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About The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 31, 1922)
THE SUNDAY OREGONIAN, PORTLAND, DECEMBER 31, 1925
Concerning an epic prize
fight in which real fighting
is done, and also concerning
the superior Mr. McCann.
EASTWARD the lino of Twenty
fourth street flowed evenly like a
sluggish river, hazy, dim, antique,
mottled by the lights of the little shops,
cf blotches and shafts of yellow Illumi
nation, from the glass panels of the old
houses, Iron railings and small scrofulous
gardens. Past the old houses, at the
Junction of Seventh avenue and the
street, came an irregular blaze, a sort of
cchre ray, from a cellar where an Italian
lad a coal, ice and wood business; the
glare of the cigar store; the thin spray
cf the newstand kept by the fat, rather
dirty old German woman; the pate, sin
ister windows of the Chinese restaurant,
end the arrogant blaze from Slavin'a
The old man sitting in the doorway of
one of the little houses with the yellow
ish patch of grass surrounded by warped
Iron railing hated the street with the
dull, ccld hatred of old men. Yet he
couldn't get away from It. Often his son
had suggested, and his wife, when she
lad been alive, had suggested, that they
move to the country. "Yerra, do ye call
that country?" he had snarled at the
mention of Westchester and Long and
Staten islands, and that had killed the
suggestion; and they had tried to have
him move uptown, to Harlem, but "Yerra,
what would I be doing up there?" he had
rasped. The son had spoken of the pleas
ant places In Brooklyn, out Fiatbush
way. "Yerra, is it Brooklyn?" What
Impression he had of that worthy borough ,
is hard to imagine, but he spoke with a
To the eye the old man was a forbid
ding, a cold figure. - It was more this
forbidding and cold Quality that made
him old, rather than years. He could not
have been much over 60. But this fixity
of habit, this Impression of being a mon
ument, had endowed him with antiquity.
He was not a big man, but he gave the
impression of size, of importance. His
hair was gray, and that gave him dignity.
His eyes were of a colorless, aloof blue,
the blue of Ice. His gaunt, clean shaven
lace had something ecclesiastical about
it. His clothes were always a decent and
expensive black, and a heavy gold watch
chain spanned his vest. He had always
c stick by his side. His shoes were good
and roomy and somewhat old-fashioned.
His hat was of black hard felt, not a
derby, nor yet a high bat, but one of
those things that suggest property and
respectability and, somehow, land. His
name was Mr. McCann.
The social standing of Mr. McCann on
Twenty-fourth street was something of
a phenomenon. Every one accorded him
a sort of terrified respect. The street
recognized he was of them, but immense
ly superior. He was not a gentleman, so
the respect was not from caste to caste,
but something much more real.
None In the street ever examined their
hearts or minds as to why he was paid
their tribute of respect. If they had, they
would have found no reason for it, but
they would have paid it to him all the
same. He was Mr. McCann.
And this was all the more strange be
cause he was father of Irish Mike Mc
Cann, between whom and the middle
weight boxing championship of the world
there stood only two men. Irish they
loved; were proud of. But it wasn't to
the father of Irish that the respect was
paid. It was to Mr. McCann.
A very strange thing about Mr. Mc
Cann was this: that he could only know
time and space and circumstance in re
lation to himself. As thus: Seventh
avenue to him, a muscular, grimy street
that plodded for a space on the west side
cf Manhattan, crashed northward
through the Twenties, galloped toward
Forty-second, crossed Broadway reckless
ly, and at Fifty-ninth met the armed
front of the Park, died. To Mr. McCann
it was only an artery that crossed his
atreet. ' And great national events
marked only points in his life. He would
not say, for instance, that he was mar
ried about the "time of the war with
Spain, but that the Maine was sunk about
the time he was married.
And by his mother it was Impressed on
the whole family that their son and
brother, Dennis, was superior. For him
better clothes, easier work, and when he
decided that farm life was not for him no
objection was made to the sending of him
to college In Cork. But after a couple
of years there he had made no progress
with studies, and it seemed to him that
the studies were not worth while.- And
lie returned home.
They had tried -to get a government
office for him then; a very small one.
But that also required examinations,
which he could not seem to pass. So
that a great contempt for books grew up
within him. And then he grew convinced
tbat Ireland had not enough opportunity
for him. And the family got the monej
to send him to America.
The years at the college in Cork had
intensified his sense of superiority, so
that when he came to America he felt
that the Irish he met there were a very
Inferior people. And nothing about the
city pleased him everything was much
better in Ireland, he decided, and said
Ireland was a wonderful country the
only thing wrong with it was the people.
