By “The Aficionado” Alan J. Kindred
When I was seven years old I put my father in the hospital as he gave me a boxing lesson after the first Pryor-Arguello match. To be honest the memory is rather vague now as it has been over thirty years you see. It was in El Paso, Texas, late on the evening of November 12th 1982, shortly after Aaron Pryor secured his career defining victory over Alexis Arguello, who was attempting to become the first man in history to win world championships in four weight divisions. My Dad was quite the boxing fan at that time. It was a golden era for the sport where boxing was popular, with fighters such as Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and Tommy Hearns all gaining in popularity, later known as the fabulous four.
My Dad is from Cincinnati, Ohio, so naturally he was also an Aaron Pryor fan. He, my mother, and one of his best friends Greg Johnson were all watching it together. I was not yet the rabid boxing fan I am today, so I only checked on the fight every so often as I played with toys or something like that. I regret not watching that classic intently, now in hindsight. My Dad was picking Pryor to win and his friend was picking the accomplished Arguello to pull off the win. I remember several outbursts of cheering over the next hour, as the small group roared with excitement as they watched the great fight. Finally, it was over and Pryor had won the contest. As a child I remember they all looked strangely exhausted sitting on the couch as they chatted about the fight they had witnessed. Thinking back now, I recognize the look as one of jubilation that a boxing fan experiences after watching a rare classic. Even my Dad’s friend Greg who had been pulling for Arguello, seemed surprisingly satisfied at what he had just witnessed. Even though his guy had lost, there was no denying that the fight itself was a great one, a special one that they would never forget.
This story is not just about a group of people witnessing a great fight. It is more about what can occur during the party stage of happy, and perhaps a bit intoxicated, fans. So after the big fight was over the adults’ attention could now focus back on me the child, to my elation. I did like actual boxing at that age, just didn’t have the focus to watch it just yet. I loved my Dad’s “boxing lessons” as they were a lot of fun for both of us. This particular lesson was by far the most memorable and bloody however. It began as any other, we would put on our gloves, and I had the small kid pair of course. He was always playing around and making it fun, while still making it a true learning experience, teaching to throw straight, put the jab out like you’re testing hot water, etcetera. On this night though we were going through the motions and I landed a good right hand, as far as seven year olds go, and my Dad went down, play acting naturally.
In his happy and slightly intoxicated state he failed to recognize that there was a very sturdy coffee table behind him. A coffee table with metal brass corners. I guess he was pretending he was winning an Oscar with his fake knockdown because he hit his head so hard on the brass metal corner of the coffee table that he nearly knocked himself out for real. So then things got serious real quick. My Dad got up holding his head and blood is pouring through his fingers. As a seven year old, I am just completely horrified, and think it is actually my fault. He assures me it is not, and that he is alright. He still seemed quite happy and amused by the whole situation, despite being covered in blood. Maybe he was more than a little bit intoxicated. My Mom on the other hand didn’t seem as amused, and his friend Greg seemed like he didn’t know whether to laugh or call an ambulance. All this seeping into my seven year old brain where it would last my entire lifetime burned into the fibers of memory. So after they got the bleeding somewhat under control and calmed me down, and let me know I didn’t just assault my Dad, and that he did it to himself rather, my mother, completely sober, drove us all to the hospital.
In the end it was a triangular shaped cut on the back of my Dad’s head that required five stitches. I guess the moral of the story is to not give boxing lessons to your child while intoxicated, no matter how charged and excited you are that your favorite fighter just won an epic “for the ages” type of battle. Sadly, and I’m sure it is not incident related, my Dad is no longer the diehard fan he was in the 80s any longer. Perhaps he was spoiled on the great fights of the 70s and 80s and just doesn’t feel the love for the sport like he used to. We still enjoy the occasional fights together, but now it is the child that has grown up who is the boxing diehard. This funny story is one of my first memories that is related to the sport of boxing.