The Fraternity of Forgotten Fighters

by Frank Duarte ~ September 11th, 2018

By

Frank Duarte 

As he walks through the corridors of the arena where he once fought, passing the rooms and snack bars where hundreds of people are coming and going in all directions he goes unnoticed. A he walks down the aisle, passing row after row of seats filled with fight fan in celebration, eating pop-corn and drinking beer, he goes unrecognized. And as he sits in his seat, with a slight smile and a tear  he reminisces of a time when it wasn’t so.

In his day, he fought to standing ovations as the chant of his name echoed throughout the arena. If you wanted his autograph, you had to wait in line because others wanted it too, and on any given day, there might be a write up on him in the news paper because at that time he was a local hero.

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But that was a long time ago, today his life of glory has made an abrupt turn down the lonely road of reality.  No more cheers from admiring fight fans, no more requests for his autograph, and no more headlines in the sports pages of today’s news-papers.

Tonight he’ll be parking cars for some sleazy night club owner;  just outside of the downtown Los Angeles area.  And two months ago he was working as an unarmed security guard in one of Los Angeles’s most notorious gang infested neighborhoods;  just to earn minimum wages.

At places where men tend to gather: bars, sports clubs and gyms, nobodies heard of him, at best, he’ll get a polite, “your name sound familiar”

Regrets? he has many. Regrets for not doing the things that he should have, and regrets for doing the things that he shouldn’t have; like excepting that first beer that led to many.

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He dwells in a life of shoulda, coulda, and with a little more discipline, and a little more guidance would’ve  made it to that group of fighters whose names will live on forever. Instead, he belongs to a fraternity of forgotten fighter whose only  signs of accomplishments are flat noses and scar tissue where eye-brows once grew. (THIS IS THE FRATERNITY TO WHICH I            BELONG)

I was watering my lawn when Rick Ferris phoned me, Rick was a pretty good Bantamweight back in the Late sixties – early seventies. Today he’s an astute historian on boxing and a lover of the sport, and I believe thats what motivated him to start the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame.

Even though I hadn’t heard from Rick in a few years, I recognized his voice Immediately.  My adrenaline started pumping because I knew that at any moment I would be taking a trip down memory lane.  When Rick and I get to talking boxing, there’s no stopping us.  We must have talked for at least 45 minutes about the good old days of the Olympic Auditorium, The Main Street Gym in Downtown Los Angeles,  and on the south side of L.A, the Hoover Street Gym.

Towards the end of our conversation, Rick told me that the reason he was calling me was because he would be inducting me into the W.C.B.H.F.  on October, 15, 2017. He asked me if I would appear at the Garland Hotel in Studio City to accept my induction, to which, of course, without hesitation, I said yes.

On the morning of the event, I must have spent the first 45 minutes staring at my clothes hanging in my closet. Casual or formal, which way should I go. I decided to compromise and go in between with a semi-formal look.

I chose a pair a pair of light grey slacks thats been hanging in my closet for the past twenty years waiting to be worn.  I only have one sports jacket, so that made it a lot easier for me to choose which one to wear. It’s a light beige wool with a bluish grey tweed running throughout, all brought together with a light blue shirt and a beige tie with feint blue stripes. Oh yea! I mustn’t forget to mention my dark brown European leather shoes, made in Paris California.

I looked in the mirror and gave myself a thumbs up. I gave Agnus the address to the venue, and then I was on my was. By the way, Agnus is my GPS.

My wife, Lourdes and my two kids, Katrina and Frankie, were also attending, but they were going in a separate car.

While I driving to the event, the entire time, I couldn’t thinking, “what if nobody knows me” I was worried that my kids will be disappointed when they realize that their Father wasn’t as popular as he said he was.

As I entered the driveway of the Garland, I began to scan the parking lot in hopes that I would see some of my old boxing friends, and if I did, then I could be confident that i’ll get at least a few cheers upon my induction.

I parked my car and reached for my coat that was laying across the back seat of my car. who got out of my car;from a short distance away, I thought I heard somebody say, “thats Frankie Duarte. I froze, and my ears perked up. I tried to figure out how I should respond, or maybe I shouldn’t respond at all, but how could I not?

I slowly turned my head in the direction from where I heard the voice come from, and I saw a man and a woman approaching me at a fast pace. The man was smiling from ear to ear. He din’t even as k me if I was Frankie Duarte, he just introduced himself to me, and then his wife.

H told me of how much he enjoyed watching me fight. He handed me a pen and the program for that days events, and then asked me for my autograph. He thanked me, and I thanked him back, I was flabbergasted. Before we departed, I asked him where the event was taking place, he pointed across the parking lot, and told me to go through the double doors, then up the stairs. “You were a warrior Frankie” he yelled, I gave him a smile and a wave of my hand; I continued on toward the building.

I went through the double doors, up the stairs and across the hall and out on to the terrace.  Right away I recognized former world champion; Carlos Palomino, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Albert Davila and Paul Banke. More fighters continued to come.

While talking to my boxing colleagues,  I occasionally stopped to sign an autograph or take a picture with a boxing fan, I was over joyed.

The event was about to start, so we all started making our way to the venue. Inside, I noticed some notables sitting near the podium. Actor Ryan O’Neal was there to accept the Tom Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award. Actor, Paul Le Matt, was there in support of his long time friend, Albert Davila. Although Paul’s played in a lot of movies, he’s best remembered for his portrayal of John Milner in the classic movie American Graffiti. The late Dick Enberg was also being inducted for his outstanding work as a boxing commentator. Dick is also a  big part of the Olympic Auditorium history, as he commented alongside of Micky Davis when they first started airing the fights on channel 5 in 1965.

Rick Ferris, at the podium, had kind words he told of my history as a fighter. He called me up to  the podium; and congratulated me as he handed me my plaque. I approached the microphone, and thanked the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame for accepting me as being worthy of the honer of being inducted into their establishment.

The highlight of the day, for me, was knowing that my kids witnessed, first hand, me in my celebrity status. Until then, they had only heard me brag about it -again and again.

I left the event with a new outlook on my life as a fighter; and spent the rest of the day re-hashing every thing that happened that day.

The next morning, I woke up extra early, and went straight to my desk, turned on my computer, and I began typing a letter the Fraternity of Forgotten Fighters. It was my letter of resignation.

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