(originally broadcast March 12, 1950)
|[Appearing late in the history of Destination Freedom, this play probed new dimensions of the African-American experience. In this portrait from the career of boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, Durham focused his criticism on boxing and the commercial forces shaping it. Robinson was one of the most successful boxers in the history of the sport: welterweight champion at the time Durham wrote, and middleweight champ through most of the 1950s. Although this drama could have been a celebration of a black sports hero, it was instead a melancholy exploration of the inner motives of fighter, promoter, and fan. In "Premonition of the Panther," and in an earlier boxing drama about Henry Armstrong, Durham first touched themes he fully developed three decades later when writing The Greatest, the autobiography of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.]|
ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom!
(MUSIC: Theme up and under for)
ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom—dramatizations of the great democratic traditions of the Negro people—is brought to you by station WMAQ as a part of the pageant of history and of America's own Destination Freedom!
ANNOUNCER: In the field of sports the toughest place to carve an enduring niche is in the granite face of the boxing profession. Yet the saga of master athletes in the squared circle reads like fairytales and reveals the nature of the society which they entertain. Such is the young life of one of pugilism's modern immortals, Ray Robinson, world's welterweight champion. In a chapter entitled "Premonition of the Panther" we bring you the fighter's story:
(MUSIC: Drum impact very sharply and under)
RAY: I had two days to kill and six pounds to lose before the fight. They say I'm cool and controlled—but the dreams I can't control. This one—began like a thousand others.
(MUSIC: Eerie dream under building)
(SOUND: Fight crowd, gong)
RAY: The bell sounded. The crowd growled. I whirled out of my corner and over to my opponent. His face telegraphed his punches, and I moved back, slipped two fast left hooks under his heart, hammered my right cross to his head, and when he ducked, I shot a bolo blow that spun him around like a compass without a pole, and he slammed into my arms in a clinch.
(SOUND: Bodies colliding)
RAY: And for a second I looked dead into his eyes and saw his soul. Then he hit the canvas and the ref was counting:
(SOUND: Crowd gets uneasy and out)
|RAY: I watched the ref's arm rise||REF: (Echo) Four, five, six, seven,|
|and the lights in the||eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,|
|stadium went out. The referee||thirteen, thirteen, thirteen, (Fade)|
|counted past ten, stopped at||thirteen.|
|thirteen, and I tried to yell out,|
|"No, no, don't stop there!"|
REFEREE: (Same echo) I've got to stop. He's dead.
RAY: (Hushed) Who killed him!? (Close, terror stricken) I didn't want an answer. My fist, body, feet, arms, legs felt guilty, but he turned his eyes and stared at the crowd. Then he knelt beside the stricken fighter.
|RAY: I bent down and tried to lift||REF: (Priestly) Misereatur omnpotens|
|the head of the fighter, and I||Deus, et dimissis peccatis|
|cried as I looked into his wide||vestries, perducat vos ad aeternam.|
|eyes, and this time I was looking||Indulgentiam absolutionem,|
|at myself. I cried, "Get up! Get up!||et remissionem peccatorum|
|Oh, Lord, let him get up!"||tribuat nobis omnipotens et|
RAY: I tried to touch him, but someone shook me.
(MUSIC: Discord and out)
GAINSFORD: (Has been shaking him for some time) Ray! Wake up Ray! Ray—
RAY: Is he—is he dead?
GAINSFORD: (Shrewd and sharp. A West Indian seemingly oldish) Dead? What are You talking about?
RAY: (Anxious) I dreamed—I hit Doyle—
GAINSFORD: (Busy) You'll hit him day after tomorrow if you make the weight
RAY: (Cut in, anxious) Serious, George—
GAINSFORD: (Doesn't take it too seriously) Sure, sure you're always dreamin'. Now come on—get up. Get on the scales.
(SOUND: Step on scale)
GAINSFORD: (Whistles) One hundred fifty three. (Calls) Hey, Mike. Mike, bring the jump rope.
