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Old 05-02-2012, 08:21 PM   #25
john garfield
East Side Guru
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Default Re: For anyone who has actually been in the ring share a personal true story!!

Stillman’s Gym was like rush-hour on Broadway in the mid 1940s: ATGs 'n trainers bumping into each other tearing across the cavernous former union hall, while a florid Lou Stillman growled non-stop epithets over a loud speaker drowning out clanging bells and telephones.

It was against that setting on a frigid afternoon, I climbed the 13 steps to Stillman’s to learn how to box and emulate local idols, Rocky Graziano and Jake LaMotta.

The gatekeeper at the head of the stairs, collecting quarters for entrance, was manager Jack Curley, under the gimlet eye of Lou Stillman seated on a raised chair next to ring # 1.

I paid and asked Jack Curley if he could set me up with a trainer.

After appraising me like pawnbroker, he crooked a finger at a character the image of the Penguin in a Batman comic book.

“Izzy, see what the kid’s got.”

He musta been mid-40s, 'bout 5-7 – bulging wall-eyes, the drained pallor of a lifetime in airless gyms, and dark, kinky-curly hair threatening to uncoil but bulldogged down and parted in the middle like a ‘20s bootlegger.

His nose was much too long for his face and pointy as a dart. He had no chin, no neck, was shaped like a pear and his stomach hiked up his trousers to his chest. He wore what must have been a white T-shirt at one time and unbuttoned cardigan sweater with a towel thrown over his shoulder.

Rocking back on his heels, he shuffled over, chest out, straight up and flatfooted; his shoes pointing outward like a Garment Center salesman. The only thing missing was the Penguin's umbrella.

He was my coach for the years I trained at Stillman’s. His name was Izzy Blank, and he looked after me like a son.

Though Izzy never gained the notoriety of a Charley Goldman, Ray Arcel, Whitey Bimstein, and the like, he was respected and embraced by the fraternity and was spared -- for the most part -- from Stillman’s wrath

As good or bad as I ever got, Izzy never allowed me to forget what he thought unpardonable: As a teen, I did what all the other kids did, I carried a condom in my wallet-- not that I had chance to use it-- but it was expected.

One day while changing, the rubber fell out of my wallet onto the floor and Izzy saw it. If I did anything after that that didn't live up to his expectation, he shrugged: "Sure! How can he fight? He's in the saddle!"

I had to do three times what anybody else did. If I so much as took a deep breathe: "The kid's in the saddle!"

Izzy Blank died…still unsung -- a funny, dear man that was my professor at the University of Eighth Ave.
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