The Kid’s Last Fight


It was Tiger Wilson versus Kid McCoy
In the summer of ninety-three
Now the Kid was everybody’s pride and joy
Just as game as a Kid could be

And his darlin’ Bess was in the second row
She was prayin’ with all her might
Sayin’, “Kid, we need that little bungalow
Oh, you’ve just gotta win tonight”

Come on, Kid, come on, Kid
Let’s hit him with a left and the right
Go on, Kid, go on, Kid
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight

Now the Kid had fever to the very bone
But nobody would ever guess
He was in there fightin’ on his heart alone
‘Cause he just had to win for Bess

Oh, the Kid was battered, the Kid was floored
But the count never got to ten
Though his brain was reelin’ when the people roared
He was up on his feet again

Come on, Kid, come on, Kid
Let’s hit him with a left and the right
Go on, Kid, go on, Kid
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight

Said the tiger, scowlin’ “Don’t you know you’re through
I can whip you just like a child”
I’m gonna take the fight and take your woman too
When he heard that the Kid went wild

Said the Kid, for that “I’ll tear you limb from limb
And he sprang like an angry colt”
He said a punch a flyin’ at the tiger’s chin
Knocked him out like a thunderbolt

Come on, Kid, come on, Kid
Let’s hit him with a left and the right
Go on, Kid, go on, Kid
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight

To the crowd that saw it there was little doubt
That the Kid was a champ that night
But the champ would never have another bout
It was the fever that won the fight

Gather round, I’m bettin’ even money folks
There’s a bell soundin’ way up high
And the champ is climbin’ through the golden ropes
Of the big ring up in the sky

Come on, Kid, come on, Kid
Let’s hit him with a left and the right
Go on, Kid, go on, Kid
But how were they to know it was the Kid’s last fight


                                           …Bob Merrill



Kid McCoy  had no  business in the ring with Tiger Wilson.  He  wasn’t that good a fighter.  I should know; I’ve been his manager for the last three years. Sure, he had fought undefeated for two years in a row, but that was only because I never matched him against an opponent who was his better. Each of his fights were like cream. There was never the possibility of his going down.  I saw to that.  Now, his string of TKO’s had brought him to a bout with the champ.

It wasn’t just the title that the kid was after.  It was the money. He and his wife Bess had been living in a cold water, fifth floor walk up on Avenue C since they  got together two years ago. Now there is a baby on the way and Bess has her eye on a one-story house in Greenpoint. And the kid promised he would get it for her before the baby came. Time was running out, and this shot at the middle-weight championship  is his ticket to Greenpoint.

Everybody loved the kid.  He was the Prince of Alphabet City, and she was his Cinderella.  When he found her, she was stripping on stage in a crummy New Jersey bar.  She liked Jersey because they had nudity laws that required the wearing of pasties and a G-String, so she could honestly tell her family that she wasn’t dancing naked. But the same kind of slime ran through these Jersey joints as in the nude bars of Manhattan.  Pasties or not, she had to deal with the damp groping of the men whose gave her the tips that kept her fed.

When the kid walked into that bar, she was happy to walk out with him.  His place was a dump, but at least he didn’t have five junkie room-mates for furniture like she did.  And they cleaned it up so it was pretty nice for the two of them, but still was no place for a baby.

I was never in favor of matching him against Wilson, but nonetheless  promised to make it happen.  I didn’t expect him to last more than three rounds, and knew how much it was going to hurt to walk away from that fight a loser.

It wasn’t just going to hurt the kid.  A defeat was going to be a kick in the gut to the whole neighborhood. The people loved him.  He was the man who could rise above the street and open the gates for everyone. Time and again, they had seen that he could do it.  Nobody knew that he was just a mediocre fighter who had earned his reputation by the force of his will more than by the power of his fists. But the fans had seen him take down one opponent after another, and that was enough to make them believe he was a champion. He believed it too.  Some kind of self-delusion is necessary in this world in order to stay on top of things, but underneath our bravado most of us know the truth about our own weaknesses. It wasn’t like that with the kid.  He truly believed he was the best fighter in the world, and that everybody else was a pushover.

On the second day of training for the bout with  Wilson, I decided to go tough on him when we sparred, I didn’t pull any punches, and hit a little harder than usual.  When I connected, I made sure it hurt. I wanted him to know what pain felt like, so when he got into the ring with Wilson, the crack of his fists wouldn’t come as any surprise. I didn’t want him to come off looking like a baby who had just been stung by a bee for the first time.

“Go easy on me, would you Billy?” he laughed after taking my first concerted punch. “It’s early still and I haven’t got my legs yet.”