MIKE: (Off) Coming up, George, coming up.
RAY: (Sotto) George was my trainer—Mike was my second.
MIKE: (Fade on) Here's your rope, Ray. You all right?
RAY: I dreamed I killed
MIKE: (Relieved) That's the spirit! Shows you’re in condition!
GAINSFORD: (Serious) Cut the gab. This is business and serious. Ray, you got seven pounds to lose in two days. That leaves no guarantee you'll be strong enough to whip Doyle if you do—we forfeit the fifty-thousand if we don't—maybe the title.
RAY: (Grim) I'll make the weight.
GAINSFORD: I'd rather you didn't take the chance—!
RAY: I'll make it!
GAINSFORD: (Pause. Acknowledges) OK. You know the routine. Better get oil the rope first. (Aside) Wrap that sweater around him George. Set? I'll keep time.
(SOUND: Jump rope)
RAY: I got on the rope—pushed the dream back down. Felt the breeze as the rope churned the air, my muscles moving to my trainer's time. And kept pushing the dream back into my mind—and allowed others to come. I thought of...
(SOUND: jump rope fade out)
(SOUND: Tapping of a dancer in)
RAY: ...a Detroit dance school twelve years back, where my legs moved to the rhythm of another timekeeper.
FRENCHY: (Much pleased) All right, Ray. Madam Smith. Your son—he's a natural ... such form. Simply exquisite.
MRS. SMITH: (A soulful and religious individual, impression of a domineering strength. Anxious) Then—he'll really be a dancer?
FRENCHY: But one of the best! And if I were you, I'd see that he gets ballet after this class—Helps his poise, you know.
MRS. SMITH: (Hesitant) Isn't that—very expensive?
FRENCHY: (Shrugs) Oui, oui, but he is worth it. Such—natural talent!
RAY: (Quiet, satisfied) And my body reveled in dancing and whenever I dreamed, images of dancers came out of my subconsciousness and my mother thought, truly, this was the way.
MRS. SMITH: (Quiet conviction) To glory. To the kingdom of heaven on earth. To being gentle—like Jesus. Not—a ruffian and a clouter—like that big boy next door. You go to your ballet classes—let him go to his boxing rings.
(SOUND: Sudden chatter of boxing bag being whipped in gym)
RAY: But once I followed the big boy who lived next door to his gym and stared at his mighty biceps and sloping shoulders as a trainer called him.
TRAINER: All right—step in the ring and spar around awhile.
(SOUND: In under with the murmurs of a group of watchers. Sustain)
RAY: I saw his slow, liquid movements as he climbed into the ring.
(SOUND: Leather on leather)
CAST: (React to fight)
RAY: (Excitement) I saw him hide his chin under his shoulder, glide towards a second boxer in the ring, and in a move so quick my eyes couldn't follow...
(SOUND: Terrific whack and body hits the floor) ...whipped his body behind a blow and sent the boxer to the floor.
TRAINER: (A gleeful I-told-you-so laugh) What'd I tell ya, what'd I tell you?! The power of the Lord's in that right hand. That's the Lord's thunder that'll carry you to glory, boy, right to glory!
RAY: (Also awed) I'd never seen anything like it (Pause). Out on the street I waited until the big boy came out—carrying a utility bag:
(SOUND: Footsteps approaching, street sounds underneath)
LOUIS: (Laconic, passing) Hello, kid. (Fade) How's things.
RAY: Fine—say, you sure had a...(doesn't know what to say) you sure had a workout.
LOUIS: Umph (gets ready to go).
RAY: Er—er—you mind—if I carry your bag?
LOUIS: Didn't your maw tell you to stay way from me?
RAY: (Rationalizing) But—she didn't say anything about your bag. Please.
LOUIS: OK, kid. (Smile) Take it.
(SOUND: Walking down the streets of the two of them)
RAY: (Awed at it) I took it as though it were a bag of gold. A pair of faded blue trunks, skipping rope, bandages, old gloves was all it held, but for the big boy it was glory—and it transformed my desires, and I wanted to learn to weave and bob instead of to waltz or to pirouette.
