Golden Glove Nose Job

By Alvin Moore

It was all James Flaherty’s fault—well, not really.

James was the middle son of three boys and a Golden Gloves boxer, as were his brothers John (Jack) and Joseph (Joe). They were commonly known as the “Fighting Flahertys” and not just in the ring.

Jack was a big doughy guy with bright orange hair, but could go toe-to-toe with anyone. Unfortunately Jack was—as we say around here—a jaggoff.

Joe was over six feet with a long rangy build, a dark red crew cut and a loud mouth who just liked to fight anyone, anytime, anywhere.

James, who had a much slighter build and hair that was such a pale red it was almost pink and hung down over his left eye in an uncontrollable shock, was mild mannered, a damn good artist and wanted to be a painter. But on the football field and in the ring he was the toughest son-of-a-bitch I ever knew.

One day James told me that the gym where he trained was looking for sparring partners for some of the Golden Gloves fighters in the heavyweight division. At the time, 1965, the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I was in pretty good shape at 6’1”, 210 lb and the job paid $3.00 per three minute round. The money was already burning a hole in my pocket.

I figured if I could get three rounds at three bucks per on a Saturday afternoon, I’d be flush with cash. Mid 60’s prices were very obliging: gas was $.31 a gallon; the Superburger Combo at the Eat-N-Park was only $1.05 for a double cheeseburger, fries and a Coke—McDonalds was even cheaper; a pack of Marlboros was $.40 (everybody smoked); a six pack of Miller cans was $1.75 (everybody drank beer), and I was going to have nine bucks or so in my pocket, living the High Life.

James picked me up that Saturday and we headed down to the East End Athletic Club, which was situated on a narrow, one-way side street in the inner city neighborhood of Pittsburgh known as Bloomfield. It was an old, green, three-story, asphalt-shingle-covered building with rusty wrought iron covering the windows and doors. The shotgun-style structure was long and narrow, but surprisingly spacious. The first floor was the workout area with various training stations: jump rope; heavy bag; speed bag; warm up area; shadow boxing wherever there was room and a crowded weightlifting section.

There was a regulation sized ring when you first entered the gym from the small, shabby lobby.

The walls were painted black eight feet up from the floor with the rest of the plaster a cream color that had seen better days. Think Rocky.

On a Saturday morning at 9 A.M. the noise, activity, sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming to a 17-year-old white kid from the suburbs. It was awesome. 

The mixture of sweat, cigarette smoke, urine, exasperation and failure hung over the long room like a mushroom cloud above Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The 2nd floor locker room odors surpassed those of the gym, but with a contrasting variety of pungency all its own: sweat, soap, cheap cologne, piss and worse. The lockers stood in battered, uneven rows of mostly olive drab, with a few painted orange and others a dirty sky blue, all mixed with scabs of rust. Faded, wooden benches that hadn’t seen a coat of paint since their installation, lined up in wobbly positions on a dark green and mustard yellow linoleum floor. The authenticity of the place was phenomenal.

I quickly changed out of bell-bottom jeans and a too-tight rayon shirt, into a pair of my red high school gym shorts, a white t-shirt with cut-off sleeves and black, high-top, Converse Chuck Taylor basketball shoes.

James and I ran down the iron stairs into the gym, where he introduced me around to some of the guys, including Herm Binstock (I’ll never forget that name), who wanted to put me in the ring with his “boy” Jerome “The Jet” Jefferson (another unforgettable name)—a young stud two years older than me who was built like a statue in a museum.

After about a 30-minute warm up period with James, who went off to continue his training regimen, I reported to the ring where Herm instructed an old, weathered, gray-haired, kindly gentleman named Robert to get me ready.

Robert wrapped my hands and wrists with a roll of some type of cloth tape similar to an ACE bandage. He then fitted the 16 ounce, worn brown leather EVERLAST gloves down over my trembling hands and laced them up good and tight. He popped my old football mouthpiece in between my lips and forced the padded headgear down over my skull all the while imparting words of “50 years of boxing wisdom” in my ear.

I climbed the two steps to the apron of the ring. Robert pulled the ropes apart for me to duck through and I stepped onto the slightly bouncy canvas where Herm gave me my instructions: move around; let “The Jet” throw punches; get him into tight clinches—and all the other fight cliches you can think of. We met in the center of the ring where Herm talked-up the usual clean fight, keep your hands up, nothing dirty and nothing fancy sermon. Jet and I bumped gloves and I returned to my corner where Robert wiped the nervous sweat off my face and waited for the ready sign from the referee.

I stood from the stool and Robert slipped between the ropes to his spot outside the ever-increasingly-smaller ring. The bell clanged and I danced on the balls of my feet out to the center of the stained canvas.

The next thing I remember after the bell, is sitting against the black wall on one of the old, worn benches with my head back, Robert squeezing rolls of gauze up into each of my nostrils and holding a big white terry cloth towel against my broken nose to try and stop the profuse flow of blood that was pouring down the front of my white shirt and onto the floor. Robert was just shaking his head when Herm Binstock walked over and graciously said, “Nice try kid. Here’s a buck for your trouble.’’ He started to go but then turned back and muttered under his breath, “I wouldn’t quit my day job if I were you.”

I gave the dollar to Robert and heeded Herm’s advice. 

From the FE Films Archive

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