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Jim Murray

Hemingway, Heifetz, Koufax . . . and Curry

December 07, 1985|Jim Murray

LAS VEGAS — --Hollywood would release it as, "A Star Is Born."

An onlooker, awed, walked up to the promoter after the "fight" and offered, "Well, it looks like you got yourself a star."

It was maybe like the moment in history when someone in a screening room first saw Spencer Tracy act. The time a guy in the gallery got goose bumps the first time Caruso sang. The first ones who saw Kelly dance, Snead swing or Tilden serve.

A sleek, slashing pugilist named, innocently, Donald Curry, emerged in a performance in the Las Vegas Hilton Center ring Friday night as one who has a chance to go down with the great ones of his profession. Of any profession.

Forget the fact that Donald Curry knocked out a fighter named Milton McCrory. McCrory was just the instrument. He was what the piano was to Rubinstein, the fiddle to Heifetz.

It was what the soloist did. And how he did it. You imagine this was how the young Joe Louis went about his craft, made his fight.

This is the way Hemingway wrote his books, the way Koufax pitched his Series. No frills, no wait. It was chilling. It was almost pretty to watch. The artist at work. Ben Hogan taking apart an Open.

It wasn't a fight, it was a recital.

No wasted motions. No histrionics. It was like watching a cat eat a canary.

Donald Curry is a cold-eyed, impassive professional killer. The kind of guy the CIA or KGB would send into a trouble zone with a silencer and a photograph of the guy to use it on.

Once he had poor McCrory in his gunsights, it was a hunt, not a fight. Joe Louis shuffled after opponents like this. So do lions.

It was possible to feel sorry for poor McCrory. He seems too genial a fellow for this cruel trade. You felt he had come to tap dance, with his eager face, which had the perpetual expectant expression of a kid looking through a bakery window or down on his first Christmas tree.

You had the impression he was tied to the tracks, and there was a train whistle in the distance, when he came into Donald Curry's range.

There is nothing of the happy kid in Donald Curry. These are the wary eyes of a crouched animal. This is the face of a guerrilla. It says this man is armed and dangerous.

Milton McCrory was as helpless as a heavy bag in a gym. He couldn't have been more ineffectual if he were hanging on chains.

The fight mob calls it the "killer instinct," this merciless, relentless, persevering attack. It is identifiable in the great ones in that, once they have their man in trouble, they never hurry, they never get excited, they never get careless. They get deadly.

This is what Donald Curry did when he crashed a left into McCrory's jaw one minute into the second round. He stepped back. Only the great ones do that. The Joe Louises, the Jack Johnsons, the Rocky Marcianos. They give their man room to fall.

When Milton McCrory crashed to the canvas and then toppled over again as he tried to get up at the count of four, Donald Curry stood, impassive, in his corner. There was no rush. If McCrory got up, it wouldn't be for long. McCrory got up--sort of--and it wasn't for long.

Curry came across the ring like a jaguar out of a tree. He didn't throw punches in flurries, in wild eyed anxiety. He threw one, a short vicious right like a man pole-axing a steer. Poor Milton tumbled to the floor and was still there when the count reached 11. In fact, when it reached 111.

It isn't as if Milton McCrory is a fourth-rater, a palooka. He has never been knocked down before, not in 28 pro fights and over a hundred amateur bouts.

It was possible to feel very sorry for this young man as he came down to the press conference later and tears welled in his eyes, and they seemed oddly more poignant in that clown's face as he tried to explain, indeed to understand, what had happened. "All my life, I never be knocked down. I thought I had a steel chin." He paused, looking around, fighting tears. "Sometimes these things happen to good guys," he stammered. "I thought I was a good guy . . . "

He was. He was just in the way of Donald Curry's career. It is obviously no place to be. Better to be crossing the Santa Monica Freeway in the dark.

The pay-TV (HBO) people counted 74 punches thrown by the winner---43 landed, they said. That is deadly marksmanship in the ring game, that is a great saving of ammunition. That is a 58% efficiency, a .580 batting average. Donald Curry may be to boxing what Stan the Man was to baseball.

He belongs in the Super Bowl of his sport. Only 4,185 paid to see him play a symphony on Milton McCrory Friday night. He should draw that many at a supermarket opening if he continues on the savage pattern he displayed Friday night.

He is 14 pounds lighter than Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Hagler may need all of them if they ever fight. If you saw those eyes stalking you across the ring, you should get more than a pair of lousy eight-ounce gloves. You should get one call to the Marines. And another to a priest. It wouldn't hurt to scream.

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