MRS. SMITH: (Calling and somewhat surly) Wallllll—ker!
LOUIS: (Sotto) Better gimme this bag—your maw sees you walking with me.
MRS. SMITH: Wallllll—ker!
RAY: Yess'm! (Aside) So—long, Joe.
LOUIS: (Fade) See you later, kid.
RAY: He went next door. My mother caught me, swung me around.
RAY: (Winces) Ma—I—I just held his bag!
MRS. SMITH: You held the devil's bag! Everybody on this street knows that big boy—that Joe Louis'll never amount to anything. Now you keep away from him.
RAY: I will ... I will...
MRS. SMITH: I know you will because we won't be around him much longer.
RAY: Where we going?
MRS. SMITH: (Slower, touch of sadness) New York. I've waited a long time for your father to come back—seems like he never will. We've got to look for a home. I can't make it here. We're going to try New York.
RAY: New York?
MRS. SMITH: Yes, son. (Wistful, pause) They tell me New York's quite the place—for dancers.
(MUSIC: Tag with Boccerini effect. To gloom)
RAY: She was right: It was. It was also the place where she bent over a washboard, washing clothes to pay rent, food and light and gas bills, and for my dancing lessons.
(SOUND: Washboard scrubbing in under)
(SOUND: Door opened, scrubbing out)
MRS. SMITH: Who's that?
RAY: (Fade on) Me, Ma.
MRS. SMITH: (Cheerful) Well! The teacher sent you to dance in the Kenya Club—how'd they like you?
RAY: (Something else in mind) Oh—fine, fine. Made two dollars. Here.
MRS. SMITH: (Sighs) Well—go on upstairs to bed, get some rest. I've got to finish this laundry—(begins scrubbing).
RAY: (Touched) Ma, ain’t you quit?
MRS. SMITH: Who'll keep us going?
RAY: Me! I'll—I'll go out—do—do anything—just stop washin'.
MRS. SMITH: (Patient, kindly) I don't mind, son. What you could make now wouldn't be worth your givin' up your chances for dancing. (Dream) Nothing in the world's beautiful as dancing. I'll finish before daybreak.
(SOUND: Scrubbing again)
MRS. SMITH: You get some sleep.
(MUSIC: Tag, morbid Boccerini)
RAY: (Sober) I was her dream. The dream she kept alive behind mountains of clothes as she watched me dancing. But one evening a shadow fell across the dream:
(SOUND: Knocking, door opened)
LOUIS: What do you know—kid?
RAY: (Up) Hey! Joe! Hey—ma! Look who's here! Joe! (Much ad-lib and hustle as he make his friend comfortable) Come on in, Joe. Sit down. How you been? Hey—ma, look who's here!
MRS. SMITH: (Steady as though he's an enemy) Good evening, Joe.
LOUIS: Evening, Mrs. Smith. Ma said for me to look you up.
MRS. SMITH: What are you here for?
LOUIS: Well—I'm fighting.
MRS. SMITH: "Fighting!"
RAY: (Intercedes) Didn't you read the papers, ma? Joe's fighting the ex-heavy champ, Primo Carnera. (Grabs paper) Here, his picture's right on the same page with Henry Armstrong's—
MRS. SMITH: (Cuts him) "Henry Armstrong"—you're picking up strange idols for a dancer.
RAY: (Subsides) Well—Joe grew up with us. Stay for dinner?
LOUIS: Can't. I've got to go down to the garden to weigh in. Here's two tickets to the fight. Maybe you all would like to come.
RAY: (Eager) Sure—thanks.
MRS. SMITH: Walker!
RAY: (Hands back) Well—maybe I—I won't have time. Keep 'em.
LOUIS: OK. (Fade) I'll tell mom I saw you all. So long.
RAY: I'll walk you downstairs, Joe. I'll be back, Maw!
