Archie Domino's Ex-Trainer

I’ll admit the stool was my idea. It just seemed like it had to have some good mojo in it. The old trainer who sold me the stool insisted it was Gene Tunney’s, from the famous “long count” fight against Jack Dempsey back in 1927, at Soldier Field in front of a hundred thousand people. If that stool kept Tunney going that night, then maybe it still had a little something left for my guy, Archie Domino.

Even for a lightweight, Archie wasn’t much of a puncher. He didn’t have much power, his hands were slow, and his footwork was something we could never quite fix. But the one thing he could do was take a punch. He could go twelve, fifteen, even twenty rounds taking whatever the other guy threw at him, and never go down. Most of Archie’s wins came from wearing the other guy out—the guy would throw so many punches that he’d exhaust himself, and then even Archie’s soft right cross could take the guy out.

It was January 1953, and somehow Lefty the Manager got Archie a title bout. The champ probably thought it’d be short work, less than a round of sweat before he’d finish Archie off. But the champ didn’t figure on Archie’s determination, in what could be his last fight.

It was going so perfectly. Five, six, seven rounds, and the champ was hitting Archie with everything he had, and Archie hadn’t been anywhere near the canvas. Ten, eleven, twelve, same thing, and I could see the champ was wearing down, while Archie’s stamina had him still standing. Against the champ, I knew Archie had no chance for a decision. He’d have to wear him down to the point that one of those soft crosses would finish the champ off.

As Archie came back to his corner after the 12th round, I eagerly called out, “You’ve got him now, Arch, you’re wearing him out.” Archie nodded, gazing at me through swollen eyes.

“Fact, if you don’t beat him now, I’ll dump the bucket over my own head,” I added, getting a grin from Archie through his bloodied mouthpiece as he reached his corner and turned to sit down.

The snow bucket was another idea of mine. Somebody told me once that using a bucket of melted snow for water was good for a fighter, that it kept him going better than regular tap water. Another superstition of mine.

But, just as Archie sat down, the old Tunney stool gave way, one of its legs snapping in two, and the officials wouldn’t let us replace it. So Archie had to stand between rounds, and as the fight went on I could see his strength getting sapped away. He started taking each of the champ’s punches a little worse than the one before, until a vicious uppercut in the 19th round caught Archie square under the chin, sending him to the canvas, knocking him out and ending his career.

So, that’s why Archie Domino’s now my ex-fighter, and why I’m an ex-trainer. And that’s why I had to pour the melted snow on my head.

(Note: This piece was podcasted by Quirky Nomads, and narrated by the writer.)


Copyright 2006, P.J. Anderson