Friday, June 26, 2009

The Right of Kid Cupcake

Jay told us he was fighting at the Cow Palace in a few weeks and asked us to come. I assumed he was fighting in an amateur boxing tournament, not some street brawl at night in front of the building. But this was Jay, so you never knew.

For the past few years, Jay went to a local boxing gym to learn the craft, sport or whatever you want to call it. According to him he was pretty good and he proved it many Friday and Saturday nights on the faces of patrons at bars in San Francisco. I had never seen him get into a fight - by the time he reached this level, I had refused to go out with him because I knew how the evening would end - but I heard about all his exploits on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Jay lived upstairs in our warehouse and was a frequent visitor in our space.

His stories made me uncomfortable, but Jay was highly intelligent and a great storyteller and always spun the violence into an entertaining story, rather than a bloody fight. While churning out lore after lore of fist fights, we sat rapt, guilt ridden for enjoying his exploits. We were anarchist punks and while we would rather engage the system than individuals, the brunt of his lashings was always yuppies or jocks - people that deserved it? Knowing this made everything a little more palatable.

Three of us made the trek to the Cow Palace, not knowing what to expect. My history with boxing had mostly been Ali, Frasier and Foreman - The Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle – and I assumed this would be like that but on a much smaller scale.

There were 2 rings set up in a large hall next to the main room, where I saw many concerts in my youth. The room looked like it was used for conventions and, by the smell of it, 4-H events. Large, boxy and unassuming, fold up chairs circled the stages and bleachers bookended the rings. Not wanting to get too close, we sat in the bleachers. Jay was first on the card.

Like professional boxing matches on TV, they announced the boxers over the P.A. Jay pranced in, ducked under the ropes and danced around the ring, throwing fake punches, before returning to his corner of the ring. A man that looked more like a fellow boxer than a trainer stood in his corner and encouraged him before the bell rang. I imagined he was saying something like: “Pick and jab,” “don’t’ get caught in the corner” and” keep your hands up.”

We moved forward as the bell rang. For 3 rounds Jay went toe-to-toe with a more experienced boxer, landing punches and taking 3 in return. We were having a great time seeing our friend get beat up in a controlled environment. We yelled, “Run, Jay, Run,” as his relenting opponent chased him around the ring, looking to back him in a corner.

At the end of the 3rd round, the bell ring and Jay lost by a decision. He was bruised, a bit bloodied and beaming with pride. We were impressed and couldn’t wait for his take on the fight; we were sure it would be the exact opposite of what we saw.

While waiting around for Jay to clean up, we watched the other fights. The fighters got progressively bigger, meaner and more brutal. The last fight, between Irish Danny Maguire and Pat Lawlor, proved to be the best fight of the night.

Irish Danny was first to enter the ring. As his name echoed through the hall, I looked around and noticed the crowd had gone from friends and family to fans of these 2 boxers. The Sunset district look was in full force: Irish, white, 20 – 35 years old, mean looking, shaved head, baggy trousers, backward baseball caps and NBA tank tops, specifically the Boston Celtics. It was like House of Pain was playing next door.

Seeing that the propensity of violence in the crowd increased considerably (we were long hairs), we situated ourselves opposite from where they congregated and tried to blend in.

As they announced Irish Danny Maguire, his fans stood and taunted the crowd, throwing their hands up and bouncing up and down. The P.A. blared Jump Around by House of Pain; As they announced Pat Lawlor, the other half of the crowd, dressed exactly like Danny Maguire fans, stood up, threw their arms in the air and bounced up and down to the tune of Jump Around by House of Pain. It was almost like they were fighting for rights of the song.

Not to be out done my Danny Maguire fans, Lawlor fans unveiled a homemade banner on what looked like a queen size bed sheet. With a crudely painted of picture of the Pacific Ocean with a rainbow over the ocean, the banner said, “Pat Lawlor, The Pride of the Sunset,” the later following the arch of the rainbow. It was a beautiful sight – all homemade banners have a tinge of beauty.

Almost immediately, Lawlor fans screamed out addresses in the Sunet and Parkside, neighborhoods in San Francisco: “48th and Taravel,” “23rd and Judah” and “38th and Lawton” and many more. Maguire fans countered with more addresses. I assumed this was where they lived and customary at these type of events.

As the bell rang, the crowd of tank tops surged and we moved back to the bleachers. While Lawlor and Maguire beat shit out of each other, Jay appeared in street clothes, holding a gym bag. He looked like he had showered. His face was a little red, but he looked good.

Downplaying losing the fight, he reached into his bag and pulled out his boxing shorts. Embroidered along the front of the waistband were the words Kid Cupcake. I hadn’t noticed the name when he was fighting. Jay said that they made him turn the waistband inside out, which explained his “short” shorts.

I don’t remember who won the fight, but I do remember how it ended: an all out brawl between the Maguire and Lawlor fans. It was fitting end to the night.


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