SOUND: Door closed. Go down steps to street sounds)
RAY: Hey—Joe? Can I—can I carry your bag?
LOUIS: (Smiles) Sure, kid. Take it.
RAY: I took the magic bag again.
(SOUND: Stadium sound)
RAY: I went to the garden and saw the big boy empty its contents, and put on the scanty armor of the prizefighter. And I sat by the ringside...
(SOUND: Sneak in garden crowd)
RAY: ...when he manipulated a giant of a fighter as I'd seen him do in the gym, and throw the full weight of his body behind a punch.
(SOUND: Terrific crowd response)
RAY: And the giant collapsed.
RAY: And the referee raised the arm of my next-door neighbor in victory!
(SOUND: Ease the crowd sound down)
|RAY: And the referee raised the||REF: A-one. A-two. A-three. A-four.|
|arm of my next-door||A-five. A-six. A-seven. A-eight.|
|neighbor in victory!||A-nine. A-ten. (Up) The winnah|
|by a knockout. A-Joe A-Louis!|
RAY: I waited around to touch the magic bag again; I got more than the touch.
LOUIS: (Flushed with victory) You keep the bag, kid. I'm buying new togs.
RAY: What can I put in it?
LOUIS: Anything that'll fit. See you later, kid.
RAY: Thanks, Joe. I slipped the bag into the house—hid it under my bed, sneaked it out in the mornings, filled it with dancing togs, shoes, pants—but the magic was missing. There was only one way—to put it back again: I took it to the coach down at Salem-Crescent boxing gym.
(SOUND: In under behind with the rattle of a punching bag and various assorted gym sounds)
GAINSFORD: (Speculating) Nice boxing bag you got kid—but do you know how to use what's in it?
RAY: Bring out one of your boys—I'll show you.
GAINSFORD: (Chuckles) Cocky anyhow. (Calls) Hey Mike—what do you know about this kid?
MIKE: I don't know. Give him a rope. Let's see his footwork—here, boy!
RAY: Yes, sir.
(SOUND: Rope in close under following. Whistles "Big Noise from Winnetka" as he jumps)
GAINSFORD: (Nods, pleased) Fast and fancy—fast and fancy, but skipping rope's never knocked out anybody: Heart, nerve, guts, drive, daring, confidence, and skill's needed. I only train the best amateurs. How do I know you're worth it? You weigh 110, and you're tall and skinny as a rail. Besides, I already got one skeleton I'm using on tonight's card, and he's good—
MIKE: (Cut in close) Eh—George, better take this kid. Your regular skeleton's got a cold. Might need a sub.
GAINSFORD: (Understands) Oh—well like I was saying, I'll give anybody a chance to commit suicide at least once. Here's your chance.
(SOUND: Rope stops)
GAINSFORD: Be out at Waterford Arena tonight at eight. I might need you. Be sure to bring your license with you.
RAY: (Lame) License?
GAINSFORD: (Fade) You can't fight without 'em. If you haven't got 'em yet, here's three bucks to pay down on 'em. Go on over to the commissioner's—you're eighteen, aren't you?
RAY: (Gulp) Well—
GAINSFORD: (Shrugs) If you're not, forget it. (Fade) Commissioner's strict about that age. Very strict.
RAY: I stood there, lost. I was not eighteen; my mother would never consent. I had to get two extra years and a license.
THE REAL RAY: (Demurring) Course, I could let you use my license and my name—only it's against the rules.
RAY: (Sotto) I had found a young fighter who wasn't fighting that week.
THE REAL: It's a deal—on one condition.
THE REAL: You'll be using my name. When you get in that ring—don't louse up my good reputation, Jack. And when the bell rings, come out fighting.
(SOUND: In under with restless boxing crowd)
RAY: That night I was waiting for the bell, shivering in my corner. My coach put his lips to my ear.
GAINSFORD: (Whispering close) Control yourself. This guy you're fighting is AAU champ, plenty strong—If he's too rough—lay down—take a fall. Understand?
