Chapter 1 Balls to the Wall
Blood sport declawed and reregulated. Cockfights for aesthetes and wimps.
Boxing is microcosm. Boxing baits pundits. Boxing rips writers and rags them to riff.
Boxing taps testosterone. Boxing bangs to the balls. Boxing mauls and makes you mine meaning.
Mexican boxing is:
Boxing distilled. Boxing stoicized. Boxing hyperbolized.
Mexican boxing is machismo magnified. Mexican boxing is bristling bravado. Mexican boxing means you die for love and live to impress and subjugate your buddies.
Vegas boxing is:
Lowlife pomp. Westminster West. Best-of-weight class as best-of-breed.
Vegas boxing is Rome revived. Gladiators divert high rollers. Imperial goons exploit muscled maxi-men and mainline their money.
I got the word:
Erik Morales meets Marco Antonio Barrera.
Junior featherweights. Title tiff. Vegas.
I had to go. I love boxing.
We go back.
My folks divorced in '55. My dad got me weekends. We holed up. We watched the fights.
We had a bubble-screen TV. We snarfed Cheez Whiz. My dad rooted on race and "heart."
He liked white fighters best. He liked Mexicans next. He liked Negroes last.
Heart eclipsed race. Heart mitigated race. Heart gave Mexicans White Man status.
"Mexican" meant all Latins. Mexican meant some Italians. Mexican meant the Cuban Negro Kid Gavilan.
My dad fucked up race and geography. He was a Wasp. He hit L.A. and learned Spanish. He dug inclusiveness. He knew the White Man ruled. He knew the Brown Man craved in.
He wanted him in. If
he kicked ass to his specifications.
Race. Heart. My early education.
I lived in L.A. I watched TV fights. I watched fights live.
The Olympic. The Hollywood Legion Stadium.
Smoke. Ceiling lights. Beer and crushed peanuts.
My dad took me. We sat with Mexicans. We watched Mexicans kick triracial ass.
My dad went chameleon. My dad gestured wild. My dad Mexicanized.
He talked to Mexican men. He slapped their backs. He translated for me.
Male-speak. My early education.
Headhunter. Go to the body. Cut off the ring. Pendejo. Cojones. Maricon.
My dad divided Mexicans. Illegal immigrants were "wet-backs."
Wetbacks had heart. They swam the Rio Grande. They sought trabajo
They scuffled. They worked hard. They craved White Man
Hoodlums were Pachucos. Pachucos
They oiled their hair. They overbred. They packed switchblades.
They shivved cops. They smoked mary jane. They disdained White Man status.
I met two Mexican kids. Reyes and Danny. They came from T.J.
They saw T.J. fights. They saw the mule show. They loved Art Aragon and Lauro Salas.
We smoked mary jane. I was ten years old.
I got dizzy. I punched the air like a maricon
My mother died. I bunked full-time with my dad. We watched fights. We snarfed TV dinners.
Welterweights. Title tiff. Don Jordan versus Virgil "Honeybear" Akins.
Jordan wins. Jordan's a Dominican negrito
He's mulatto. My dad digs him. My dad grants him Mexican status.
He's psycho. He was a child hit man. He killed men at age ten. He killed thirty men in a month.
Mexicans were killers. My dad said so. My dad spoke Spanish. My dad saw the mule show. My dad knew his shit.
Light heavyweights. Title tiff. Archie Moore versus Yvon Durelle.
It's Armageddon. Moore wins. Moore's Negro. Durelle's Quebecois.
My dad upgrades Moore's racial status. Moore gets Mexicanized. My dad downgrades Durelle. Durelle gets Mexicanized.
Durelle "eats leather." Durelle "leads with his face."
Welterweights. Title tiff. Jordan bows to Benny "Kid" Paret.
Paret's a Cuban Negro. My dad hates him. My dad gets his race right.
Welterweights. Title tiff. Paret versus Emile Griffith.
Griffith's Negro. Griffith's island-bred. Griffith stomps Paret.
