Exit, Stage Right
By Richard E. Baker on December 27, 2020
The fight was not a massacre but almost as deadly. (Sean Michael Ham/TGB Promotions)
Boxer Mike Gavronski (26-4-1) has branched out lately into acting. He started several years ago acting in a Christmas play, enjoyed the crowd, the atmosphere, the drifting into another world, a world not of his making but of his deliverance as if he had taken the raw clay of someone’s idea and molded the mass into something of his desire. He is presently playing the lead in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. He plays the part well but forgot to act the part of a competent boxer in his fight against boxing’s newest star, David Morrell (4-0-0).
Gavronski was never expected to win. Boxers on the rise do not accept opponents expected to win. Although accidents happen, Gavronski was not an accident. He has always been a competent club boxer but not a contender with a sterling record against tough opponents (he has always failed in major bouts) or even a prospect against average talent, those willing to put up a fight. As a local boxer he has been a crowd favorite, tough, determined, all heart and courage, good-looking in a rough Hollywood kind of way, although not too Hollywood with a touch of falseness, but rather all sincerity, and instantly likable and appreciative to the fans as if they were facts of his life and not faceless objects on his rise in the ranks.
The fight was a mismatch from the first punch Morrell threw knocking Gavronski’s head back and from shoulder to shoulder. He staggered Gavronski so many times the punches became redundant as Gavronski danced from the blows and his legs splayed like a wish bone with no wishes taken, no one pulling them apart, the bone just drying and soon coming together as the legs now balanced on a tightrope, his arms to the side as weights of balance or possibly wings hoping they might take him up and away from the damage. He spun, he twirled, the gold fringe on his standard blue and white trunks swirling in rapid motion as the Fox/PBC logo mixed under his feet with the signage of Geico insurance ads (a product he might need) and Brooklyn Boxing combined in a maelstrom of twisted color.
Referee Jack Reiss (799 bouts) like a watchful father kept an eye on Gavronski, let the fight continue because a man deserves a chance even at the risk of damage, although not too much damage, too much serious damage, something that might disable a person permanently, especially an actor whose head needs to resemble and imitate a human face and not a giant walnut with eyes, cold eyes, expressionless, milky, and dead.
Finally, there it was, a classic combination from Morrell, a combination brought forward in time from the days of Jimmy Wilde through Sugar Ray Robinson and into the gloves of Morrell and onto the face of Gavronski, whose head had been battered like a ping-pong-ball for almost three minutes and needed a brief rest, Gavronski tumbling back, falling back, bouncing against the ropes and slithering to the canvas, head kinked at the neck, blood coming from his right cheek, not too much blood, not yet, not enough to discourage him, just enough to remind him he had been hit and that he was still able to rise if only his heart said so overriding his brain which might have thought remaining down was the better decision. Brains always succumb when heart and courage are present in a fighter. It’s the heart that pumps the blood, pushing, shoving the fluid through expanding vessels and arteries, taking the last bit of reserves from the brain and injecting it into the muscles, and the courage that fortifies those muscles and expands the lungs and brings a fighter to his feet as it did Gavronski’s. The bell immediately ended the round.
Gavronski moved to his corner, arms down, his legs slightly shaking as if he had walked up too many flights of steps but could still travel up a few more if he had a brief rest, could draw in a few breaths, feel some cold water over his head and some in his mouth to wash out the blood pooling there, a sponge on his back, and attempt to clear his head, not enough to do algebra problems, as if he could have ever done algebra problems, but enough to remember where he was and what he was doing and what he might do better in the next round.
His trainer, Sam Ditusa, a retired vice cop tired of dragging out lonely men from dark alleys where they sought a few moments of relief and would rather pay a one-time fee than the lifetime fee of marriage or a relationship, and women with no skills other than the ones with which they were born and were willing to be briefly employed in a dangerous five minute occupation that allowed them to eat, asked Gavronski how he felt. Gavronski responded as all warriors respond, as Monty Python’s Black Knight responded when, chopped down to just a head, swore he had suffered only flesh wounds. “I’m ok,” he said, not knowing if he was correct or not or even if the words had come from his mouth as distant and ghost-like as they sounded. There was no advice to give him, no governor’s repeal, no last minute evidence, nothing he could carry out to prevent the execution.
He sprang into the next round like a pin ball and was bounced round as such, Morrell relentless, tiger-like in his stalking and cobra-like with his strikes. Even covered like a turtle, arms wrapped about his head and face, Gavronski was defenseless as the total mismatch continued. Morrell’s punches slipped through all defenses, rights, lefts, uppercuts, and something special from Cuba, a spicy dish designed to melt down an opponent and leave him baking on the hot canvas.
The canned applause and cheering sounded more fake and plastic than ever, like the laugh tracks of comedy shows where the sounds blend together with one voice briefly sounding above the rest and devised to convince people that the material is actually funny until some of the viewers realize that no one in the room is laughing, has not laughed the entire show, and will probably not laugh if they see another one like it. The fight was not a massacre but almost as deadly and the studio had not prepared a suitable soundtrack to indicate despair, sympathy, concern, or even apathy, anything except applause and cheering at a man so over-classed the fight was little less than a neighborhood bully beating a crippled and hungry dog.
Gavronski was not fighting, just taking the beating. Jack Reiss encouraged Gavronski to show him something or he would stop the fight. Gavronski gave it a last shot, drew from deep down, brought his warrior’s heart to his fists and fired a flurry of punches. They were a few of the 12 punches he landed in the three rounds of the fight compared to Morrell’s 102.
Reiss stepped to Gavronski’s corner, asked Gavronski and Ditusa if the fight should continue. Reiss suspected the fight would be over but the corner wanted to continue. Gavronski was not yet beaten into insensibility, still able to almost speak a complete sentence, and still recognizable as human, if only barely so. He was to go out on his shield and they were happy to supply the shield.
Again Gavronski stepped into the breach and almost suffered death by a thousand blows. Now totally defenseless, unable even to raise his hands, he probably did not even feel the pain, was no longer in the ring, was no longer in a fight, was floating, the punches like a massage working over his body twisting his head and neck without rebuke, with the gentleness of too much pain as a man shot in war often does not feel the bullet, Morrell, oozing confidence, moving steadily ahead, so unconcerned he made no attempt to defend himself, since there was nothing to defend himself against, and when his fists were not planted into Gavronski, hung at his side.
Finally, realizing Gavronski’s corner were willing to sacrifice any future Gravonski might have for the sake of some impossible and heartless dream they might have, Jack Reiss called a stop to the fight.
Perhaps the final curtain has closed on the boxer Gavronski and he can now continue with his progress on the stage, a safer and, if all goes well, more profitable career than boxing. As for Morrell the curtain has just been raised. So far his show has been well received and should have sell-out performances in the future and he will remain in the spotlight for some time to come.