RAY: I did. The AAU champ stood across a stretch of white canvas that seemed as wide as the Sahara.
(SOUND: Bell rings, crowd up, sound of scuffling)
RAY: (Terse and tight) I stumbled out of my corner and caught a sledgehammer blow in my face that made my head blaze. More blows bit into my body, and all I could see were the blazing lights above me. But soon my legs began to bounce, rock, dance, and step as though they had eyes of their own. My fists began to punch like pistons, driving, slashing, hooking, crossing back and forth until they felt like lead too heavy for me to lift again. Someone else was lifting them
REF II: The winnah! By decision: Ray Robinson.
(SOUND: Crowd cheers)
RAY: I heard the referee call an unfamiliar name—
REF II: Ray Robinson!
GAINSFORD: That's you, fool! Acknowledge it!
RAY: I bowed in a daze. I'd forgotten my borrowed name. My trainer threw a borrowed robe around my shoulder, and newspapermen on the ringside asked—
NEWSPAPER: (All ad-lib: "Where'd you get the new boy, Gainsford? How about him?" etc.)
GAINSFORD: (Pleased) What do you guys think of him?
NEWSPAPER: (Ad-lib: "Sweet, sweet as sugar!" "Sweet fighter there.")
GAINSFORD: (Passing on) He's sweet all right. But he's got a bitter pill in his left hand.
NEWSPAPER: (They chuckle and ad-lib)
RAY: I hardly knew what they were talking about. Neither did—mom—who read the morning paper.
(SOUND: Rustling of paper)
MRS. SMITH: (Shakes her head in pity) More boys going into boxing!
RAY: Is that right?
MRS. SMITH: Right here in the Times it says: "Last night a new boxer of exceptional promise was discovered at Waterford Arena. Reporters named him 'Sugar.' They predict that 'Sugar' will be the most outstanding fighter in the East." What a pity. When all the world needs gentle people—they train panthers. Well, at least when you dance, you can make them forget fighters—won't you? Are you listening, son?
RAY: (Constrained) Yes—mom.
MRS. SMITH: (Going off) Yes, indeed, entirely too much violence in this world. Why if we don't watch out—
RAY: But I was already making the predictions come true. Confidence was filling my magic bag, and one night when my fist thundered into a fighter, he rolled over in the resin and lay dead still. I trembled in my dressing room. I was scared stiff—waiting—waiting.
(SOUND: Door opens and closes)
RAY: What's the matter with him?
GAINSFORD: (Cool) You put a sixty-mile-a-minute blow on his head.
RAY: Yea, yea! But is he—?
GAINSFORD: He's out, that's all. He'll come to. That was your first knockout. How do you feel?
RAY: (Close, uneasy) I felt queer. There was something haunting about the power that flowed into my veins and warmed my blood when I knew I could snap men into darkness with a flick of' my fist.
REF: (Slightly off) Winnah—by a knockout. Sugar Ray Robinson.
REF II: (Fading) Winnah by a knockout. Sugar Ray Robinson.
GAINSFORD: (Takes a very, very long drawn whistle) Geee! Look at that record—look at that record! Not a single defeat.
RAY: (Uncomfortable) I know.
GAINSFORD: You knocked out every man you faced. No wonder the Tycoon wants to manage you.
RAY: What for?
GAINSFORD: Look—you can burn yourself out in amateur and never earn a dime!
RAY: I'm earning—
GAINSFORD: (Cut in) Sure you picked up a few bucks in bootleg fights—but the real dough's with the pros. What's the matter, you're not still thinking of dancing—are you?
GAINSFORD: Then come on up to the penthouse and see the Tycoon—He can get you fights you'd never get on your own. He'll start you on the road to the championship. You coming?
RAY: (Pause) S—sure, sure George. But—I haven't been to see mom—in weeks. (Shy) She thinks I'm on the road—dancing. I've got something for her.
