitting up against one of those four-lanes that exist for a while around there before boiling down again into the pleasant congestion of horse farm country. A SUV provided by Lawrenceville Lexus sits shining before the “NAC’s” three-story glass entryway: No postindustrial town casino, or revamped warehouse, this—strolling into the NAC, a snack counter advertises the “King Kong Muscle Builder Shake” (40+ grams of protein! 710 cal! $7.50), and downstairs one of the fighters warms up in a spit-shine gym that looks out on 12,000 square feet of grass turf and elliptical machines; a 20-foot wall of TVs faces the toned-in-tights legs and sweaty golf shirts. Next year comes a “resort-style” pool.
Cassius Clay’s dreads flapped as he got smacked around the ring by Philly’s Hassan Young, a fighter making his pro debut. A gentleman in front of me leans over the folding chair-back to tell me Hassan hooked up with this promoter through the Philly Golden Gloves. “He’s a good fighter,” he says, and the guy’s right: Young throws combos high; he goes to the body; he even throws a little smack on the break just as the referee steps between the two fighters, just enough to sting and not enough to lose a point.
The Greatest’s namesake goes down in the third round on a nasty body shot. Clay skips around enough to draw a “Dance more, Lil Wayne!” jeer; he’s laughed at when he tries to fight out of the corner with a slapfrenzy; he’s never in this fight.
Four little boys standing on the three rows of bleachers that prop up behind the rolled-up lacrosse turf scream “Let’s GO HASS” throughout the bout. When the scores are announced, the boys celebrate by screaming and sprinting around the gym.
The next fight, a six-round lightweight co-feature, is distracted from by two natural forces: gravity and volume. Gravity was represented by the swaying, hanging, compact-car sized fluorescent light getting tugged about by a high school AV kid on the end of a rope, so that a half-opened cherry picker could roll through and aim a spotlight that never ended up illuminating much.
Once no disaster struck, attention turned to the voluminous force, a female partisan of fighter Tevin Farmer. She might have swung the bout to her man through pure insistence, for though Kareem Cooley was bigger and perhaps a bit stronger, this sister(?)/girlfriend(?)/wife(?) brought authoritative noise to the ring. A couple of fight fans pointed her out in her hot pink shirt and leopard pants across the gym from the bleachers where we enjoyed a ring-level view (if you attend a fight, always opt for a bit of elevation if possible), and a dutiful notation of the two fighters’ similar styles (from outside, wide-stanced, with low front hands) shifted to her exclamations . “That’s her, I think,” said one. “She was shadowboxing at that Armory show,” said another. “She’s just yelling now. She ain’t throwing punches.”
Pink Shirt did keep a-yelling the whole fight, enough so that a nicely dressed woman in her 40s stood and moved–“I seriously can’t take it,” she said—and moved fifteen feet to the right, where she covered her left ear and fixed the rest of the fight with that blank waiting-it-out stare of the not-so-excited-to-be-there.
Yet some of her advice and exhortations might be useful for the novice fight goer, who needs to tap into an authentic phraseology, and so:
“Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Let’s GO Tev.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Box, baby, BOX.”
“You’re hungry, Tev. Let’s go get something to eat. It’s time to EAT.”
“All right. Get smart. Upper cut all day. Give him that upper cut. You make me proud with that uppercut.”
“Get with the program.” (said in the best derisive Eighties movie high school principal manner).
“Nick ’em and pick ’em. NICK him and PICK him.”
Her last round advice got both more technical and aesthetically demanding:
“Two overhands and two hooks, and you got him. Two overhands, two hooks.”
“Make him look pretty. Show me something. Show me something pretty”–she held up her smartphone for documentation in that last moment, looking for the pretty.
A unanimous decision win had her happy, and then the ring ladies from the Pennsylvania Pole Academy stepped up to show off the pretty state WBA welterweight strap to be won by the winner of the evening’s main event, which turned out to be dirty and quick.
“The New” Ray Robinson won a clean first-round, before things got messy in the second. First, the veteran Terrance Cauthen caught Robinson and put him down on the canvas. Then something happened that caused referee Gary Rosato to step in between the two fighters, and it evidently irked Robinson enough that he fired a shot into Cauthen’s head over the ref’s shoulder.
This was clear grounds for a point deduction, despite the “protect yourself at all times” defense offered by a loud Robinson backer. Now down 10-7 for the round, Robinson’ s angst carried over to one flurry that put Cauthen stumbling against the ropes for one standing-count, and then a flush knockout right that had Rosato waving off the fight before Cauthen hit the canvas.
The last of the boys had had their picture taken with the ring girl-dancers before Cauthen was allowed to get off his stool and take a stretcher ride out the gym doors into the Pennsylvania night.