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Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:36 am

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With the last morsel of bread Tom King wiped his plate clean of the last particle of flour gravy and chewed the resulting mouthful in a slow and meditative way. Then he got up from the table, he was oppressed by the feeling that he was obviously hungry. Yet he had only eaten. The two children in the other room was sent to bed early so that she might forget the sleep they had supper less gone. His wife had touched nothing, and had quietly sat and watched him with worried eyes. She was a thin, worn woman of the working class, but signs of an earlier prettiness is not lacking in her face. The flour for the gravy she had borrowed from a neighbor in the room the last two ha'pennies had gone to buy bread.

He sat by the window on a rickety chair that protested under his weight, and very mechanically put his pipe in his mouth and dipped into the side pocket of his coat. The absence of a tobacco made him aware of his action, and with a frown on his forgetfulness, he put the pipe away. His movements were slow, almost colossal, though he bowed under the heavy weight of his muscles. He was a firm body, stolid-looking man, and his appearance is not affected by ox-prep to sing about. His rough clothes were old and slouchy. The uppers of his shoes were too weak to heavy re-soles that are not of recent bear. And his cotton shirt, a cheap, two shilling affair, showed a frayed collar and ineradicable paint stains.

But it was Tom King's face that advertised him unmistakably for what he was. It was the face of a typical boxer, someone who had long years of operation in the squared ring and, by that means, developed and emphasized all the marks of the fighting beast. It was clearly a cut face, and no feature of it may be noticed, it was clean-shaven. The lips were shapeless and constituted a loud mouth to excess, that was like a cut on his face. The jaw was aggressive, brutal, heavy. The eyes, slow traffic and heavy lid, were almost expressionless under the shaggy, indrawn eyebrows. Sheer animal that he was, the eyes were the most animal-like feature about him. They were sleepy, lion-like - the eyes of a fighting animal. The forehead sloping rapidly to the hairs, which shaved close, showed every bump of a villainous-looking head. A nose broken twice and alternately formed by numerous blows, and a cauliflower ear, permanently swollen and distorted to twice its size, its decoration completed, while the beard, as it was freshly shaved, shot in the skin and gave it a face blue-black stain.

All in all, the face of a man to fear in a dark alley or lonely place. And yet Tom King was not a criminal, nor had he ever done anything criminal. Outside brawls, common to his walk in life, he had not hurt anyone. Nor had he ever known to fight. He was a professional, and all the fighting animality of it was reserved for his professional performances. Outside the ring he was slow, simple in nature, and in his younger days, when money was flush, too open-handed for its own sake. He bore no grudges and had few enemies. Fighting was a business with him. In the ring he hit to hurt, to maim beaten, beaten to destroy, but there was no animus in. It was a clear business proposition. Audience assembled and paid for the spectacle of men knocking each other. The winner took the big end of the bag. When Tom King Woolloomoolloo Gouger, faced twenty years earlier, he knew the Gouger jaw had healed after only four months are broken in a bout Newcastle. And he had played for that jaw and broken again in the ninth round, not because he bore the Gouger any ill will, but because it is the surest way to Gouger off and win the big end of the bag. Nor had the Gouger borne him no ill will for. It was the game, and both knew the game and played it.

Tom King was never a talker, and he sat by the window, gloomily silent, staring at his hands. The veins stood on the backs of the hands, large and swollen and the knuckles, smashed and battered and malformed, testified to the use for which they were charged. He had never heard a man's life was the life of his veins, but he knew well the meaning of those big veins standing. His heart had pumped too much blood through them at the top pressure. They no longer did the work. He had stretched the elasticity of them, and their breasts over his stamina. He tired easily now. No longer could he not fast twenty rounds, hammer and tongs, fight, fight, fight, from gong gong, with fierce rally on top of fierce rally, beaten to the ropes and in turn beating his opponent against the ropes, and rallying fiercest and fastest of all in that last, twentieth round, with the house on its feet and screaming, rush, hitting, bending, raining showers of blows in the showers of blows and receiving a rain of blows in return , and the whole time the faithful heart pumping blood through the veins rising sufficiently. The veins, swollen at the time, had always shrunk down again, but each time, imperceptibly at first, not quite - remaining just a trifle larger than before. He stared at them and at his battered knuckles, and, for the moment, caught a vision of youthful excellence of those hands for the first knuckle had been smashed on the head of Benny Jones, otherwise known as the Welsh Terror.

The impression of his hunger came back on him.

"Damn, but I could not go a piece of steak!" he muttered aloud, clenching his fists and spitting a big smothered oath.

