When Frankie died, we lost a good man...
We heard thru the AlAnon club that Frankie died in Florida at age 73.
Frankie was not perfect. He was mentor to some - but to all of us - a damned good sparring partner and conversation partner.
He was still sparring and training others at 72.
We joked that he “only looked like he was 60” - with defined pecs, a slightly flat stomach and big hands. Plus an always great tan.
He had 2 homes - one in Darien, IL and one in Sarasota, FL.
He had been cremated by the Neptune Society - per his wishes - with no funeral.
His passing was noted at the AlAnon Club.
We wondered what would become of his Darien house and gear - it had been his late brother, Mario’s, and to our collective knowledge - there were no relatives. It had became a hang-out when he “was Up North” every May to October.
We wondered about THE BOOK - a spiral ring note book which listed all he had trained and all who had boxed with him. Full of “data” on type-written pages - which pictures of fight partners starting with Instamatic shots, then Polaroids and point and shoot film cameras.
He had been a hard drinker for about 20 years until he came back to boxing - to deal with his demons. His one marriage ruined by his drinking. His great job - almost lost. AlAnon helped him, it also connected him with some future sparring partners.
He had been a master at sales of plumbing fixtures for hardware store chains but also to major home builders. He traveled throughout the South and Midwest - meeting clients. We never knew how much money that he had made - but those of whom he showed a picture of his Florida home - thought that it looked a million dollar place in nearby Oak Brook.
He came from Cicero, IL - a tough town. He was interested in boxing in high school and got to the Golden Gloves semi-finals but didn’t last. His brother, Mario, was his “corner man” and best friend.
They both were smaller guys - about 5’7”.
He was stuck in Bessemer, AL about 40 years ago. It was early evening and he wanted a drink.
Instead he stumbled on tiny boxing gym and went in - just for curiosity. His was the only white face in there.
The owner/coach/trainer asked him what that he could help him with?
Frankie told him that he had boxed in his teens. That he needed an outlet for his emotions or he would be drinking all night. Said that he would like to work out, maybe spar.
Coach Teddy told him to come back but only younger boxers were working out that night.A middle-aged White guy pounding on a 20-something Black guy smacked of some twisted racial sick thing.
No sporting goods stores were nearby, Frankie was 11 blocks to his hotel, he went back and picked up his swim trunks to use as gym trunks and tennis shoes and drove back to the gym.
Teddy couldn’t believe that he had come back. He put him to bag work, then got Frankie to unsuccessfully do many push-ups and stomach crunches. Frankie was a late-30s guy - out of commission and out of shape. This went on for 45 minutes.
Teddy let him try some sparring with Lenny, a big former high school football player in his early 20s. A mismatch in size and weight. Frankie, 5’7” and then about 180 pounds; Lenny 6’2” and 250 pounds. Headgear and battered 16 ounce gloves in a greasy old 12’ ring. As expected, Lenny started to clean the floor with Frankie - but something “switched on” in Frankie’s head and that Golden Gloves kid of 20 years before - started holding his own.
Teddy called the sparring after 20 minutes and told Frankie - that he ever wanted to come back, he would be welcome. Lenny said it was different boxing with an older guy - especially a white one - but he would love to do it again, the next time Frankie was in town.
After Frankie changed clothes - Teddy told him about an AlAnon meeting in a nearby church.
Teddy had lost his career as a middleweight due to drugs and booze 15 years before.
Frankie was afraid to go - but he did with Teddy that night.
To be continued.
(This is a work of fiction. Some characters are composites, some real.)