And the queer thing about it was that the
Irish in New York agreed with him. His
few years at Cork gave them the impres
sion he had accumulated learning, and
the race has a medieval respect for
books and writing. "True for you, Mr.
McCann, true for you," they would an
swer hi3 remarks on the inferiority of the
This aloofness, this superiority helped
him, or rather made him, in the business
he had chosen :life insurance.
His superiorltj also brought him a
wile, a timid, warm hearted girl, who
brought a tidy sum of money as a for
tune, which he spent upon himself.
She was terrified of him and very
much In love with him for years. And
then the love went and the terror re-
gjgjsafl wkm- fill
mained. She bore him three children,
two sons and a daughter. And in 'due
time she died. But not until life had run
pleasantly and respectfully for her hus
band, for all that he despised it, not as
vanity and affliction of spirit but as in
feriority and irritation.
And one son died, and a while after
her mother's death Moyra, the daughter,
ran away, contracting a very inferior
marriage with a brakeman on the Penn
sylvania railroad. And the time came
when the old man had to retire from the
field of insurance, new methods, new
companies coming in. The native Irish
died of' consumption and pneumonia, and
the Irish-Americans cared not a tinker's
curse for superiority. So his kingdom
vanished. And Poles, and French, and
Italians, and the folk who came from
Palestine by way of Russia, and even
Chinese jostled him. And he was left,
with a great sense of superiority and a
growing sense of futility and one son,
"the brilliant Irish-American middle
weight, contender for the world's cham
pionship, 'Irish' Mike McCann!"
All there was needed now, the old man
felt, to crown a useful and superior life
was a material reward. Money he didn't
care for he had all he wanted, decent
clothes, a house, tobacco, his three drinks
a day, and The Advocate, an Irish week
ly, he read for news of people in Cork,
puzzling out this genealogy and that. As,
for instance, he would read of a Patrick
Murphy fined for drunkenness at Youg
hal, and he would say: "I wonder now
would that be a son of ould James Mur
phy of Balllnure. Sure, I wouldn't put
it past him. A damned drunken family
they always were." Or a name in litiga
tion would strike him. "Them Hamiltons
were always the ones for going to law. A
dirty connection!" It a pier or a piec
of public property was being builded his
comment was: "I wonder who's getting
the money out of that." It a political
speech was reported he would sneer:
"Yerra, John Redmond and them fellows
ought to be ashamed of themselves and
them plundering , the people with their
tongue in their cheek." The Advocate
was a great comfort to him.
He often thought, and be reading it,
of how- much he would like to return to
Ireland and show the ignorant the fruits
of a superior life led in hard work and
wisdom. But for that he would have to
show something tangible even money
would not be enough, so queer those peo
ple were. To impress them at all he
would have to have a title of some kind:
alderman, or judge, or sheriff, "the Hon-
orable Dennis McCann," and to have that
he would need to have gone into politics,
and that was not a career for him. To
succeed there he would have to be able
to mix with the common people, drink
with them, be half-fellow-well-met with
a crowd of the dirtiest kind of Irish.
No, he could never have done that.
No, but his son might have. Sure, why
He heard someone say "Three four-
couldn't he? Wasn't he reared right
among them? And though he came from
a superior house, sure, that would only
be an advantage. They would look up to
him as well as be friends with him. And
with the brains he ought to have, con
sidering his father, there was no office in
the land for which he couldn't be fitted.
Surrogate, or mayor, or governor even!
What was to prevent him if he'd been
the sort of child he ought to have been?
There would have been an evidence for
him, an evidence he was entitled to.
And look- you the dirty trick had been
played on him. Instead of the son who
would crown his gray hairs with honor,
who would Justify him, he was father to
a common prize fighter, a man who was
not looked on with respect by any. The
idol, perhaps of the New York Irish, but
of the ignorant Irish. True, he was a
good boy; he didn't drink. But neither
did his father, except in reason. He was
generous with his money, but after all
what was money? Always smiling, al
ways laughing "Sonny" they called
him, and "Irish"; that was no way to
attain dignity. Even the Italian coal-ice-and-wood
man called him "Irish."
The old man would like to see any one
call himself "Irish."
And he couldn't listen, to any reason.
The old man had an opening for him in
business uptown, A friend of Ms, an un
dertaker, a very superior man, who only
did the best kind of trade, had offered
young Michael a chance. But the prizi
fighter had laughed.
"In a way I'm In that line of business
myself. Why change?"
The old man had shaken with rage.