"I tried both Burke's an 'Sawley's," his wife said half apologetically.

"A" would not they? " he asked.

". Not a Ha'penny Burke said -" she faltered.

"G'wan! Wot'd he say?"

"As how 'e was thinkin' Sandel ud do ye this night, an 'as how yer score was comfortably large as it was."

Tom King grunted, but did not answer. He was busy thinking of the bull terrier he had kept in his younger days he had fed steaks without end. Burke would have given him credit for a thousand steaks - then. But times had changed. Tom King was old, and old men, fighting for second-rate clubs, can not expect that accounts of all sizes with retailers to implement.

He had in the morning with a craving for a piece of steak, and his desire has not diminished. He honestly had no training for this fight. It was a drought year in Australia, times were hard, and even the most irregular work was hard to find. He had no sparring partner, and his food was not the best nor always sufficient. He had done a few days' navvy work when he could get it, and he had run around the field in the early morning at his legs in shape. But it was hard, training without a partner and a wife and two children to be fed. Credit with shopkeepers had undergone very slight expansion when he was matched with Sandel. The secretary of the glee club had advanced him three pounds - the loser of the end of the show - and then that had refused to go. Occasionally, he managed to borrow a few shillings from old friends, who wish only that it was a drought year and they were hard put to have borrowed. No - and there was no use concealing the fact - his education was not satisfactory. He would have had better food and no worries. Moreover, when a man is forty, it is harder to shape than when he was twenty.

"What time is it, Lizzie?" he asked.

His wife went into the hall to inquire, and came back.

"Quarter to eight."

"They will be startin 'the first attack in a few minutes," he said. "Only a try-out. There is a four-round spar 'tween Dealer Wells an' Gridley, an 'a ten-round go' tween Starlight an 'some sailor bloke. I do not stand up for more than one hour .

At the other end of a quiet ten minutes, he stood on his feet.

"Truth is, Lizzie, I is not had proper trainin '."

He grabbed his hat and walked to the door. He does not offer to kiss her - he never did have to go out - but on this night she dared to kiss him, throws her arms around him and forcing him to bend down to her face. She looked very small against the massive bulk of the man.

"Good luck, Tom," she said. "You do Gotter 'im."

"Yes, I do Gotter 'im," he repeated. "That's all there is. I jus 'Gotter do' im."

He laughed with an attempt at heartiness, while she pressed closer to him. Over her bare shoulders, he looked around the room. It was all he had in the world, with the rent late, and her and the kiddies. And he was leaving to go out into the night of meat for his mate and pups to get - not as a modern working man goes to his machine grind, but in the old, primitive, royal, animal way, by fighting for it.

"I do Gotter 'im," he repeated, this time a hint of desperation in his voice. "If it's a win, it's thirty pounds - a, 'I can pay all owin' money in a lump o 'If the left one to lose, I have nothing to gain -. Not even a penny for me to home to ride on the tram. The secretary's give all comin 'from the end of a loser. Goodbye, old woman. I'll be right home to come like winning. "

"An up 'I'll be waitin'," she called him to the hall.

It was full two miles to happiness, and if he ran he remembered how in his prime - he was once the heavyweight champion of New South Wales - he would have driven in a taxi to the fight, and how, most likely Backer, some severe have paid for the cab and ridden with him. There were Tommy Burns and that Yankee nigger, Jack Johnson - they rode about in motor cars. And he ran! And, as anyone knew, a hard two miles was not the best preparation for a fight. He was a former UN and the world did not wag well with old uns. He was good for nothing now except navvy work, and his broken nose and swollen ear to him, even at that. He found himself like he taught a course. It would have been better in the long term. But nobody had told him, and he knew deep in his heart that he would not have listened if they had. It was so easy. Big money - sharp, glorious fights - periods of rest and idleness between - a following eager flatterers, the blows to the back, the shakes of the hand, the nice happy to buy him a drink for the privilege of five minutes to talk - and the glory of it, the screams houses, the whirlwind finish, the referee "King wins!" and his name in the sporting columns next day.

Those were the days! But he realized now, in his slow, ruminating way, that the old uns he had been put away. He was young, growing, and they were age, sinking. No wonder it was easy - they with their swollen veins and battered knuckles and weary in the bones of them in the long battle they have fought. He remembered the time he reached old Stowsher Bill, at Rush-Cutters Bay, in the eighteenth round, and then how old Bill had cried in the locker room as a baby. Perhaps old Bill's rent was late. Maybe he had a wife at home "a couple of kiddies. And maybe Bill, that day of battle, had a hunger for a piece of steak. Bill had fought game and taken incredible punishment. He could see now, after he had gone through the mill itself, which Stowsher Bill had fought for a greater importance, that night twenty years ago, was young Tom King, who had fought for glory and easy money. No wonder then Stowsher Bill had cried in the locker room.

