Not Another Boxeur Story
courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Text Domenico Paris
To make a living, he opted for boxing, the sport of tough guys par excellence. But on the ring, Panama Al Brown was not just a boxer. No, on the rings in Paris in the Twenties, he was a veritable realisation of style.
Mother Nature gave him a stunning body – one hundred and seventy-five centimetres in height and fifty-three kilos in weight – this black sylph with a super-energetic punch perfectly embodied the motto of ‘grace under pressure’ very dear to Hemingway. Always lacking in training due to his never-ending nights spent in the most exclusive clubs, the Central American ex-ship boy devoted himself to splendour and pleasures rather than working hard at the gym, persuaded that «a life without at least twenty-thousand bottles of champagne is not worth the trouble », as he stated. And bubbles were for him a real obsession. Even in the intervals between one round and another, when, bored by his opponent, he swigged a sip of that celestial nectar before knocking him flat. Then, with his large profits, he rushed to do shopping: hundreds of refined tailoring suits, countless hats and shoes, filling up entire trunks to flaunt around the world, as he did also in Milan in 1933, defending the title of bantamweight world champion against the Italian Bernasconi. And what about horses? He squandered a fortune to set up his unsuccessful stables! He was an artist into the depths of his soul, when he could not bear his foolish expenses anymore, he was also an appreciated singer and percussionist in variety shows around France and the US, beyond lover, within a shameful love affair, of Jean Cocteau.
His parabola as a character of Fitzgerald’s novels unfortunately ended up when he was just 48, in the poorest slums in New York, by then far away from the kudos of his beloved Paris, further to complications of his never-treated syphilis. But the wake of his myth keeps on marking the sky like a falling star. All to be rediscovered.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia