In a certain Athletic Club which rented two rooms over a Tin-Shop there was one Boy who could put it All Over the other Members.
He knew how to Jab and Counter and Upper-Cut and Bore in with the Left and Play for the Wind. He had Lumps on his Arms and a good Pair of Shoulders, and every one in the Club told him he had the makings of a World-Beater. He used to coax Grocery Clerks and Grammar-School Children to put on the Gloves with him, and then he would go around them, like a Cooper around a Barrel, and Trim them right and proper.
His friends would stand and watch him make Monkeys of these anaemic Amateurs, and gradually the Conviction grew within them that he could Lick anybody of his Weight. The Boy believed them when they told him he ought to go after the Top-Notchers.
He gave up his Job in the Planing Mill and became a Pugilist. The Proprietor of a Cigar Store acted as his Manager, and began to pay his Board. This Manager was Foxy. He told the Boy that before tackling the Championship Class it would be better to go out and beat a lot of Fourth-Raters, thereby building up a Reputation and at the same time getting here and there a Mess of the Long Green.
In the same Town there was an Undertaker who had Sporting Blood in his Veins, and he sought out the Manager and made a Match in behalf of an Unknown.
The boy went into Training in a Stable. He had a yellow Punching Bag, a Sponge, a Bath-Robe and several Towels. Two Paper-Hangers who were out of Work acted as his Trainers. They rubbed him with Witch Hazel all day, and in the Evening the Boy stood around in a Sweater and Talked out of the corner of his Mouth. He said he was Trained to the Minute, as Hard as Nails and Fit as a Fiddle, and he would make Mr. Unknown jump out of the Ring.
As the Day of the Battle approached it came out that the Unknown was a Scrapper who had been fairly Successful at one Time, but had ceased to be a Live One several Years before. He was imported especially for this Contest with the Coming Champion.
When he arrived in Town it was evident that he lacked Condition. He had been dieting himself on Pie and Beer, and any Expert, such as the Cigar Store Man, could tell by looking at him that his Abdomen was not hard enough to withstand those crushing Body Blows such as the Boy was in the Habit of Landing–on the Punching Bag. Accordingly the Word went around that the imported Pug was too Fat and had bad Wind.
It began to resemble a Cinch.
The Manager went out and bet more Money, and the Coming Champion was Nervous for fear that he would kill the Has-Been if he connected too strong on the Point of the Jaw. He thought it would be better to wear him down with Short-Arm blows and make him Quit. He had read that it was Dangerous to punish a Physical Wreck, who might have Heart Trouble or something like that. The Boy was a Professional Pugilist, but he had Humane Instincts.
When the Boy came to the Train which was to carry the Participants and the Spectators to the Battle-Field he was attended by four Comrades, who had Ice, Beef Tea, Brandy, Alcohol, Blankets and other Paraphernalia. They made a Couch for him in the Baggage Car, and had him lie down, so that he might conserve all his Strength and step into the Ring as fresh as possible. The so-called Unknown had no one to Handle him. He sat Alone in the Men’s Car, with a queer Telescope Valise on his Knees, and he smoked a Cigarette, which was in direct Violation of all the Rules of Training.