"Get out of my sight, you- impertinent
What were they thinking of him in
Ireland at all, at all? Some one, of
course, would write home and tell all
about it. And if his name, that should
be treated with respect, came up, some
one would laugh: "Ould Dennis Mc
Cann! Ah, sure what's he anyway? Sure
his son's only a common fighter."
He could never get away from it; was
never let get away from it. Why, even
tonight now, . not a half mile away at
Madison Square Garden, Michael was
fighting. And a great fuss they were
making about it, too. Some Italian he
was fighting, and If he won he was -to
get a fight with the champion. He'd
probably win he always did and beat
the champion, too. And the end of it
would be the honorable name would be
dragged more through the dirt of the
"I wonder will he forget to bring home
The Advocate?" the old man thought.
"He'd better not."
Before the bell had gone for the first
round, before the referee had called them
together for instructions, before even the
gloves were laced on him, Irish knew he
was a beaten man.
Across the ring, in his corner, the Ital
ian middleweight lolled, chatting with his
seconds. Irish could occasionally glimpse
the olive body; the dark hair and eyes;
the even, grim face, unmarked save for
the marred left ear and the minute flat
tening of the nose.
". . . between the leading con
tenders of the world's middleweight '
championship, Nick Chip" (so they had
Americanized Nlccolo Chlapetta) "of
Buffalo and Irish Mike McCann
. . ." and the sentence was lost in the
roar of the garden.
They shook hands " and returned to
their corners. The whistle blew, order
ing the seconds out.
"Don't box him, Irish. Stay with him.
Get la close, and when-you get him open,
bam!. See, just bam!" old Maher, his
trainer, whispered aa he ducked oat,
"See, no fancy stuff. Just sock him.
How are you feeling, Irish?"
"At 'e baby!"
Bong-g-h! He turned and walked to
the center of the ring.
The Italian had dropped into his usual
unorthodox pose. His open right glove
fiddling gently at the air, his left arm
crocked, the glove resting against his
left thigh. He moved around the Ting
gently, Ilka a good woman dancer. About
him was an Immense economy of move
ment. He seemed wide open a mark
for any boxer's left hand. But Irish
knew better. The Latin would sway
back from the punch and counter like
lightning. . The old champion was wise
to lie low and not to fight this man until
he was compelled to.
It he could only spar him into a corner
and rush him there, taking the punches
on the chance of smashing him on the
ropes. But the Italian glided around
like a ghost. He might have been some
sort of wraith for shadow boxing, except
for the confident, concentrated eyes.
A minute's fiddling, shifting of posi
tion, light sparring. The creaking of
the boards, the shutf, snuff, shuff of
"Ah, why don't you walk in and kill
him, Irish. He's only a Guinea!" came a
voice from the gallery.
"He's a yellow. He's a yellow, da
Irish," an Italian supporter jeered.
Irish could wait no longer.. He feinted
with his left, feinted again. The left sho
out, missed the Jaw, came home high on
the head. The right missed the ribs and
crashed on the Latin's back. A punch
Jarred Irish on the jaw. Ah uppercut
ripped home under his heart. At close
quarters the Italian was slippery as an
eel. The garden roared delight at the
Irish punches, but Irish knew they were
not effective. And the Italian had hurt
him; slightly, but hurt him.
A spar, another pawing rush; light,
smart blows on the ropes. "Break!
Ereak!" The cry of the referee. Creak
ing of ropes and whining of boards. A
patter of applause as the round came to
an end, A chatter of voices as the light
went up. The clicking of telegraph in
struments. " 'At 'e boy! Keep after him," Maher
As he Bat down in his corner Irish was
grim. Yes, the Italian was too good for
him; he had been afraid of this: that ,
the Italian would outgeneral him into at
tacking all the time.. A little more ex
perience, the fights that mean a hundred
times the theory, and he would have lain
back and forced Chip to stand up and
face him Instead of sniping him on the
ran. The confidence of six or seven
more fights, and it wouldn't have mat
tered to him what the gallery was shout
ing, what the ringside thought. He could
have made Chip stand up and tight, and
in a round or so the garden would have
been with him.
If he had only had a little more ex
perience if only he had been able o
Ah, well, what was the use of grousing.
He was here to fight.
"Can't you rough him up a little in
the clinch, Irish?" Maher whispered.
"No, I'll fight him fair."
"Just a little, to get his goat."
The lights went out, leaving only the
great glare of the ring. The whistle
blew; clatter ot buckets and bottles. The
seconds clambered down. The gong
clashed, shuddering. The second round.
He walked slowly forward over the
white canvas under the bluish white arc
light to meet his man, and then suddenly
from his walk he jumped, as some Jungle
thing might jump. He jumped without
setting, without any boxer's poise. Right
for the poised, alive body he jumped.