Well, one man had only so many fights in him, to get started. It was the iron law of the game. A man might have a hundred hard fights in him, another man only twenty, each according to him and make the quality of its fibers, had a certain number, and when he had fought them, he was ready. Yes, he had more fights in him than most of them, and he had more than his share of hard, grueling battles - the kind that the heart and lungs working to bursting, that took the elastic out of the arteries and made hard knots of muscle of the Youth sleek suppleness, that wore nerve and stamina and was the brains and bones weary from excess effort and endurance overwrought. Yes, he had done better than all of them. There were none of his old fighting partners left. He was the last of the old guard. He had seen them all ready, and he had a hand in finishing some of them.

They had tried him against the old UNS, and one after another he had put them away - laughing when, like the old Stowsher Bill, they cried in the locker room. And now he was a former UN and the boy they tried on him. There was that bloke, Sandel. He had come over from New Zealand with a record behind him. But nobody in Australia knew anything about him, so they put him against old Tom King. As Sandel made a showing, he would be given better men to fight with larger purses to win, so it was too depended, he would put up a fierce struggle. He had everything to gain by it - money and fame and career, and Tom King was the gray old chopping block that guarded the highway to fame and fortune. And he had nothing to gain except thirty pounds, payable to the landlord and the merchants. And, as Tom King thus ruminated, there came to his stolid vision of the shape of youth, glorious youth, rising immersive and invincible, supple muscles and sides of the skin, heart and lungs that had never been tired and torn and laughed that reduce the effort. Yes, the youth was the Nemesis. It destroyed the old uns and HALS not, so it destroyed itself. It increases the arteries and hit her knuckles, and was in turn destroyed by the youth. For the youth was ever youthful. It was only Age that grew old.

At Castlereagh Street he turned to the left, three blocks and stopped by the mirth. A crowd of young Larrikin hanging outside the door made way for him respectfully, and he heard one say to another: "That's' im That's Tom King!"

Inside, on the way to his dressing room, he met the secretary, a sharp-eyed, shrewd-faced young man who shook his hand.

"How you feeling, Tom?" he asked.

"Fit as a fiddle," King said, though he knew he was lying, and that if he one pound, he would well that a good piece of steak.

When he emerged from the locker room, his seconds behind him, and came down the aisle to the square ring in the middle of the hall, a burst of greeting and applause went from the waiting crowd. He acknowledged greeting right and left, though few of the faces he knew. Most of them were the faces of kiddies unborn when he won his first laurels in the squared ring. He jumped lightly to the raised platform and ducked through the ropes to his corner where he sat on a folding stool. Jack Ball, the referee, came over and shook his hand. Ball was a broken boxer for over ten years had not entered the ring as one of the most important. King was glad he'd referee. They were both old uns. If he has to rough with Sandel a bit beyond the rules, he knew Ball could be depended upon to pass it.

Aspiring young heavyweights, one after another, climbed into the ring and presented to the public by the referee. He also issued their challenges for them.

"Young Pronto," Bill announced, "North Sydney, challenges the winner for fifty pounds side bet."

The crowd cheered and applauded again as Sandel himself sprang through the ropes and sat in his corner. Tom king looked at him curious about the ring, because in a few minutes they would be locked together in merciless combat, each trying with all his strength to knock the other into unconsciousness. But little could he, see Sandel, like himself, pants and sweater had on over his ring costume. His face was very handsome, crowned with a curly mop of yellow hair, his thick, muscular neck hinted at bodily magnificence.

Young Pronto went to a corner and then the other, shaking hands with the principals and fall down from the ring. The challenges were. Youth ever climbed through the ropes - Youth unknown, but insatiable - screams for mankind that with strength and skill would be problems with the game winner. A few years earlier, in his heyday invincibleness, Tom King would have been amused and bored by the preliminary rounds. But now he sat fascinated, unable to make the vision of the youth in his eyes shaking. Always were these youngsters rising in the boxing game, springing through the ropes and shouting their opposition, and always were the old uns going down before them. They climbed to success over the bodies of the old UNS. And still they came more and more youngsters - Youth unquenchable and irresistible - and ever they put the old uns road itself becoming old uns and travel the same downward trend, while behind them, once pressure on them were youth perpetual--the new babies, grown lusty and dragging their parents down, with behind them more babies at the end of time - that youth must have its will and that will never die.

