- End of the Bench
- Little Mac From ‘Punch-Out’ Falls on Hard Times
Little Mac From ‘Punch-Out’ Falls on Hard Times
By Matt GrimminckI was on top of the world: a poor kid from the Bronx becoming a heavy-weight champ with an arsenal of five different punches. I fought an assortment of talented fighters, colorful characters, and crass ethnic stereotypes to come out on top. But then the bottom dropped out. I was young and naïve - another victim of the boxing game chewing up and spitting out poor kids like a bloody mouth guard. My career started out great. Boxing promoters loved the idea of a teenager fighting grown men. It was like a Shetland pony fighting mighty stallions. At 107 pounds, I was the size of a pre-teen boy. And at only 17 years old, I couldn’t vote or buy beer, but I could fight a Bull Fighter from Spain. These fights had a freak-show angle that promoters loved and they quickly found out it was something that could make them a lot of money.In my professional debut, I defeated the well-past-his-prime Glass Joe. I was a bit shaky at first, but once I gained control, I left jab, left uppercut, and power punched my way to a TKO. Yet, the blood-thirsty fans were not impressed. Maybe it was because of his dismal record, or maybe it’s because everyone thinks people from France are wimps, but my victory didn’t earn me much fanfare. No one is impressed when you beat Glass Joe. Determined to win them over, I agreed to more fights - just a plucky underdog taking on pugilists from all over the world.From a powerhouse from Philadelphia to a Russian boxer with a soda addiction, I was beating them one by one. The promoters would slap together anything for a quick buck. I even knocked out a magician that could teleport around the ring. I knocked his tiger-ass right out. The fans were firmly behind me. Everyone loves a winner. My trademark pink tracksuit became all the rage for younger fans. They’d see me running around New York City, pulling my manager, Doc, on his bike. It was nice to be a hero in their eyes. My blood, sweat, and tears were making everyone rich. The highlight of my career was overthrowing Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson. Tyson (or “Mr. Dream” for any lawyers out there) was unstoppable. No one could beat him, no one could crack that code. But despite those odds, I came out on top. I was a true underdog, a champ for the people. I accomplished more than most people do in their lifetime. But truth be told, I bottomed out as quickly as I rose. Title defenses against Bald Bull and Super Macho Man didn’t have the sizzle they once did. The fans didn’t tune in. Without the money rolling in, promoters won’t touch you. It seems like they suck you dry like a parasite and move on to the next money-maker. The dream ended when I lost the title King Hippo. Losing your title to a pretender like him and you’re done in this sport. But my roll of bad luck was beginning.My manager, Doc, was skimming from the top. He'd pocket big chunks of the purse for himself. I was so clueless when I started. He assured me I could trust him and that he’d protect me, but he played me for a fool. That’s what you get when you trust someone who looks like the dad from Family Matters. Then I found out Piston Honda took a dive in our match, and that Super Mari-looking referee fast-counted Von Kaiser. Managers, Promoters, and Boxing Commissions were taking big chunks of the pie, leaving me with mere crumbs. They all saw some dumb kid that could make them money. Everyone was taking a piece of the champ. Concussions made my post-boxing life complicated. We didn’t think back then that Mr. Sandman’s triple uppercut or Bald Bull charging punch would have long-lasting consequences. The audience’s lust for violence could be quenched by boxing commissions - all they had to do was keep proof of CTE from the public. To this day, I suffer from headaches and can easily get disoriented. Some of my fellow boxers have it worse. It turns out Glass Joe’s shakiness wasn’t just nerves, concussions turned his brain into a Wiffle ball. Poor guy. But here we are years later. I have no money, my 107-pound frame is broken down, and concussions from fighting guys three times my size leaves me consistently confused. I’m still waiting for my comeback stories’ happy ending. If Mike Tyson can rehabilitate his image, then why can I? I gave everything to this sport, and the greed and corruption of this cancerous system left me with nothing. I went from a poor kid from the mean streets of Brooklyn to World Champ before I could buy a Playboy; now I’m a middle-aged man forgetting what bus to take to the grocery store. Every day I think to myself…Maybe it was a bad idea to have kids fight grown men with nefarious fight tactics.