More Brain than Brawn


My belief in the importance of brain over brawn, as I’ve stated repeatedly, had begun long before I’d entered Spanish school in 1945. Since then it had become quite a challenge, however many lickings I took and however many times I had to box my way out of a street brawl, to look for a more intelligent way out of conflicts.

Accordingly, it looked as if Providence was preparing me to be a bit more cunning in life since, not long after our Sunday School recital at the Salvation Army Church in Wachipali, I would be goaded into another street fracas that would continue to be remembered long after my return as a repatriate to my country of birth.

The Easter recital, in fact, was attended by the biggest crowd of people from the colored community which was a total surprise to me. It turned out to be one of the very few times that I would be forced into speaking before such a large crowd but, in my estimation, it was the smaller tikes who stole the show that day making it a resounding success with the crowd of Westindian people.

Returning home unconcerned from a full afternoon’s work at the dental clinic one night where I’d just finished up an inbox full of impressions, I stopped to peek into the Beji Nite Church which stood on the same sidewalk as the clinic. I tarried only a minute taking in the view of this neighborhood place of worship so familiar to me by now. I then continued on my way returning home tired from my days work.

After arriving I decided to take down the family garbage and get it over with before settling down to whatever awaited me at home. It was about 8: P.M. and I had gotten as far as the corner alley in the back of Magnolia Building where rows of large garbage cans were kept for pick up.

I’d almost gotten to the corner of Him’s Chinese Store when I caught a glimpse of my latest challenger Rico, which was short for Ricardo. I quickly sized up the situation in light of the fact that Rico had his malevolent gaze fastened on me remembering his last threat that he would give some of the same he had given little Horacito. “This guy is not coming to talk,” I thought, “but as an alley cat bent on defending his territory. He wants to war.” It was then I clicked into my ready stance all set for my next move.

I instinctively jumped out of my house slippers, dropping the tin can we used as a garbage can which made a horrible racket on the hard cement pavement. I jumped onto the street facing my much too assured aggressor in the darkened side street. The crowd of neighborhood kids had, by now, congregated and followed us. This was routine with them whenever they smelled a good fight brewing and they all gathered under the only street light illuminating our neighborhood block. They quickly closed ranks around the combatants settling in for a good bout, which Rico had been promoting for a long time now.

I wasted no time and my fast hands caught the boy flush in the face as he charged confident that he could easily take on this runt. Seeing my aggressor hurt, I immediately followed up with lefts and rights to his hard head making my unaccustomed knuckles on my right hand smart. Feeling the blows, Rico hesitated now unsure of what he’d gotten himself into. I heard the roar of the crowd and I wasn’t about to give him a chance to recover. Confident, I danced away showing off as Rico followed me stupidly with no apparent game plan as to what he would do next. I began my dancing again hoping that the boy would charge me, swinging wildly.

He didn’t disappoint me as I battered him with some hard punches in combination when he would lunge for me. The night seemed to get darker in that spot of Calidonia where we stood warring. The crowd loved every minute of the one sided fight since Rico hadn’t even touched me. That day had been destined it seemed for him to receive the boxing lesson of his life and my hours spent at the Olympic Stadium watching the likes of Federico Plummer, Ferdie Thompson, Albert “Beto” Scantlebury, and Kid Finnegan sparring with able opponents had come in handy.

This story will continue.

2 responses to “More Brain than Brawn

  1. Kyle and Svet Keeton

    🙂 – See I am back to see what trouble you have gotten into again…

    Ever wondered why some people such as Rico just walk blindly into fights like this. They really have no brain processes working up top…

    I have seen the Rico's of life sometimes come out smarter after such lessons. I guess we will see…


    Kyle and Sveta

  2. I've never seen a smart bully. We will see in next post just how blind he was. Anyway, that was the reality of growing up in Panama's "popular" Barrios, Roberto Duran's training grounds.