King looked to the press box and nodded to Morgan, the sportsman, and Corbett, the referee. And he raised his hands, while Sid Sullivan and Charley Bates, his seconds, slipped on his gloves and laces too tight, closely watched by Sandel beaten by a second, who first examined critically the tapes on King's knuckles. One half of his own was in the corner Sandel's, performing a similar office. Sandel trousers were pulled, and he got up, his sweater was skinned off over his head. And Tom King, looking, saw youth incarnate, deep-chested, heavy-thewed, with muscles that slipped and slid like live things under the white satin skin. The whole body was a-crawl with life, and Tom king knew that a life that never had radiated from its freshness through the pores during the long painful battle with Youth paid its toll and departed not so young as when it went.

The two men advanced to meet, and when the gong sounded and the seconds clattered out of the ring with the folding chairs, shook hands and immediately took their fighting attitudes. And immediately, as a mechanism of steel and springs balanced on a hair trigger, Sandel was in and out and in again, landing a left eye, right to the ribs, popped a counter, light dancing and dancing menacingly back away . He was quick and smart. It was a wonderful exhibition. The house yelled its approval. But King was not blinded. He had fought too many fights and too many young people. He knew the blows for what they were - too quick and too deft to be dangerous. Evidently Sandel was about to rush things from the beginning. It was expected. It was the way of youth, spending his beauty and excellence in wild riot and rage attacks, overwhelming opposition to its own unlimited glory of strength and desire.

Sandel was in and out here, there and everywhere, light-footed and eager-heart, a living wonder of white flesh and stinging muscle that wove into a dazzling fabric of attack, slipping and leaping like a shuttle from action to action through a thousand actions, all centered on the destruction of Tom King, who stood between him and fortune. Tom King and patiently endure. He knew his business, and now knew that the youth was no longer young. There was nothing to do with the other lost some of its steam, was his thought, and he grinned to himself as he deliberately dived as a heavy blow to the top of his head to receive. It was a wicked thing to do, yet eminently fair according to the rules of the boxing game. A man had to take his own knuckles, and when he insisted on hitting an opponent on the top of the head, he did so at your own risk. King could have ducked lower and let the blow whiz past harmless, but he remembered his own early fights and how he broke his first knuckle on the head of the Welsh Terror. He was but playing the game. Duck who had booked for one of Sandel knuckles. Not that Sandel would now really. He would go, regardless beautifully, hitting as hard as ever throughout the fight. But later, when the long ring battles had begun to tell, he would regret that knuckle and look back and remember how he hit on the head of Tom King.

The first round was all Sandel, and he had the house screaming at the speed of his whirlwind rushes. He is overwhelmed King with avalanches of punches, and King did nothing. He never hit one once, satisfy themselves with regard to, block and duck and clinching to avoid punishment. He occasionally feinted, shook his head when the weight of a punch landed, and moved on imperturbable, never jumping or jumping or wasting an ounce of strength. Sandel must foam the froth Youth away before discreet Age could dare to retaliate. All King's movements were slow and methodical, and its heavy lid, slow-moving eyes gave him the appearance of half asleep or dazed. Yet they were eyes that saw everything, that was trained to see everything through all his twenty years and odd in the ring. They were eyes that do not blink or Wavre before an impending blow, but that coolly saw and measured distance.

Seated in his corner for the rest of the minutes at the end of the round, he again lay with your legs straight, arms resting on the angle of the ropes, his chest and belly heaving honestly and deeply as he gulped down the air driven by the towels of his seconds. He listened with closed eyes to the voice of the house, "Why do not yeh fight, Tom?" many cried. "Yeh is not afraid of 'im, are yeh?"

Muscle-bound, "he heard a man on a bench for comment. "He can not move faster. Sandel at two to one in quids."

Hit the gong and the two men from their advanced corners. Sandel came forward fully three quarters of the distance, eager to start again, but King was content to the shorter distance in advance. It was in line with its policy of economy. He had not trained properly, and did not have enough to eat, and every step counted. Moreover, he had already walked two miles to the first grade. It was a repeat of the first round, with Sandel attacking like a whirlwind and the audience indignantly demanding why King did not want to fight. Beyond fein tion and made several slow and ineffectual blows he did nothing but block and stall and clinch. Sandel wanted to make the pace fast, while King, in his wisdom, refused to catch him. He grinned with a certain wistful pathos in his ring-scarred face, and went on cherishing his strength with the jealousy of which only Age is capable. Sandel's youth, and he threw his strength away with the generous abandonment of the youth. To King belonged the ring generalship, the wisdom bred of long, painful battle. He watched with cool eyes and head, slowly and waiting for Sandel's froth to foam away. For the majority of the spectators it seemed as though King was hopelessly outclassed, and they expressed their opinion in of three to one on Sandel. But there were wise men, a few that King knew the old days, and covered what they considered easy money.

