Boxing bout for charity? Let's not and say we did


PICTURE THIS: two men in their mid- to late 40s, squaring off in the ring to have a boxing match for charity. Doesn't it conjure up horrible images? Doesn't it smack of a bad idea, right up there with drive-through prostate exams?

C. Miles, that irascible, curmudgeonly but never boring afternoon talk show host on WOLB radio came up with the idea Sept. 10. He challenged me, over the airwaves, to a boxing match, with the proceeds going to charity. Gee, do you think it could have been something I wrote?

It started on Kweisi Mfume's television talk show "The Bottom Line," where Miles and I appeared Sept. 6. According to Miles, he handed me an "ass-whipping" in that debate and is eager to give me another. That goes to show you how the "Rashamon" principle - how several people see the same situation differently - applies to real life. I didn't quite see it that way.

To give such a whipping in a debate, you have to score valid point after valid point. Miles had no valid points. He just constantly interrupted those of us who did. The result was an eloquent but nonetheless well-fertilized C. Miles harangue. In a subsequent column, I suggested that Miles and his "Talk How You Like Underground Posse" - which is kind of like the Mongol horde, only not as charming - look at the crime stats of how young black men kill each other and get outraged about that.

Miles responded that any talk of young black men killing each other wholesale was white folks' propaganda, akin to what Nazis said about Jews during Hitler's reign of terror. So black-on-black homicide is not really a problem; it is merely a lie put forth by white racists. Ironically, within hours of uttering these remarks one young black man shot another dead and wounded two bystanders on a bus in West Baltimore.

In the same column, I said the bulk of Miles' listeners are so obsessed with the idea of being persecuted blacks that they'd be reduced to psychological ruin if Mr. Bobo - the dreaded white man, on Miles' show - were to suddenly disappear.

Not exactly the stuff these folks wanted to hear. That's when Miles issued the invitation. Was he serious? Who knows? Miles is off the hook, so meshuga, so entertaining that it's difficult to know when he's serious and when he's merely jesting. My guess is he was simply joking. Surely he knows there are several difficulties with a Kane-Miles charity boxing match:

Just what charity in Baltimore is in such dire straits that it would need the benefits from such a match?

Just who would pay to see it? They call Baltimoreans Balti-morons. Miles is from Atlanta and may believe the nickname applies. But the truth is, no one in these parts is quite that stupid.

Miles wouldn't be able to do any boxing. Once he got a look at my bloated torso and chunky thighs he'd be too busy laughing to throw any punches.

The match would set pugilism back 500 years, and boxing has suffered enough already.

By no stretch of the imagination could anyone call what we'd be doing boxing. Joe Louis could box. Sugar Ray Robinson could box. Rocky Marciano was regarded as a slow, clumsy, plodding clod. But oh, how the man could box. I wouldn't want to besmirch their memories and send them twirling in their graves by putting on some pathetic exhibition of pugilism.

I hope Miles knows that I'm on to his reason for wanting to box. With the size of my forehead, he'd have an easy target the entire match. It'd be like hitting the side of a building.

Let's cut to the chase here and add the most important reason: I can't fight. I couldn't lick my own shadow if I jumped it from behind. Camp Fire girls have been known to give me a sound thrashing.

I've been in situations where some white people, believing in that "all black men are violent" thing, have regarded me with fear and apprehension. "Boy, if these folks only knew," I've always chuckled to myself, dying of laughter inside. The truth is, I'd have been slim pickings if any of them wanted to mug me.

So there you have it. I've punked out. I tried to find an honorable way to punk out and couldn't find one. So I just decided to come clean with my punking out. I'm trying to promote punking out as an honorable thing. Maybe it will help drop that black-on-black homicide rate Miles thinks is so much propaganda.

If C. Miles and I must have a battle to benefit charity, let it be one of wits, not fists. In the matter of having a boxing match for charity, let's not and say we did.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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