GAINSFORD: (Sympathetic, softer) I knew you'd been saving it. If you get away tonight—come up to the Tycoon's penthouse on Broadway. (Fade) See you later—champ.
RAY: (Quiet) A little later I was opening the door of mom's place.
(SOUND: Door opened and up with sound of scrubbing)
RAY: She was bent over a tub. I touched her. Mom—you can send that washing back where it came from.
MRS. SMITH: (Straightening up, no joy) Yes?
RAY: Here. Look at this. Count it. (He starts to count) One—two—three—four—Oh, I’ve already counted it. It's three thousand dollars!
MRS. SMITH: (Pause. Quiet, unmoved) Where'd you get it?
RAY: I—earned it.
MRS. SMITH: (Flat, sarcastic) Dancing?
RAY: (Low) Mom—listen.
MRS. SMITH: (Pursues with fever rising) I thought I named you Walker Smith.
RAY: Sure, but—
MRS. SMITH: Wasn't that good enough for a dancer?
RAY: Let me explain—
MRS. SMITH: (Cut in) You don't need to lie. I know! I saw a picture in the paper of an "outstanding" bloody prizefighter! He had your face. He had another name: Ray Robinson! It was you!
MRS. SMITH: Get out of here!
RAY: (Cut in) Listen, mom, I meant to tell you! I couldn't see any other way of getting anything for a long, long time. I—saw fighters like Henry Armstrong and Joe Louis—pulling in a night what no poor man makes in a lifetime—and never earn a fighting—Well, I like fighting.
MRS. SMITH: (Cut in) Savage!
RAY: (Hurt but continues) You don't understand.
MRS. SMITH: Get out of here!
RAY: Mom—don't—listen to me!
(SOUND: Door thrown open)
MRS. SMITH: Get out! And here! Take your bloody money with you! Here, take it all!
(SOUND: Door slammed)
(MUSIC: Sting and hold in under)
RAY: (Pause. Quiet, more relaxed) White snow was falling. The green bills made queer patterns blowing about in the wind. I got down on my knees and gathered up all I could. I stuck them under the door, then faced the blowing snow—walked the long way to Broadway—found the Tycoon's penthouse.
(SOUND: Thin buzzer of an apartment, off door opened)
TYCOON: (A gigantic, florid frame. The secure arrogance of the ignorant) come in, come in, my man, we've been waiting for you. (Calls) Middleburry—pour Mr. Robinson a drink—please.
VALET: Yes, sir!
RAY: (Coming in) No thanks. I don't drink, sir.
TYCOON: Endangers your professional standing? (Chuckles) of course. Then let your
trainer have one for you. (Florid waving) Mr. Gainsford—help yourself. Now we can conclude our deal for the—er— services of this young panther. (Appraises him, chuckles) Stand out there where I can see you! So you are the notorious "Sugar." Never lost a fight?
RAY: I—don't believe I know you—Mr.—
TYCOON: (Brush aside) It's not important that you know me. It's only important that I know you—and I'm willing to buy you.
RAY: (Stung) Who said I was for sale?
TYCOON: (Cut in) Of course you're for sale. Everything's for sale, depends on the price. Now—
GAINSFORD: Er—Sugar—he just means your boxing contract.
TYCOON: Exactly. Now I suppose you're curious as to why a man of my position would want you
RAY: (Correct) Would want my contract—
TYCOON: It's all the same. Well—to put it bluntly—you're so fortunate because big-game hunting happens to be my hobby. (Florid) Look on the walls there, a tiger I bagged in Bengal. That elephant's from Ceylon. There's a python—gorilla, leopard, lions from Africa.
RAY: (As before) Where do I fit in?
TYCOON: Aha! Now—on the other wall you see my hunting guns: the best rifles, pistols, shotguns. Well—to put it bluntly—I'm seeking another kind of game: men— specifically prizefighters. For that I need a weapon, the best. You can punch, they say, faster and sharper than any man living or dead. You are such a weapon.
