For Near-Sighted Boxers, Road to Top Isn’t Clear

BROCKTON, Mass.  This gritty Massachusetts city is the home of two great boxers, heavyweight Rocky Marciano and middleweight Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but tonight fight fans’ interest is concentrated on a pair of flyweights.  The favorite is Luis “The Librarian” Gonzalez from Newark, New Jersey, so-named because, as he put it at a pre-fight press conference, “When I knock somebody out, they stay as quiet as a liberry.”

Luis “The Librarian” Gonzalez:  “Hey–shut the hell up over there!”


His opponent is Terry “The Poet” O’Hanlon, an Irish-American who took his monicker from his favorite Eugene O’Neill play “A Touch of the Poet.”  “Just a touch of The Poet,” O’Hanlon said mockingly at the weigh-in, “that’s all it’s gonna take when I hit you.”

“Protect yourself at all times, and for God’s sake don’t squint!”


The two fighters walk to the center of the ring to receive instructions from referee Bob Delahanty, who rattles off the usual rigmarole–”When I say break, you break–no hitting below the belt–protect yourself at all times”–just as he has on over 800 nights before, but this time with a twist.  “Gentlemen, let’s have a good, clean fight–now take off your glasses.”

O’Hanlon’s second removes his horn-rimmed spectacles, but Gonzalez hesitates a moment before allowing his trainer to lift his wire rims from the bridge of his nose.  “If I ever see you again,” he says menacingly to O’Hanlon, “I’m going to break your jaw.”

“Where did he go?”


O’Hanlon and Gonzalez are practitioners of the newest innovation in a sport that traces its roots back to ancient Greece–near-sighted boxing.  “You get a lot more action with near-sighted boxers,” says Vincent “Big Horse” Pascaglia, commissioner of the WMBA, the World Myopic Boxing Association.  “With regular boxing you have fighters grabbing and holding on to each other all night long.  It looks like two guys trying to get into the same raincoat.”

“You missed me!”


With near-sighted boxing, by contrast, boxers spend the early rounds just finding their opponents, a fact that has caused state boxing commissioners to look with favor on WMBA bouts.  “Most of your near-sighted boxers come up through the ranks of proofreaders and typesetters,” says Massachusetts Boxing Commissioner Rocco Zeppo.  “Even when they land a punch, it don’t carry the force of a slap on the wrist by a Little Sister of the Precious Blood.”

“Uh, let’s see–the 5:08 to Attleboro is on track . . . 7?”


Fighters stay in shape by reading train schedules on overhead announcement boards and looking up names in city white page directories held up by sparring partners across the ring, a fact that some critics say leaves them ill-equipped to find work when their fighting days are over.  “Many of these young kids will be washed up before they’re thirty,” says former sportswriter Mel Carnigan, who asked to be taken off the boxing beat because, he says, “I couldn’t stand it any more.  You’d see these guys, they couldn’t get a fight and they’d be down at the public library reading large-print books with magnifying glasses.”

For many kids on the rough-and-tumble streets of this down-at-the-heels town where hyphens are as cheap as the drugs that are readily-available in open-air markets, near-sighted boxing is the only way out of a life of grim poverty.  “I wish I lived in some rich town and could afford contact lenses,” says Alonzo “Four-Eyes” Tatum, a quiet kid with an explosive right hand.  “But I don’t, so I got to keep my glasses on a chain around my neck, and hope for the best.”

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