I met Abe Simon,
A retired Jewish boxer,
When I was eleven.
At my father’s request
Abe agreed to teach me how to box
So I wouldn’t be bullied.
Abe was a cinderblock of a man,
His arms and the back of his giant hands
Covered with dark hair.
A time and place was set
For Abe and me in the basement of our house,
Ringed by a washing machine, a freezer
And a ping pong table.
Word had gotten out,
And the neighborhood kids
Lined up outside the basement windows
To watch me flail at Abe’s hands.
Abe was matter of fact.
I was mortified and determined.
A little nervous at what would happen
When Abe was gone.
Abe lost two championship fights
With Joe Louis in the forties.
He weighed in at 255, Louis at 207.
On film it was clear that Louis was faster and more skilled.
But Abe, looking as large and strong as I remember,
Didn’t back down, not for a second.