RAY: (Aside) George—I don't like this guy.
TYCOON: Affection doesn't matter! (Goes on) Now—in return for bringing me certain victories—mostly by knockout—I will assure you that no boxing club in the country will bar you. You will have clear channel to the title—as long, of course, as you—bring in victories. I must have excitement. Boredom kills me!
VALET: (Uneasy) Sir—remember what the doctor said about your heart?
TYCOON: Forget the heart—I want to talk business with these gentlemen. You'll sign? Of course you will! Now there a certain blow you use, young man, a sort of slashing, looping uppercut I especially like.
RAY: You mean the bolo?
TYCOON: (Ecstasy) Ahhhh I love it, I love it! Use it in your next fight—for I must have excitement, and nothing excites me as much as blood. (Fade slowly to background, continuing) I'll want to have action, action, plenty of action! None of your tame stuff, give me blood.
RAY: (Close, wondrous) So I entered the gilded gates of the professionals with my peculiar pilot always occupying...
(SOUND: Sneak in under the stadium crowd sounds and sustain)
RAY: ...two ringside seats and pounding his fist in fury throughout my bouts. And while I was throwing punches in the ring, I could hear his shout above the crowd.
TYCOON: (Through crowd but close and clear) Harder, Sugar, harder. Hit harder.
(SOUND: Sneak out)
RAY: I often dreamed of his pounding fist until the night in June when we went to his penthouse to negotiate a new contract.
TYCOON: (Ecstasy, chuckles) An excellent performance tonight, my panther, excellent. I haven't had as much excitement since I hunted the wild buffalo in Mozambique. We'll discuss the future contract—but what blood you drew last night! What—arms. (Begins to cough) Middleburry! Help! (Cough)
RAY: He suddenly staggered and slumped with his head striking the tusk of his stuffed Ceylon elephant.
GAINSFORD: Maybe we can take up the contract another time.
VALET: (With some dignity and regret) Gentlemen, you've lost your contract. Mr. Dumbarton is dead.
(MUSIC: Punctuate with drum impact)
GAINSFORD: (Impression of some time passed) I suppose—we'll look for another manager, Sugar.
RAY: No, another manager may be like the last—better, or worse. Managers don't share the danger, but they share too much of your purse. If I go on—I intend to keep some of the fruits.
GAINSFORD: Good. Let's climb together.
(SOUND: Sneak crowd)
|RAY: And from Buffalo to Cleveland||REF II: The winnah: Ray Robinson we climbed in the|
|In Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio,||REF I: Winnah! Sugar Ray!|
|Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey,|
|Florida we kept on the trail of the|
|welterweight title. Tracked it down|
|through forty fights in a dozen states.|
|I kept on the trail, climbing up the ladder|
|until I took the welterweight title.|
|And as I climbed, I met many of|
|my idols on the way down.|
(SOUND: Crowd out)
(SOUND: Door opened)
GAINSFORD: (Eases in) Sugar—a gentleman here to see you.
RAY: George brought one to my apartment.
HENRY: (As though his lips are split) I'm Henry Armstrong—you remember me?
RAY: You know I do!
HENRY: My manager's been trying to get you.
RAY: (Cut in) And I turned it down because I can't stand fighting you—my friend—I couldn't do it!
GAINSFORD: Listen—the newspapers might say—
RAY: I don't care what the newspapers say! Since I was a kid dancing in school I looked up to Henry Armstrong as my idol—I don't want to help tear him down—
RAY: (Stops, quiet) Yes, Henry.
HENRY: Do you think I want to fight you, kid? Don't you think I want to see you go oil and stay up there? Why do I come here begging for you to fight me? The way you punch, a man who's not in condition could get killed. Why do I ask? (Quieter) Because I'm busted, kid. Because I need the money, and this is the only way I know how to get it. Don't ask me what happened to my dough. Who got it?—the gamblers, the promoters, the racketeers, the managers? Don't ask me. Fight with you'll draw plenty—enough—maybe to help me—get started again (Pause). Will you fight me—pal?