The third round began as usual, one-sided, with Sandel do all the leading, and delivering all the punishment. Half a minute had passed when Sandel, reckless, a left opening. King's eyes and right arm flashed at the same time. It was his first real blow - a hook, with the twisted arch of the arm to the rigid, and with all the weight of half the rotating body behind. It was looking like a sleepy lion sprang a lightning leg. Sandel, caught on the side of the jaw, was felled like an ox. The audience gasped and murmured awe applause. The man was not muscular, after all, and he could hit a drive as a trip-hammer.

Sandel was shaken. He turned and tried to rise, but the sharp cries of his seconds to take the count subdued him. He knelt on one knee, ready to rise, and waited, while the referee stood over him, counting the seconds loudly in his ear. On the ninth, he was in fighting attitude, and Tom King, facing him, knew regret that the blow had not one inch closer to the point of the jaw. That would have been a knockout, and he could take home the thirty pounds to bring the wife and kiddies.

The round continued until the end of three minutes, Sandel for the first time with respect for his opponent and King slow traffic and sleepy eyes as usual. As the round neared its close, King, warned by the sight of the fact the second crouched ready to spring out through the ropes, worked the fight around to his own corner. And when the gong hit, he went on the waiting list stool, while Sandel had all over the diagonal of the square run his own corner. It was a small thing, but it was the sum of the little things that count. Sandel was forced to walk that many more steps, to give that much energy, and part of the rest losing precious minutes. At the beginning of every round King loafed slowly out of his corner, causing his opponent to the greater distance in advance. The end of each round, the fight was maneuvered by King in his own corner, so that he could sit.

Two more rounds went by, where King was scant effort and Sandel lost. The last attempt to force a fast pace made King uncomfortable, for a fair percentage of the multiple blows showered upon him went home. Yet King persisted in his dogged slowness, despite the cries of the young hot-heads for him to go inside and fight. Again, in the sixth round, Sandel was careless, afraid again Tom King's flashed right to the jaw, and again Sandel took the nine seconds count.

By the seventh round Sandel pink of condition was gone, and he settled down to what he knew was the hardest fight in his experience. Tom King was an old UN, but a better old un than he had ever encountered - an old un who never lost his head, which remarkably was able to defense, the strokes, the impact of a knotted club, who had a knockout in both hands. Nevertheless, Tom King dared not often get. He never forgot his battered knuckles, and knew that every hit to be written off as the knuckles from the fight had to last. And he sat in his corner, glancing at a depth of an opponent, it occurred to him that the sum of his wisdom and Sandel's youth would be a world heavyweight champion. But it was worth. Sandel would never be a world champion. He missed the wisdom, and the only way for him to get it was to buy it with Youth, and then his wisdom, youth would have spent to buy.

King took every advantage he knew. He never missed a chance to clinch, and in carrying out the majority of the grabs his shoulder drove stiffly into the other ribs. In the philosophy of the ring one shoulder was as good as a punch if damage is involved, and a much better, as far as the expenditure of effort. Also arrested in the king put his weight on his opponent, and was loath to let go. This compelled the interference of the referee, who tore them apart, always assisted by Sandel, who had not yet learned to rest. He could not renounce the use of those glorious flying arms and writhing muscles of his, and when the other jumped into a clinch, striking shoulder against ribs, and head resting in left Sandel, Sandel almost always waved his right rear his back and in projecting face. It was a clever stroke, much admired by the public, but it was not dangerous, and thus, only that much power is wasted. But Sandel was tireless and unaware of the restrictions, and King grinned and stubbornly endure.

Sandel developed a fierce right to the body, making it appear that King was a huge amount of penalty taking, and it was just the aging women who the deft touch of the left glove King's appreciated for the other biceps just before the impact of the blow. It was true, the blow landed each time, but each time it was robbed of its power by focusing on the biceps. In the ninth round, three times within one minute, King hooked right to challenge his twisted arch, and three times Sandel body, heavy as it was, was leveled on the mat. Each time he took the nine seconds he could and stood on his feet, shaken and jarred, but still strong. He had lost much of its speed, and he wasted less effort. He was a grim fight, but he continued to draw his main asset to the youth. King's chief asset was experience. As his vitality had dimmed and his strength declined, he replaced them with cunning, with wisdom born of long fights and with a careful shepherding of strength.

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Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:05 am

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nice stroy



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