The death of Mohammed Ali yesterday spurred our resident Mean Streets boxing expert, Brian Leno — now in the thick of writing a book on Robert E. Howard and the world of pugilism he knew — to show how closely connected most things are, even people you would never think had the slightest link.
As Leno said, “I know you’re interested in degrees of separation, so I thought you might like this.”
In 1934 Howard wrote a letter to Lovecraft covering a fight he had seen, between one Charlie Light and Duke Tramel — Kid Dula was the referee that night. Dula slapped Light because he was mad that Dula was talking to Tramel, and the fracas that followed gave Howard the idea for the Sailor Steve Costigan story “Sluggers of the Beach.”
Howard described Light as “the most peculiarly-built man I ever saw in a ring: short, stocky, with enormous legs, rather short, thick arms, a body like a barrel, an abnormally huge neck, dead-white skin, colorless blond hair, flattened nose, eyes that seemed to bulge out with an air of constant astonishment, a mouth that curved down at the corners, while the thin under lip thrust out — picture a human frog and you’ve got him.”
Charlie was no world beater, lost more times than he won.
But Charlie took on the Alabama Kid, one of those guys who fought over two hundred times, seemingly must have fought twice a week without breaking a sweat.
The Alabama Kid knocked Charlie out. This fight was in 1937.
In 1949 the Alabama Kid met up twice with Archie Moore, and both times got knocked out.
In 1962 before Ali was champion and while he was still Cassius Clay, Moore took him on and was TKO’d.
(And while Archie fought over 200 times himself and met many first class opponents, it should also be remembered that he faced Rocky Marciano in 1955 and got knocked out.)
Leno thinks this chain of pugilists is pretty cool, bringing us in an undying age of fisticuffs from Robert E. Howard up to yesterday’s headlines. I must agree.