A STORY WRITTEN BY MIKE.

 

I could hear the punches landing on my body, my face, my head, but I couldn’t feel anything. I was completely numb. My eyes were almost closed, my nose was broken and bleeding like the proverbial pig. I absorbed this kind of punishment for five two minute rounds. I had just met the flaying fists of Lance Corporal Grey G. of The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 1st. Infantry Battalion of the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group. We were stationed in Europe as part of NATO. The year was 1951. I was with 58 Independent Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers. I had turned seventeen in September. At the end of October I was on my way to Germany.

 

Gordie had been an air gunner in the RCAF during the second war. I figured he had about ten years on me. He had fought in Alberta before the war. At that time there was only a very thin line between amateur and professional boxing. And as I understand, Gordie would cross that line depending on the circumstances and if he needed a dollar.

 

Gordie Grey was my third fight. I had seen him fight once and I knew damn well he was one hell of a continuous puncher. In the ring he was ugly as sin and meaner than the devil himself. If you were to say that ‘he gave no quarter and he asked for no quarter,” you would be describing Gordie Grey. Every second of every round, he fought all out and he was a winner. After Gordie was finished with me I spent a week in the hospital, broken nose and two eyes closed. Of course Gordie was the Light-heavyweight Champion of the 27th Brigade. The only thing you could say about me was that he didn’t drop me and I heard the ending bell of all five rounds.

 

The next paragraph should tell you that I quickly learned to play chess and stayed out of the ring…not so. In fact I spent those seven days in the hospital bandaging my fists over and over and of course remembering my introduction to Gordie Grey. That was 1951. I trained by myself in the gym at Gordon Barracks practicing a left jab, and all the time concentrating on the image of Gordie Grey in my mind.

 

1952 and the Brigade Boxing Championships again. And again I’m in the ring with Grey. By this time I had learned how to use my left jab and I had unconsciously patterned my fighting after Grey. I learned to punch from every angle and position I was in. We went three rounds…I got the decision.

 

!953 Brigade Boxing again. Gordie and I had the rubber match. I dropped him for the full count in the second round. I always thought that was a hell of a way to treat a friend. However, I knew that Gordie would not have it any other way. Was he my hero? You’re bloody right he was.

 

January of 1954 at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering in Vedder Crossing BC. I had moved up to the heavy-weight division and added the Fraser Valley Golden Gloves and the BC golden Gloves as we were getting ready for the Patricia’s (PPCLI) in Calgary. This time I again met an experienced fighter, Big Ed Smith. Like Grey he crossed the thin line depending on the circumstances. Unlike Gordie, however Big Ed had highly developed boxing skills along with a good knockout punch. He quickly demonstrated his skill for me by slipping, sliding, ducking and blocking my punches. I remember clearly that a lot of my punches were not getting through. I also realized that he wasn’t hitting me that much either. So I figure that if I stepped up the pace I would eventually get to him. I did.

  

In fact I knocked Big Ed out twice in one round. We were in a clinch and the referee had said “break”. Unfortunately, I had already let go a left hook and Ed hit the canvas. “You’re disqualified for hitting after a break”, said the referee. I went back to my corner and told my Seconds I had lost. You can bet there was an uproar by the Patricia’s. We are in the Patricia’s Barracks and their champion is sleeping. They didn’t want to win that way. They gave Ed 5 or 10 minutes to recover and rang the bell to finish the first round. As Ed and I met in the center of the ring we touched gloves and I said, “Sorry Ed”. He said, “That’s Ok, Mike,” So I finished the job. Now I was Western Command Heavy-weight champion.

 

I had some fights in 1955, but none of them were as interesting as Gordie and Big Ed.

 

In the early part of 1956 we started putting a team together at the RCSME for Command Championships. Once more we fought in Calgary and started preparing right away for Army. This time Big Ed Smith was one of our trainers. Ed and I were on a run one day and talking at the same time. We both agreed that a second fight between us would sure be good. Ed went on with, “You know Mike, you don’t hit that hard. I’ve been hit a hell of a lot harder, I just never got hit so bloody often”.

 

You learn something in every fight, then you ingrain it in your training. I learned early that I wasn’t that skilled. I made up for it by getting myself in the best condition possible. And like Gordie, I would fight every second of every round. I received more than one beating in fact I was beaten pretty good in five fights, however I was still on my feet at the end of every one of them. We used to say that anyone that would take a lot of punishment like that is too damn dumb to lay down. Gordie wouldn’t. Big Ed wouldn’t so I didn’t either. Dropping five out of fifty is not that bad.

 

I won Army in 1956 and immediately went into training for the Olympic trials in Montreal. The Army Boxing Team was made up with a fighter in every weight class. Our coach was WOII Weatherall. He was a very tough and “mean” trainer. At the end of each day he would review each of our performances. He was tough to satisfy, but we learned skills that we hadn’t even thought of.

 

One day during our review session, he was snarling about maximum punches per round. He wanted us to throw 300 punches in every round and to rip off a pound of flesh with every punch. Honey Long, from the Highlanders, was our fly weight champion (110 Lbs) said, “Now where in hell am I suppose to find a 300 lb flyweight”. By the way, Honey ran 5 miles or more every training day with a broken bone in his foot. He didn’t find out until he got back to his Battalion. He used to complain about a sore foot almost every day, he was told to “work through the pain”. We all heard that statement a great many times.

 

This turned out to be much longer than I thought.