“Sure kid,” I answered, then punched him even harder.  “Just let me work off some of these Wheaties first.” I danced around him for a few seconds, giving him time to get his  guard back up.  Then I doubled him over with  three quick jabs to the gut.   I straightened him up with an uppercut to the chin that tipped that slinky between his ears just enough to make him wonder for a second which way he was going to fall before he hit the mat.

“That’s it for today,” I told him after helping him to his feet. “You go home and think about what just happened, and figure out how you are going to deal with it when Wilson gives you the same in spades.”

He was fighting mad when he came in early the next morning, and I had a hard time holding my own against him. It didn’t matter, though.  He had learned his lesson and I didn’t have to needle him any more. Each day he got tougher, until the day of the bout came and the thought that he might survive it began to look like a real possibility.

Tiger Wilson had held the middle-weight championship for two and a half years.  During that time, plenty of good fighters had tried to take the belt away from him, but  none had come close.  While Wilson was kicking the asses of these serious contenders, the Kid was knocking down blow-up dolls. It was a farce, but people believed in it, and I didn’t want to let them down, so I kept setting up the pins and the kid went on rolling his strikes.  The neighborhood was proud to have a champion in their midst, and the kid was happy to be that champion. It’s too bad he wasn’t a better fighter.  He deserved to be better than he was, but so does everybody. Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t be better than is yourself.

Bess had been at ringside, in the second row, at every one of the kid’s fights, and she was right there for the bout with Wilson. Most women would be leery of sitting so close to the scene of battle, but the possibility of being an  eyewitness to her man’s slaughter never occurred to her. Two years of easy victories had made her as sleepy as an over-fed guard dog who reacts to the rattle of a potential prowler like a caged lion to  the zookeeper at feeding time. To her, everything was cream.

At least until the fight began, and Wilson’s first punch knocked the Kid to the floor.  He was up at the count of five, but was unable to land a punch before Wilson sent him to the mat a second time.  Again he heard the counting but this time he couldn’t get back on his feet until the ref had six fingers in the air. He was going to get that son of a bitch now.  When the ref let them have at each other, the Kid threw his full body weight at  Wilson,  who deflected the weight like it was a sack of flour tossed down to him from the back of a truck. He caught the kid  and threw him down.

Bess snapped out of  her complacent stupor and was praying hard. The referee was counting and even though a part of her wanted the kid to stay down, a voice inside told her that she would never get that house in Greenpoint unless he got back on his feet and proved to the world that he was the champion. The ref counted nine as the kid pulled himself up on his knees, then arched his back and pushed himself all the way up straight. Wilson approached him, but didn’t hit.  Instead he whispered, “You’re through, kid. I’m going to suck the life out of you like a vulture sucks the eggs in a robin’s nest. I’m going to throw you down hard, and while you’re licking your wounds in the hospital bed, I’m going to pay a visit to your wife.”

He laughed a nasty little laugh and danced a few steps back, taking a deep breath while calculating the most effective way to deliver the knock- out punch. Effective, that is, from the standpoint of maximum visual effect  for the benefit of the audience.  This was his showboating moment, breaking the calm with the force of absolute victory. Then the kid, whose fury had been rising to an uncontainable pitch, surprised him with an unexpected lunge and the crack of a fist across the bridge of his nose. The crowd rose to its feet and hollered, “Come’ on kid. Hit him with a left and a right!!!!””  And the kid threw a lightning punch to Wilson’s chin that landed at just the right spot so that the kid didn’t have to throw another.  The champion was down for the count.  Kid McCoy was the new middleweight champion.

As the ref grabbed the kid’s wrist to raise his arm in a victory salute, the kid’s knees went out. His eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped forward.  Bess screamed as his face hit the floor, and she knew it was over. The crowd screamed too.  They had got their champion, and he was leaving the ring in a body bag.

It had been Wilson’s third punch that killed the kid.  The only thing that got him back on his feet was his determination to get that house for Bess and the baby.  He might not have stayed on his feet long had Wilson not got into his face and crowed on about whipping his little baby ass and then calling on his wife. That sent a fever rushing  through the dying fighter that leapt up right through his shattered body to plaster the bastard’s face with the blows that took him down.

I was saying earlier that a man can never be more that what he is, but I don’t believe that anymore. The kid might not have been much of a fighter, but he had that human fire inside him that keeps a man going long after he is gone.  I’m hoping that fever is still burning inside him, even though his body now is resting in the grave. And I feel in my heart that Kid McCoy is still fighting, and is in fact a better fighter now than he ever was. I can tell you  right now, that if I’m judged worthy enough to be given a ringside seat to that great boxing ring in the sky,  that when I see the kid coming through those golden ropes with his gloves held high, I’m  going to stake my share of eternity on him to  win.