By Ivan G. Goldman
Floyd Mayweather was sitting up in bed counting stacks of C-notes when the ghost of Sugar Ray Robinson showed up.
Floyd stayed cool. “If you’re looking for a handout,” he said, soup kitchens are on the other side of town.”
“Don’t be lame, Floyd. Let me ask you something. How come you spent so much time on the ropes against Miguel Cotto?”
“I won, didn’t I?”
“Don’t jive me, man,” Robinson said. “I used to live in Harlem. Face it. You’re losing your legs. Just like Muhammad Ali when he went to the ropes against George Foreman.”
“I pull in more cash from one fight than Ali made his whole life. More than you, too.”
“You think that’s the measure of a man? Well, we’ll see about that. You’ll be visited tonight by three ghosts.”
“I know that story. It happens on Christmas Eve. You’re too late.”
“Well,” Sugar Ray explained, “on the way over I ran into this lady ghost on the Strip? She used to be a dancer. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew it was practically New Year’s. But it’s still cool. You know how it goes.”
“I guess you were a pretty flashy dude in your time, weren’t you?”
“I used to travel to Europe with a pink Cadillac, my trainers, a personal barber, a secretary, a masseur, some lady friends, and a dwarf.”
“What’d you need with a dwarf?” Floyd asked him.
“He amused me,” answered Sugar Ray. “Incidentally, I died broke. Might be a lesson there, you know?”
“I dig what you’re saying. But aren’t you mad that I keep calling myself the greatest fighter of all time?”
“Not at all,” Sugar Ray said. “When you really are the greatest, you know it here.” He jabbed a thumb in his own chest. “And you don’t have to say anything about it yourself. I went 173-19-6 with 108 KOs. I didn’t lose until I went up against Jake LaMotta. He outweighed me by 16 pounds.”
“Why’d you take the fight then?”
“I wanted to see if I could beat him anyway. Like you, I loved to win, but I wasn’t afraid of losing. Besides, I’d beaten all the good welterweights. I never dodged anybody.”
“What are you trying to say?”
But Sugar Ray didn’t answer. He walked through a wall, leaving Floyd alone. He’d lost count and started tallying the bills all over again. Then he looked up to see Arturo Gatti.
“Arturo, you look good, man.”
“Thanks Floyd, but you didn’t look so good against Cotto. How come you kept going to the ropes?”
“Will you guys shut up about that? Don’t you ghosts have better things to do?”
“Just jiving you, man. You’re the best I ever fought.”
“Thank you,” said Floyd, who loves compliments.
“I just wish I could have gotten in one good shot to the liver, but you were too slick. See you around.”
“Wait a minute,” Floyd said. “Don’t you have any, you know, like lessons to teach me?”
“Be careful who you marry.”
As soon as Gatti left he was replaced by the ghost of Diego Corrales.
“I got nothing but compliments for you, man,” Diego said. “You knocked me down five times.”
“Yeah, but you kept getting up,” Floyd said.
“Anyway, don’t drink and drive,” Diego said. “It’s really stupid.”
“I don’t drink period,” Floyd said.
“I know, but how come you kept going to the ropes against Cotto?”
Floyd, angered, threw a stack of hundreds at Diego, but he’d already disappeared. Just as Floyd started to wonder who the third ghost would be the doorbell rang. He went downstairs and opened the door to Manny Pacquiao.
“What are you doing here?” Floyd said. “You’re not dead.”
“You know why I’m here,” Manny said. “A good fight is a good fight. And me against you is still a good fight. Think about it, okay?”
“I already have. You want a lemonade or something? It’s almost New Year’s, and I’m just waiting for the third ghost.”
“He’s not coming,” Said Manny. “And I can’t drink lemonade because I’m not really here.”
“I know,” said Floyd. “You’re the ghost in my mind.”
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a 2009 Notable Book by the American Library Association. Information HERE