November 28, 2010
A painful boxing lesson from Al "The Animal" Williams
By Ken Taylor
One summer day in 1958 a message was delivered to Vic Lawson and myself at the North Village Green in Levittown where we spent most of our leisure time getting into mischief. It said that Division Avenue High School students Al "The Animal" Williams and Doug Duffy wanted us to come over to Duffy's house on Blue Spruce Road, near Wolcott Road.
What did they want? Did we owe them money? Did we say something wrong to one of their girlfriends? Should we not go? Will they kick our butts if we don't show up? Are we going to get our butts kicked if we do show up?
None of our friends knew what it all meant, but no one volunteered to come with us. We debated this for a while, and then decided that it was probably some minor thing that they wanted to discuss with us. After all, we were all friends at the Green. Right? Wrong.
Al had a reputation for a short fuse, and didn't mind mixing it up with anyone. Doug was an unknown factor, but we found out that he had a bit of aggression in his DNA too.
So, off we went to Doug's house, and as we approached the front lawn, there were a few kids standing there, and the look on their faces said to Vic and me, "Turn around and get the hell out of here". The fence gate opened up and Doug came out all smiles and asked us to go into the backyard for "A surprise for the both of you". Now being 17 and showing the others that we were "Men," we foolishly entered the back yard. Al and Doug were about three years younger.
The surprise was a make-shift boxing ring. For a second I thought to myself, "Hey! We're going to watch some idiots fight each other". A few seconds later I realized that we were the idiots.
Al explained that he and Doug were in training to go into professional boxing, and they needed some opponents to spar with, and they had already gone through several, and we were next on the list.
There was no debate, no "Would you mind?" We were it. Lambs to the slaughter
I must have had a look on my face saying no way, when George Vine whispered to me, "Don't piss Al off, if you do, he will kill you." We were told that we were going to box five three- minute rounds. No one had made it past the third round.
I said,"I want to fight Doug, but Vic yelled, "Oh no, Doug is too small for you and Al is a better match up." Al was 6 foot 2 and about 185 pounds with arms like ham hocks. I weighed in at 6 foot 4 and 140 pounds soaking wet. I was so thin that I thought if I turned sideways, he wouldn't see me in the ring.
So before I really could appreciate the trouble I was in, I had boxing gloves on and I heard the bell ring for the first round.
Al came at me like a freight train, and he was actually growling. I had only one good defense and I used it for all it was worth. I danced, jumped and ran around the ring like a crazed man. According to Vic, my eyes were as big as saucers, and I only accomplished making Al more frustrated and mad as hell. At about the 30 minute mark in the first round, (It was only a minute or so, but to me it was like being in the Army for three years), Al caught up with me in a corner and hit me a good 10 times in my head. I went down like a ton of bricks, but then I did a real stupid thing, I stood up again. I heard Vic yell "Are you f---ing crazy. Fall down, fall down."
It wasn't pride that made me get up. It was simply that I didn't know where I was. I was truly out on my feet. I don't remember this part. As Al came in for the finish, the bell rang. I staggered to the same corner as Al and Vic had to come and get me. I never landed one punch.
I said to Vic, "I think he hurt me, but I can't feel a thing." Vic looked into my right eye that was now swelling shut, and whispered to me, "Why don't you hit him back?" Nice thought. At that moment, all I was thinking, "How can I make it through the next four rounds?"
I decided to grab Al and hold on like I was riding a bull. Matter of fact, I was. This lasted a good four seconds, when he threw me like a rag doll, again into the corner and was all over me. He hit like a jack hammer, but I remember saying to myself, "Just don't get knocked down again." As I said that, Al hit me with the kitchen sink, and I found myself on the ground again. Al stepped back to a neutral corner, while I did my stupid "get up idiot" trick again. Doug, who was the referee stepped in front of me, and asked if I have had enough. I guess I didn't answer the right way, (I just stared at him through my now one good eye that was closing too). So he signaled Al in again.
Al came charging at me, and I saw that his arms were flailing about like a windmill, and his face was wide open. As he closed in towards me, I stuck my right arm straight out, and "Pow", his nose met my fist. He ran right into it! The blood started pouring out all over the place. Al stepped back in surprise and look stunned, then he look puzzled, then he looked very, very mad. "I am dead" I said to myself, but to my surprise he grabbed a towel and said to me, "Nice shot."
I wish I could relate a happy ending, where we hugged and laughed about the fight. Al took about five minutes to stop the bleeding, climbed back into the ring, and proceeded to beat my cruller in. He finally tired of hitting me, and stopped because of exhaustion. I never finished round two. But I didn't hit the floor again either.
Doug and Vic never fought. Vic said to Doug that he had to help get me home, and we left. But we, of course, went back to the North Village Green.
Al and I became friends a few years later. He worked in the Nassau County Jail on Carman Avenue and I worked in the 3rd. Precinct in Westbury. In high school, he was one of the best wrestlers in Nassau County. Doug Duffy had a very short stint as a professional fighter, and did OK. He and Irish Bobby Cassidy were close pals and trained together.
Ken Taylor is a 1959 graduate of Levittown Memorial High School. His wife is Barbara Wittenberg Taylor, Division class of 1960.