Magazine article The New Yorker

Heavy Hitters

Magazine article The New Yorker

Heavy Hitters

Article excerpt

In East Flatbush, Brooklyn, the city's pattern of streets seems to expand like a grid on a balloon that's being inflated. The avenues grow wider, the blocks longer, the street lights farther apart. Someone looking there for the Cultural Performing Arts Center, or C-PAC, the site of a recent evening of preliminary bouts in the Daily News Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament, might expect the building to be visible from a ways off. It's not. To know where C-PAC is, you have to know where it is: at the nub-end of East Forty-eighth Street, up against some railroad tracks, beyond a sign that says "We Buy Junk Transmissions" and the shipping-and-receiving entrance of a company called Moes Wear. A guy with a fistful of twenties was taking money at the door. Boxers with valid I.D.--their competition books, listing the fights they'd had--got in for ten dollars, half price.

If C-PAC's outside was dark and hard to find, and urban-lonesome, its inside was a hive. In the single, high-ceilinged room, a boxing ring had been set up at about shoulder height, with tables and folding chairs for officials at ringside. Throughout the room, maybe three hundred people were milling around, drinking beer, leaning over the balcony of an area for additional seating upstairs, waiting for the bouts to begin. Gas heaters attached to the ceiling flared on and added an aroma of hot dust. A man with white hair and a dark suit stepped into the ring, made announcements, thanked sponsors. The Golden Gloves tournament has been going for eighty-four years. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, and Evander Holyfield were all onetime Golden Glovers. Recently, in the tournament's mandatory drug-testing program, the number of boxers who failed has been fewer than eight-tenths of a per cent.

Clang! The timer hit the bell with a hammer to start the first fight, making a sound that was itself like a punch. James Scalafani, of the Veterans Memorial Boxing Club, in the gold corner, surged toward Tariq Ali, of the D'Awesome Boxing Club, in the blue corner, who covered up, to no avail. Fight stopped in under two minutes. Clang! James Clark, unattached, whaled on Khuong Chau, of the Trinity Boxing Club. Clang! Clang! Clang! Seven more fights followed. People bought hot dogs; you could get one for three dollars, and two for four. Partisans urged their favorites on with cheers that sounded like barks, and stamped their feet in unison. …

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