Paret trash-talked Griffith. Paret called him queer.
Sex hate. Revenge. My early education.
I went to fights. I watched TV fights. I read fight magazines.
I still lived in L.A. I bopped around. I dug racial stratification.
Negroes lived south. Mexicans lived east. Whites lived everywhere.
Negroes craved civil rights. Mexicans craved conflict and personal honor.
Mexicans grew small. Mexicans moved swift. Mexicans ran stoic and expansive.
Mexicans coveted. Mexicans aspired. Mexicans knew the White Man was El Jefe.
Mexicans hobnobbed with whites. Common tastes united. Common language flowed.
Chili con carne. Una cerveza, por favor.
Hook to the liver.
I Mexicanized. I Mexicanized with Wasp circumspection.
I wore Sir Guy shirts. I provoked fights with little kids. I notched mixed results.
I lacked power. I lacked skill. I lacked speed. I lacked heart.
It showed. My defeats were ignominious. My victories were pathetic.
I was sixteen. I stood 6¢2?. I weighed 120. My dad said I ruled the Toilet-Paper-Weight Division.
I challenged my pal Kenny Rudd.
Six rounds. With gloves. Robert Burns Park.
Cornermen. Ref. Five-dollar purse.
I had height. I had reach. Rudd had heart. Rudd had speed and power.
Rudd kicked my ass. Rudd fought barechested. I wore a Sir Guy shirt.
My dad got sick. He went to the hospital. He bunked with a Mexican guy.
They talked fights. I brought them cheese enchiladas.
My dad died. The Mexican guy recovered.
I lived by myself. I watched TV fights. I hit the Olympic.
I saw Little Red Lopez. I saw Bobby Chacon. I saw six million guys named Sanchez and Martinez.
I sat ringside. They bled on me. I ate cut residue.
I sat top-tier. I shared piss cups with Joses and Humbertos. They protested bum verdicts. They tossed piss cups. They doused puto
I pulled some dumb stunts. I got in trouble. I detoured and paid.
I did county jail time. I talked fights with wicked Juans and rowdy Ramons. I fought a Mexican drag queen named Peaches.
Peaches squeezed my knee. I popped him. I aped Benny "Kid" Paret. I called him a maricon
Peaches kicked my ass. Guards pulled him off. Triracial inmates cackled.
I dissected my defeat. I put something together.
Mexican boxing explicates the mind-body split for white wimps worldwide.
MEXICAN BOXING IS WORKMANLIKE. Mexican boxing is inspired.
It's savage emphasis. It's basic boxing retuned to short range.
You move in. You stalk. You cut the ring off. You intimidate with forward momentum.
You crowd your man. You eat right-hand leads. You counter and left-hook to the body.
You instigate exchanges. You trade in close.
You take to give. You forfeit your odds for survival. You eat shots. You absorb pain. You absorb pain to exhaust your man and exploit his openings. You absorb pain to assert your bravado.
You clinch when desperate. You backpedal when stunned or insensate. You fight coy to avert the brink and buy moments.
The body shots sap wind. The momentum saps will. The absorbed pain saps brain cells. The absorbed pain builds character and fatuous ideals.
Mexican boxing is lore.
Mexican fighters chew steaks. They drink the blood and spit out the meat.
Mexican fighters slurp mescal. They gargle and swallow the worm.
Mexican fighters do roadwork at 10,000 feet. Mexican fighters train in bordellos.
Mexican boxing is memory.
Fights in bullrings. Fights at weigh-ins. Fights at victory balls. Fights
The Trifecta. '70-'71. Ruben Olivares and Chucho Castillo.
The Inglewood Forum. Sellout crowds.
Rockabye Ruben rocks. Chucho presses and bleeds. Round 3-Ruben rests recumbent. Ruben rises and rallies rapidamente
Ruben takes tiff one. Unanimous decision. The mayhem mandates tiff two.
Ruben rips. Chucho chops and chisels. Ruben launches left hooks. Chucho counters contrapuntal.
