The fenced-off section at one end of the Boys Club gym was the boxing area, and nobody was allowed in unless he was a member of the team.
There was very little talking going on in there. Everywhere else in the club, at least in those places where sports were played, it was pure bedlam, kids laughing and yelling and generally carrying on. At the far end of the gym, though, it was quieter, almost solemn. All Evander could hear was the sound of leather hitting leather, some grunting here and there, the soft swishing of somebody jumping rope. Somehow all that quiet made the activity seem more intense. More important.
Evander was fascinated by the place. Everyone was so serious, and they worked harder than he’d ever seen kids working, including himself. The whole operation was run by Carter Morgan, a white man who didn’t say much, but when he did, those kids listened. And once in a while when he’d nod in approval or pat one of them on the back, the effect was electric, like the kid had just scored a touchdown in the final game of the season.
For about a week, whenever football was over for the day, Evander went over to the gym and watched, without getting too close to the fence. One day when Mr. Morgan was on his way in, Evander pointed to the fenced-off area, and said, “Can I go in there?”
Morgan looked Evander over, all 65 pounds and eight years old of me, shook his head and then walked away. Evander bugged Morgan for weeks until he was finally allowed in.
Evander began boxing at the age of eight. Very small for his age, he was usually matched up against much bigger opponents but didn’t lose a fight until he was eleven anyway.
Carter Morgan’s influence on Evander was profound. He taught him not only how to fight but how to behave in and around the ring, and it was Coach Morgan’s pronouncement that he could become the champion of the world that set Evander on the path that would lead him to greatness.
© 2011 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. All Rights Reserved — Posted by permission of the author