I was not the only fan in Harry's, a large popular bar. There was a crew of ten or twelve hulking men in their twenties and thirties milling around and aroused over the prospect of Cooney knocking out Spinks, led by a strapping red-headed farmer-strong individual named Vince, who paced and prowled around the bar, revving up the crowd with a constant refrain: “White is right, white is right, Spinks is goin' Down! Knock that nigger out!”
There was not a single black person in the packed bar. There are very few black folks on the Central Coast of california.
His crew's chant was an eerie, noisy hubbub. I had moved to Shell beach from Manhattan beach in October of 1986 and was still adjusting to the social and political climate, which was more conservative and even redneck compared to what I'd experienced down south, so I kept my mouth shut and talked to the bartender, a studly young guy named Randy, who knew his boxing and with whom I had discussed past fights on the big screen in this bar. Some of which were Tyson's ferocious knockouts.
I told Randy I thought Spinks would knock Cooney out, because Cooney was “on his way out” as a fighter and “one-dimensional, strictly a hooker with a weak jab.” Vince, passing by, caught our discussion and said, “You really think that nigger's gonna knock out Cooney?” He was glaring at me as if I was a traitor to the cause.
“I do,” I said. Offering my hand.
He ignored it. “You for that nigger?”
“I am. I like Spinks.”
“You don't like Jerry Cooney?” He hovered over me in a threatening manner.
“I do like Cooney, but I think Spinks is a more polished fighter with a superior arsenal.” I decided not to tell him I thought Cooney was on the way down while Spinks was just coming into his prime.
“Bullshit! Cooney'll knock him out. Wanna bet?”
I didn't, realizing the consequences if I won, but I found myself saying, “Sure.”
Now he shook my hand. He stormed off, relating to his pals the bet he just made with “that nigger lover over there.” Two of his friends came over and bet me twenty. Now they were really aroused, the eerie hubbub of “White is Right!” filling the bar.
Vince came back over. “How can you bet against a white man fighting a nigger?” he asked, dumbstruck.
I just looked at him. “I have tremendous respect for all boxers,” I said. “I don't care what color they are, or nationality. I'm a boxing fan. I love the sport, and I really like Spinks, if that's your question.”
He stormed off. The hubbub continued as the fight was minutes away. Randy served me a beer, and asked, “What do you think?”
“I think Spinks'll knock him out early on with a right hand. Cooney got beat senseless by Larry Holmes back in 1982 by Holmes's right hand. Cooney's a southpaw. They're vulnerable for a lead right, and Spinks has a great right and a good right cross.”
My father was an amateur champion who could have turned pro and tutored me on the rudiments of boxing in our back yard and on fight strategy when we watched the Wednesday and Friday night fights on TV in the 1950s, and he took me to fights at the Olympic and later at the Forum, and I'd also reported on three fights at Caesar's palace in Las Vegas for a small newspaper down south—Leonard/Hearns; Cooney/Holmes; Duran/Hagler. All seen at or near ringside.
When the fight started, Spinks dictated. He was quicker than Cooney. He won the first three rounds and Vince and the boys were irate, screaming at Cooney to “knock that nigger out!” Cooney had a good fourth round, and the boys had hope, were roaring, but in the fifth, Spinks began tagging Cooney and knocked him down with a flurry, one a crushing right. He knocked him down again and had him helpless when the ref called the fight.
The boys were in a frenzy, cursing Cooney, whom I felt sorry for, as he no longer had the desire to stand up to the grueling punishment in this kind of business. I felt he was propped up as a “White Hope” to capitalize on exactly what was going on in this bar, and now I was getting a little scared as Vince glowered at me, came over and slapped a twenty on the bar beside me like a punch.
“There's your fucking money!” he snarled.
Now his two friends slapped down twenties. I had not been in a bar brawl in some time. I knew how to fight, but not with these crazed beasts. I signaled for Randy, who came right over, and I said, “Give Vince and his friends beers and a shot of their choice, and I'll have a beer and a shot of tequila gold.”
Randy went to work. The shots came. I held mine up. Grudgingly, they bolted, slamming the glasses on the bar. Vince seemed calmer. He studied me. “How'd you know Spinks'd knock him out?”
“I've been around the boxing game, Vince...”
“No. I was never poor enough or had the heart for the real thing, which is why I love boxers—they're the toughest of the tough, and the guttiest.”
He was still studying me. His friends drifted off. “I still don't get you. You're white, you should be for the white guy.”
“Look, Spinks won an Olympic gold medal. He ran around the ring with the American flag. He brought the gold home to America. So did his brother and Sugar Ray Leonard. I love those kids. I always pull for them. I don't give a fuck what color they are.”
He stared hard at me. He shook his head. “You're fulla shit,” he said, and walked away, and I finished my beer, laid a twenty on Randy, and never came back.
Almost thirty years later, Vince and his now paunchy white-haired crew must be beyond the original euphoria of celebration and proudly gloating, because they got their country back, and they got their beloved Donald Trump. That Muslim nigger's out of office and that white nigger President who got the blowjob in the Lincoln room and his crooked bitch of a wife are finished! We ain't got to worry about them anymore. Our man's gonna get rid of Obamacare for those niggers and take away their welfare and make 'em work, and he's gonna build a wall and close the border and kick the wetbacks out of the country and hopefully get those Muslims in some sort of camp behind chain-link fences so they don't terrorize us. And then we're gonna show those pussy Eurotrash how to deal with ISIS—we're gonna bomb those fuckers off the face of the earth, even if we use the A bomb And fuck NATO!
It's white pride, motherfuckers, and white is right! If you're a tree-hugging book-reading mollycoddle white, get the fuck out, go to Canada. We want our jobs back. Fuck global warming and those bloodsuckers in Asia taking our jobs. We'll do it OUR way, because we're the greatest, we're white, and we took our country back and we're gonna make America great again.
(Yeh, and I can't wait for your progeny, trickled down from the greatest generation, pick those crops, backs bent permanently in the sweltering heat, a sack strap around your neck, for the minimum wage.)
Go for it. It's all yours now.