Where you going big brother? Please don’t run so fast. I’m only five and can’t catch you and mommy’s dead and our aunt only wants you, I guess, and now I’m alone and it’s getting dark and cold and I’m scared someone’s going to get me I hope this policeman will help. I think he does. Or maybe God puts me on the steps of a Philadelphia church where nuns take me in and name me Matthew Franklin for an apostle and a patriot and they find a family to adopt me but that doesn’t work since I’m usually in reform school for getting beat up by guys who call me little orphan. Someday I’ll make them stop. In my teens I get bigger and go to the gym and fight as an amateur and in the streets lay out the last two guys who try me and in 1974 turn pro at age twenty-two.
I’m ready to take it to every guy I fight. I’m going to knock them out. I know I hit a lot harder and take more hard punches than anyone I’ve seen. Guys don’t like fighting me. Maybe they like it early because I’m easy to hit and they think I’m ready to go. But I’m not. I’ve got heart and stamina and the hardest body and head around and recover and win and in two years am already fighting contenders and in 1977 lose a close one I think I win against Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. That doesn’t slow me in a few months I fight Marvin Johnson and take ten times the left crosses he usually needs to knock guys out. I know he thinks I’m going. He thinks that until I grind him down in the twelfth round. In 1979 I fight Marvin Johnson for his world light heavyweight title that’s not really his it’s mine and he knows it when I batter him and he falls in the eighth and gets up but can’t take any more.
I’m champion of the world and happy to have so many friends at great parties in my homes and hotel rooms and cars I give away along with cash to help those who love me. The money’s rolling in as I beat slick John Conteh twice, pounding him in the fourth the second time, and in 1980 I defend my title against Yaqui Lopez and thrill everyone in the eighth while I throw nothing and he hits me forty, fifty, sixty times, maybe more, who the hell knows, fans think Yaqui’s finally going to get his title and he may get a title someday but he ain’t getting mine. Somehow – and I can’t explain it other than hard training and determination – I recover late in that eighth round and start hitting him and take over and knock him down four times in the fourteenth. My friends are happy and tell me, you’re the greatest champ ever. Can you help me out? Of course I can.
I defend my title six, seven, eight times. Most of my fights are wars and some say I take more punishment than guys I beat. That’s okay. That’s who I am. I’m going to take it to Dwight Braxton in 1981. I try to. I hit him hard as I hit the other guys but Braxton doesn’t blink, and he slugs like no one I’ve fought. I’m going to recover, though. I’m going to make another miracle. I’ll wear Dwight Braxton out. He won’t keep hitting me this hard. I hope he doesn’t. It’s difficult to see and stand much less fight. No one’s ever stopped me but in the tenth I know I’m beaten. All right. Just give me a tune-up and I’ll fight him again. I’ll box him this time. I’ll stick and move. That’s what I want to do but don’t know how and am an open target for Braxton’s devastating right hands. The guy’s only five-seven, more than four inches shorter, but somehow his arms are almost as long as mine and much stronger. I take six rounds of bombs from a tougher man and don’t argue when the referee stops it in the sixth.
I’m still only twenty-eight. I don’t think of retiring. How many champs my age have retired? I’m going to keep earning money. I need my homes and cars and to keep helping my friends. I’ve got about fifty close ones who’re always around. I’ve got to fight for them, too. In a few months I take on a guy named Eric Winbush. He’s got an eleven and six record and stops me in the third round. A year later I’m stopped again by someone and start fighting guys with little experience and losing records and some of them beat me but I’m mostly winning again until 1988 when I lose by technical knockout in the first round and I don’t remember all the facts but realize I’m losing lots of fights against unknowns and by 1992 lose three more in a row, twice getting stopped, and don’t need this anymore.
What’s the point? The money and glory are gone and so are my friends. I’m okay. I travel around. I just don’t remember where I go. Isn’t that strange? I must’ve been somewhere. In 2010 I understand where I am. I’m back on the streets of Philadelphia, not sure how long. I know enough one day to go to a homeless shelter and stay a few months. I’m doing much better now. I’ve got a little place. Boxing’s no damn good, you know. I’m light heavyweight champion of the world and have friends all over. I want to see them. I hope they’ll visit me. I’ve got Lou Gehrig’s disease and nobody beats that without a lot of help.