And his hands hooked for drive and up
percut. He could feel the sense of shock
as they both went home, but to unvital
pointB. The left hand thudded on the
neck. The right crashed on the Italian's
left arm. He was in close now, driving
short lefts and rights to the body, but
he was handling something that bent and
sprang back like whalebone, that moved,
swayed wJth suppleness like some Span
ish or Argentine dancer, and soon el
bows locked his arms subtly, and he
could do nothing.
"Come on, break!" The referee was
trotting about the ring4Iike a working
terrier. Pef-'ng, moving from right to
left. "Brea!-; : Break!" His voice had
the peculiar whine of a dog on a scent.
He stood back, sparred a moment.
Again Irish rushed. He felt on either
side of his face sharp pains as of slaps
with the open hand on the cheeks. Ir
ritating things. He could feel the Latin
shake as the left hand caught him flush
on the ear. A tattoo like taps of little
hammers played at his body. Irish's
right glove came full into the Italian's
ribs. He could feel the rush of air
through the Italian's teeth. He brought
the hand up with a short chop on the
Italian's neck. A scuffle; a semi-wrestle.
And again his arms were locked.
"Come on, boys. Come on. Break
They stood apart, sparred. Irish
feinted with the left hand. Feinted with
the right. Changed feet quickly, right
foot foremost now. Pivoted home with
the left hand Joe Walcott's punch. The
Italian side-stepped, and caught him on
the ear as he swung to the ropes. Irish
turned quickly. A flurry of gloves. Light
lead and counter. Clinch.
"You're good, Nick!"
"Y' ain't so bad yourself, Irish."
As the bell finished the round and he
walked toward his corner he was sur
prised, looking -down at himself, to find
angry, red weals on his body where what
he thought was a light tattoo had been
Yes, he thought between rounds, an
other little while, another pound of ex
perience, and for all his cunning, his gen
eralship, he could have beaten Nick. And
then between him and the championship
there would have been only the cham
pion, and the old champion's day was
past. He was getting fat, and satisfied
and drinking and that was bad! And
going around the country to Boston and
New Orleans and Seattle, beating third
raters and then mainly on points, and
lying low, very low indeed, whenever
. Nick Chip's name was mentioned, or even
his, Irish Mike McCann. .
He wanted to be champion knew he
could be, with time and experience. And
what there'was for him in the champion
ship was not personal glory and not
money, but a strange pride of ease that
was hard to explain. All he could do
well was this athletic feat of fighting
with gloves. Tnere was intuition, a sort
of gift His body balanced right His
left had moved easily.
It seemed to him only right that an
Irishman or an Irish-American, which
was better still should hold the middle
weight and heavyweight championships.
Fighting clean, hard struggle was the
destiny apportioned to them.
Vaguely in his mind there were
thoughts which he. could not translate
Into words, it not being his craft, that
there was some connection between the
men who fought in a padded ring with
gloves and the men who went gallantly
into battle with two flags above their
heads, the flag they served faithfully and
the little wisp of green they loved. The
men in the ring stood for the green in
the field, perhaps.. And we should see
In the Irish boxer what the cheering
ranks of Irish going into battle were.
Fight squarely in the ring, fight gallant
ly, fight to" the last drop, and win gal-
lantly, and lose gallantly. And let no
man say there Is a dirty or mean fight
er; and let no man say there is a cow
ard. There were Irish names in the ring
that made old men's hearts flutter and
young men wish they had been born
years before. Old John L. Sullivan (God
rest the gallant battered bones!) and
Tom Sharkey of Dundalk, who never
knew when he was beaten, and old Peter
Maher; who was somewhere in the house.
And there was another name in the mist
of past days, the name of a middleweight
champion who had been greatest and
most gallant of them all, the elder Jack
Dempsey, the Nonparlel. None like him,
none! Irish of the Irish, most gallant of
them all, he sleeps in a green grave in
the west somewhere, and in all men's
And Irish had thought humbly to fill
the Nonpariel's shoes, to fight as hard
as he fought, to win as chivalrously,' to
lose" as well, and in his corner as he
fought the ghost of the great Nonpareil
would be. And the roar of the house as
he would walk out at the referee's call,
the champion, Irish-American, in his
tights of green, and around his waist the
starry western flag.
The shrill cut of the whistle and the
chief second leaned forward and wiped
his face. .
"Fiff round, Irish. Keep at him,
The gong and the hushed house.