(MUSIC: Sting and under)
RAY: (Throaty)—fought him. I beat him. I kept clear of the gamblers and kept climbing, looking for middleweights, catching their 170 pounds in the crisscross of my lefts and rights—listening to my trainer from the corner. Learn—
COMMISSIONER: Ummmmmm Doyle you're under the wire. One-hundred-forty-six even. How about you Robinson?
(SOUND: Clank of scales)
COMMISSIONER: (Peering closer) Ummmmm—well now—let me see—almost almost—over—nope—on the head!
CAST: (Relieved murmurs from onlookers)
COMMISSIONER: OK, you men. Be in the stadium at eight P.M. The fight's on.
CAST: (Murmurs from spectators while)
RAY: I had eight hours to eat beef broth and steak, gain my strength and bearing, and at three—I lay tossing about on my hotel bed—afraid—to sleep.
GAINSFORD: (Concerned) Look—Sugar, if there's anything wrong, we can cancel.
RAY: I just don't wanna sleep.
GAINSFORD: You got to rest!
RAY: I—was thinking about that dream!
GAINSFORD: Awww—that kid looks as healthy as an ox—You see his biceps?
RAY: (Comforted) Yea—
GAINSFORD: (Sighs) You took off six pounds in two days, and you're worried about—hurting him.
RAY: That dream—
GAINSFORD: Go to sleep (Fade).
(MUSIC: Sneak in with dream effect and sustain throughout)
RAY: It was three o'clock. My habit of sleeping three hours before a fight caught up with me. And I had the dream again. It was eight o'clock. The stadium was packed.
(SOUND: In under with stadium crowd)
RAY: I heard the fight bell and...
(SOUND: Gong! Scuffling under)
RAY: ...the crowd's growl. I whirled out of my corner, saw Doyle's tense face telegraph his punches and I (in action) slipped two fast left hooks under his heart, hammered my right home to his head, and when he ducked, slashed him with a bolo blow that spun him like a compass without a pole. He clinched, and for an instant I was looking into his startled eyes, so deep I could see my own soul. He slipped from my grip and hit the canvas.
(SOUND: Crowd up)
|RAY: (Hushed) I knew I was dreaming||REF: One. Two. Three. Four. Five.|
|—I'd dreamed the same thing||Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.|
|before—but this time—the referee|
|stopped at ten, not thirteen.|
(SOUND: Crowd up)
RAY: This time my opponent's handlers jumped through the ropes and took him out of the ring. I fought my way to his dressing room:
DOCTOR: Are you—Sugar Ray?
RAY: A doctor looked at me for long time and at my fist. "Yes."
DOCTOR: I'm afraid—he is hurt.
DOCTOR: All the way. Cerebral hemorrhage. I'd say—in a few hours—he'll be dead.
(MUSIC: Sting and out. Hold music before cuing)
RAY: I put my arms around his bruised face, kissed him, and for the first time in my life wept—without shame—not only for him—but for myself, for my fellow fighters—fallen, stricken, climbing the ladder or trying to cut their niche in a blood and leather world. When I swore I'd quit, a wiser—older trainer shook his head.
GAINSFORD: No—you won't quit. And I'll tell you why. You belong to the crowds out there. They're your brothers. You're the keeper of their savagery and fighting skill. You're the weapon they hunt with. There's no quitting.
(MUSIC: Sneak curtain)
RAY: He was right. I was made up of everything the crowd needed and screamed for. They had become my manager.
RAY: Maybe if another kind of crowd had molded me, had let me carry their magic bag, I would have been what Mrs. Smith wanted. But my crowd pays off to the panthers that climb the ladder without rings: the prizefight game. And they like to see their panthers—sharpen their claws. That is what I found when I threw away dancing shoes—for Joe Louis's magic bag.
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard Destination Freedom’s dramatization of "Premonition of the Panther," the story of welterweight champion Ray Robinson.