In memory of Alec “Spangles” Hunter (1936 – 1995)
When they found Marciano’s body
strapped in the crashed plane seat,
someone said start counting, he’ll get up.
He always did, when he was down.
I remembered that story the day
Spangles went down.
A sweet tooth behind a bark:
thir’ll be no fuckin’ swearin in this gym!
A face marked by 626 fights.
At fifty nine, he went down refereeing a bout
with no one to replace him to take up a count
that went by so fast we had our doubts
it was over.
That’s anithir season yeh’v wastit!
He’d say when I’d return to the gym
years after my last fight,
and with more appetite
for the atmosphere than the blows
that carved and cut and shaped him
like a pumpkin fired within.
Anithir season wastit
as though he thought I’d be back.
As though to say: he’s just resting.
I was young after all.
Now, I hit harder with the weight
time packs into a punch, and slower,
with energy that saps like the sweat
I watch drip away, wondering
what Spangles would say
about this new club full of women
and bairns and music – attitudes
shaped by the seasons he’s been gone.
His voice plays on – an old record
scratched and scored as his face,
and turning in my memory:
This isnae a fuckin’ youth club!
As if to say: this isn’t a game.
You don’t play boxing.
Months after the old club
was knocked down and out of existence
the headline read:
Final Round for Boxing Legend.
That was 1995.
This is another century, another gym
with the same fighting spirit alive
in twelve year olds I watch spar
and prepare fir anithir season.