Million Dollar Baby

Stories From The Corner

by F. X. Toole

Paperback, 235 pages, Harpercollins, List Price: $13.95 | purchase

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Title
Million Dollar Baby
Subtitle
Stories From The Corner
Author
F. X. Toole

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Book Summary

Explores the challenges, glory, and humanity of the sport, with five short stories and one novella that reveal the complex relationship between athletes, trainers, and promoters.

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Excerpt: Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby

Stories from the Corner


Ecco

ISBN: 006081926X

Chapter One

The Monkey Look

I stop blood.

I stop it between rounds for fighters so they can stay in the fight.

Blood ruins some boys. It was that way with Sonny Liston, God rest his soul. Bad as he was, he'd see his own blood and fall apart.

I'm not the one who decides when to stop the fight, and I don't stitch up cuts once the fight's over. And it's not my job to hospitalize a boy for brain damage. My Job is to stop blood so the fighter can see enough to keep on fighting. I do that, maybe I save a boy's title. I do that one little thing, and I'm worth every cent they pay me. I stop the blood and save the fight, the boy loves me more than he loves his daddy.

But you can't always stop it. Fight guys know this. If the cut's too deep or wide, or maybe you got a severed vein down in there, the blood keeps coming. Sometimes it takes two or three rounds to stop the blood, maybe more-the boy's heart is pumping so hard, or he cuts more. Once you get the coagulant in there, sometimes it takes another shot from the opponent right on the cut itself to drive the blood far enough from the area so the stuff you're using can start to work. What I'm saying is there are all kinds of combinations you come up against down in the different layers of meat. When a good cut man stays ahead of the combinations, he can stop most cuts, but not every one.

Fights can be stopped for a lot of reasons. A football eye swollen shut can stop a fight. But fights aren't stopped just because a fighter is cut. It's where he's cut. Below the eye, or alongside it, that won't usually stop a fight. Neither will a cut if it's in or above the eyebrow, or up in the forehead, or in the scalp. Broken nose? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A cut in the eyelid, because of possible damage to the eyeball and the threat of blindness, that can stop a fight quick. So will blood pumping down into a boy's eyes. Blood can blind a fighter, maybe cost him the fight, or worse, because when he can't see he starts taking shots he wouldn't otherwise take, and now he ends up on his ass blinking through the lights and shadows of future memories.

Boy gets cut, I always crack the seal of a new, one-ounce bottle of adrenaline chloride solution 1:1000 When it's fresh, it's clear like water but has a strong chemical smell. The outdated stuff turns a light pinkish color, or a pale piss-yellow. When that happens, it couldn't stop fly blood. I might pour adrenaline into a small plastic squeeze bottle if I need to use sterile gauze pads along with a swab, but I never use adrenaline from a previous fight. I dump it, even if three quarters of it is left. This way it can't carry blood over from another fight, and none of my boys can get AIDS from contaminated coagulant. I'd give AIDS to myself before I'd give it to one of my boys.

Trainers and managers and fighters call me. They know me from when I used to train fighters. But I got too old and was walking around with my back and neck crippled up all the time from catching punches with the punch mitts. Boxing is a game of half steps and quarter inches, a game where old men belong as much as the young. Without its, there couldn't be fights. Fans think boxing is about being tough. For members of the fancy, the fight game is about getting respect.

My first fight working the corner of Hoolie Garza came after his trainer talked to me, Ike Goody. Ike was a club fighter in the fifties, but like most first-rate trainers, he was never a champ. With the exception of Floyd Patterson, I don't remember another champ who ever made a champion. Hoolie Garza is a twenty-six-pounder, a smart featherweight Mexican boy who thinks he's smarter than he is. Ile was born in Guaymas, a port on the Gulf of California inside Baia. He was raised illegal in East Los Angeles, where he fought, with his big brothers for food. His real name is Julio Cesar Garza, but as a kid he was nicknamed Juli — in Spanish it's pronounced "hoolie." Juli was Americanized to Hoolie, the way Miguel, or Michael, is sometimes Americanized into Maikito.

After the Korean War, I went to school in Mexico City on the G.I. Bill. I wanted to learn Spanish, maybe teach it. So I hung around with Mexicans rather than other Americans. Some of my friends were bullfighters. I had a fling with the daughter of the secretary to the president of Mexico, a natural blonde who drove a car with license-plate number 32. She, God bless her, was one of the ways I learned Spanish on several levels and in different accents. I usually keep my Spanish to myself, like a lot of Latinos in the U.S. keep their English to themselves. But if they find out and ask about it, I tell them I was a student in Mexico and Spain both, and I say, "Hablo el espanol solo si me conviene— I speak Spanish only when it's to my advantage." They always smile. Some laugh out loud and wag their finger. A lot of Latino fighters coming to fight in L.A. use me in their corner; some fly me to Vegas. I'm as loyal to them as I am to an American or to an Irishman, which is why I never bet on a fight I'm working — not on the boy I'm working with, and not on the other fighter. This way, if I somehow screw up and cause my boy to lose, it can never be said that I did business...Continues...