Ruben cuts. His left eye leaks at the lid. The cut calls it. It's over. Chucho-TKO 14.
The rubber match rocks. It's all pressure. Chucho drops Ruben. Ruben rises and rebounds.
Ruben roils. Ruben wracks the ribcage. Ruben rules the ring. Ruben reigns in the rubber.
The Forum. Nontitle tiff. Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora.
Seventy-two fights collective. Seventy-one KOs.
Round 1 goes slow. Zarate tests Zamora. Round 2 disrupts.
A geek jumps in the ring. Cops haul him out. Cops kick his ass.
Round 3. Zarate zips close. Zarate zaps Zamora.
One knockdown. Eight count at the bell.
Round 4. Zarate in close. Zamora's got zilch. Two-knockdown TKO.
It's over. It's not momentous. It's not competitive.
Zamora's dad's in the ring. Zarate's dad ditto. Zamora's dad zaps Zarate's dad.
It's instantaneous. It's Zarate-Zamora II.
Zarate. Lupe Pintor. Rafael Herrera.
The great Salvador Sanchez. Julio Cesar Chavez-el grande campeón
Mexicans. White Men all. Ask my dad.
Morales-Barrera vibed walk-through or war.
Morales was 35 and 0. He had the WBC belt.
He had youth. He had speed. He had a more diversified attack.
He had career momentum. He had an HBO contract. He had the Next Chavez prophecy.
Barrera was the last Next Chavez. He ate some right hands. He got de-prophesied.
He was 49 and 2. He had the WBO belt. Wags called it
the Mexican attack.
He closed in. He cut off. He left-hooked. He went downstairs.
career momentum. He had
HBO ties. Junior Jones de-momenticized him.
One KO loss. A rematch. One loss by decision.
Barrera learns defeat. Barrera fugues out. Barrera regroups.
Barrera's a Mexican. Barrera's a Catholic. Barrera digs redemption.
Barrera's a rich kid. He hails from Mexico City.
Boxing ends someday. He knows it. He's eyeing law school.
Morales was middle-class. He hailed from T.J. His dad was a fighter.
He's a soft touch. He donates Christmas dinners. He won his belt. He banked the check. He stocked T.J. schools with computers.
They were good kids. "Good kids" is fanspeak. Good kids are killers who limit their rage to the ring.
VEGAS WAS T.J. UNCHAINED.
I hit T.J. in '66. I got a head job. I saw the mule show.
T.J. was scary.
I hit Vegas in 2000. Vegas was worse.
I stayed at the Bellagio. I heard it had "class." I heard right and wrong.
It featured an art gallery. It featured silent slot machines. It featured stretch limos.
License plates: Cezanne/Matisse/Picasso.
My suite was big. My suite had a church directory. My suite had cable fuck films.
I settled in. I walked the Strip. I misjudged distances.
Hotel facades streeeetched.
Medieval moats. Paris skylines. Mock Manhattans.
Street traffic crawled. Foot traffic gawked.
Folks carried kiddies and cocktails. Folks carried slot-machine cups.
I grabbed a cab. The cabbie was psycho. The cabbie vibed Klan.
He picked his nose. He picked his teeth. He slurped beer in a McDonald's cup.
He talked fights.
He liked Morales. Barrera was stale bread. J. C. Chavez was a punk. He lost to Frankie "the Surgeon" Randall. He trashed his suite at the MGM Grand.
He talked Mexican fights.
The cholos had heart. The cholos fought dirty. The cholos fucked goats.
He talked Vegas fights.
Morales-Barrera was small. Hipster stuff. Rap stars and movie shitbirds verboten.
Big fights rocked Vegas. Big fights flew on big money.
Site fees. Pay-per-view. Casino perks. High rollers lured in to lose.
Big fights drew big names. Ringside recognition.
Big fights meant heavyweights. Big fights meant Tyson and bad juju. Big fights meant Oscar de la Hoya.
Oscar was pretty. Oscar bruised pretty. Oscar magnetized chicks.
