In the spring of 1990, I made my boxing debut in a fight that goes down as, well, a pretty awful experience. It actually began with a trip to the local Danbury Fair Mall. I was hanging with Jonathan Powell, my longtime pal, and we passed the window of a Champs Sporting Goods store. There, beneath a loud sign, were the words that would spell my doom: BOXING GLOVES. TWO PAIRS FOR $40.
Powell smiled. I smiled. We started discussing the possibilities. We could set up a ring in my garage, slip on the gloves, have some fun. So what if Powell outweighed me by, oh, 30 pounds of muscle? So what if he could bench double my body weight? So what if I had the toughness of a feather and the physique of a pipe cleaner? I was 18 and ridiculously dumb.
“Let’s buy ’em!” I said. “It’ll be great!”
We bought them.
It wasn’t great.
We backed the cars out of my parents’ garage. Powell slipped on his red gloves. I slipped on mine. Ding. Ding.
I probably tossed forward a feeble jab or two. Then—POP!
Powell threw repeated rights, all absorbed by my head. The fight lasted, oh, 27 seconds before I quit. A few moments later Dennis Gargano, who lived two houses up, stopped by. Dennis was shorter and lighter, and naturally placid. He borrowed Powell’s gloves and pounded me, too.
The next day at school I approached my locker. Powell was probably 10 feet away. “Pearl,” he said, “how you feeling?”
I couldn’t turn my neck.
“Fine,” I said. “Just fine.”