He noticed now that the Italian fighter
was no longer resting his left hand seml
casually on his hip, kept up no longer
his poise of an Argentine dancer. The
Buffalo man's left hand was extended
like an iron bar, his shoulder hunched
to his jaw tor a shield, his head sunk
low, as a turtle's head Is half drawn
under its carapace; his feet well apart!
The man's oil black hair was a tangled
mop, and on his ribs were red blotches.
His Hps were set In a wide line. His
black, ophidian eyes snapped and glowed.
His poised right hand flickered like a
And he was punching, punching as
hard as he could, hitting squarely with
knuckles and every ounce of weight
careless of the economy of the ring that
tells a man to save his hands, for a box
er's hands are a boxer's life, and every
hurt sinew, every broken knuckle, every
jarred delicate bone' counts in the long
run. The Italian was hitting, hitting
like a triphammer, hitting for his life.
Patter of feet, and creak of the boards,
and little whine of the ropes. The great
blue light overhead, the click of the tele
graph instruments below. The running
feet of the referee and the' nervous pat
ting of his hands, clop! clop! The .sec
onds with their eyes glued on the fighting '
men, and their hands sparring In sym
pathy. The mooing roar ot the crowd
and their louder tense silence.
Once they were so carried away they
paid no attention to it, but fought on.
Only the referee parted them. Irish
held out his glove In apology and they
shook hands. The garden seemed to
shake at the cheering.
Whip of lead in the tenth round, crash
of counter, deep sock of Infighting.
Clinch; break. A half second's inatten
tion on the Italian's part, and the left
hand of Irish crashed home to the jaw.
Himself did not understand what had
happened until he noticed the crumpled
figure on the boards and heard the
"Get back, McCann. Get back! . . .
One! . . . two . . ." An im
mense hysteria of sound filled the house.
Men jumped on seats. The telegraph
instruments clattered madly. Somewhere
near the ring was a fist fight.
The crumpled figure twitched. At four
it was dragging Itself to its hands. The
glazed eyes blinked. Life returned. The
Italian shook his head. At seven he was
on his hands and knees, his head clear
ing. At eight he was kneeling on one
knee, one glove resting on boards. God!
how long the seconds were, Irish thought.
"Nine!" Slowly the Italian rose.
The garden was no longer filled with
human beings but with Instruments of
baritone sound. It hit the roof, re
bounded, whirled, surged. All about
Irish was sound, sound. In front of him
the Italian weak at the knees. The ref
eree hunched like a bowler. Irish
Jumped in, fists swinging. His fists met
crossed arms, elbows, shoulders, but not
jaw or head. And suddenly the Italian
was clinging to him, as a terrified cat
will cling he couldn't tear himself
loose. It took the referee and him to
tear the Italian away.
Insane with the din, blind with excite
ment, he rushed again to meet the beau
tiful diagonal coverup, left arm across
heart and plexus, right crooked about
throat and jaw. Again the clinging of
the cat. And he felt the Italian, growing
stronger. It was like a dead man coming
to life again. Life was flowing slowly
back to shoulders, from shoulders to
arms and hands, to hips and knees.
He stood back to consider this miracle,
to think what to do next. Two shaking
lefts caught him in the face.
And the gong rang and his chance was
Yes, another six months and he could
have won. He would have known how
to keep his head, how to finish the Ital
ian crisply. He had him out, out clean.
Another punch would have finished it
And he hadn't experience enough an
other six months. .
Well, what was the use of grousing. It
couldn't he helped. He couldn't pass the
fight up when it was offered to him.
Right at home and so much money.
The money had been needed for the
home and the old man. It was funny
how much a home cost awn on Twenty
fourth street, and tie old man was used
to a certain way of living. He couldn't
very well put the old man in lodgings.
He wasn't accustomed to that
But a housa took an awful lot of
money. In what the house cost he and
the old man could have stayed at a swell
It seemed a pity, even for the money j
end, not to have waited. If he'd waited
he'd have had the championship, and
then he'd have been fixed for life.
If his old man had been a different
kind of old man he'd have gone to him
"Hey, old-timer, how about going easy
' on the jack for a while, hey? Just lay
off a bit until I get things right. Gi' me
another half dozen fights under my belt,
see, and I'll drop this Guinea cold. And
then the champion'll have to give me a
fight the papers'll make him, and you
know what he is. He's a bum. So what
do you say we get us a couple o' rooms,
hey, and go easy for a while. What do
A different kind of old man would
have said: "Sure. We'll take our time,
and we'll knock this Guinea for a row
of Jam jams. And as for the champion,
it's a cinch."
But he wasn't that kind of old man.
He didn't hold with this fighting nohow.
iConcluued on I'a i.)