He ain't a real Mexican. You can't be real and come from L.A.
I FOUND a Mexican restaurant. It vibed L.A.
I ate a Mexican dinner. I schmoozed a Mexican waiter. He came from L.A.
We talked fights.
He liked Morales. Barrera was shot.
His wife liked Oscar. His daughter loved
Oscar. He thought Oscar was queer.
I walked to the Bellagio. A waiter brought coffee up.
He was Mexican. He came from L.A.
We talked fights.
He liked Morales. Barrera was through.
His wife liked Oscar. He didn't get the allure.
The waiter split. I dug my view.
Ant swarms. Streeeetch facades. Seduction signs.
Caesars. The Mirage. Gay white tigers.
The swarms vibed migration. Peons with cups. Supplicants hot for cash and diversion.
I felt like El Jefe. Call me Batista. Call me Juan Perón.
I viewed my Third World. I dispensed benedictions. I scrutinized and exploited small men.
Sanctioning bodies ruled boxing. Puto
The IBF got indicted. The WBC held in. A wag called it "World of Bandits and Charlatans."
The WBA. The IBA. The WBOgus.
The I's meant "International." The W's meant "World." It stressed dominion and shared thought.
Official judges judge fights. State commissions appoint them.
Sanctioning bodies court them. Sanctioning bodies corrupt them. Sanctioning bodies stress shared thought.
Fractured titles. Multi-championships. Two I's/three W's.
Titles mean money. Titles drive a fighter's momentum.
Judges judge off it. Judges vote what's perceived best for boxing. Judges know the formal rules. Judges know subtext. Judges enforce consensus thinking.
Not all judges. Not most judges. Some judges in key fights.
Implicit. Covert. Unindictable.
The migration continued. The light show blipped on.
I fucked with the TV. I hit HBO.
Wags called it Home Breast Office. I hit breasts and an end-title crawl. I hit a Boxing After Dark
Two days hence:
. The Holy War.
BAD had it. BAD should
have it. BAD knew
BAD was the best boxing show in TV history. BAD broadcast great fights. BAD broadcast bravura.
Great blow-by-blow. Jim Lampley in tight. Pro scoop and malapropisms via Roy Jones and George Foreman. Larry Merchant on meaning.
Bad Boy Barrera top-lined BAD card #1. He KO'd Kennedy McKinney.
A fierce fight. A tuff tiff. A proud prophecy.
I went to bed. I slept late. A waiter brought coffee up.
He was Mexican. He came from Oregon.
We talked fights.
He liked Morales. Barrera was fucked. The Mandalay Bay:
Slot-Machine Acres. Blackjack Estates. Keno Kountry forever.
I walked through it. I got lost. I gagged on smoke. I smelled spilled cocktails.
I rerouted. I trekked on.
Card-Table Terrace. Roulette Rendezvous. Blow-Your-Mort-gage Mesa.
I hit a corridor. I saw directional balloons.
Tricolor. Mexican. Red, green, and white.
I followed them. I hit the press gig.
Dais. Lectern. Steam tables. Buffet in gear.
I mingled. I saw Wayne "Pocket Rocket" McCullough. Morales decisioned him. I saw Richie Sandoval. Gaby Canizales KO'd him.
He got hurt. He quit boxing. He went into boxing PR.
I saw Latin reporters. I saw Latin cornermen. I saw some Anglo press.
The room chowed down. The food was bad. All starch and grease.
I sipped coffee. I listened. I bootjacked conversations.
Male experts dueled. Male experts interrupted. Male experts riffed lore.
I was there. I saw it. Dig my
The honchos hit the dais.
Lou Di Bella. Mr. HBO. State commissioners.
Morales. Barrera. Promoter Bob Arum.
Morales looked calm. Barrera looked drained.
Weight. Stabilize. Walk at 135. Make 122 by tomorrow.
Excerpted from Destination: Morgue! by James Ellroy. Copyright © 2004 by James Ellroy. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.