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A Real Champion

June 15, 1997

Both Tommy Harrison and the late Bob Satterfield emerged as champions, thanks to the efforts of J. R. Moehringer ("The Champ," May 4). The article was a journalistic throwback to a lost era; for a few brief moments, we could once again have been reading the best of Ring Lardner or A. J. Liebling. Moehringer has me convinced that old-fashioned sentimentality isn't dead after all.

Somehow, I feel that Satterfield would have forgiven Harrison for his innocent role-playing, maybe understanding better than most of us that we all live semi-delusionary lives.

Dick Whittington

Newbury Park


Couldn't put it down! Couldn't put it down! And then I called several friends to tell them about it. And a nice call on the part of the editors in deciding that more verification was needed before the story was a "go."

Scott St. James

Sports Director



There was no need for Harrison to have a fake name. He was a solid boxer and a fine prospect in his own right.

Don Fraser

Toluca Lake


I witnessed most of Satterfield's fights. He seldom headlined a card, with many of his fights being on the supporting card to main events headlined by, among others, onetime welterweight champion Johnny Bratton.

Satterfield was first noticed in Chicago by a local fight manager (not Jack Kearns), who put the light-heavyweight into a gym to train for a year before scheduling him for his first professional fight.

I mentioned to a pal how great this guy could become and that we simply had to attend his professional debut. We went to the Coliseum at 15th and Wabash to see him face an unknown, Mac Parshay from Detroit. Parshay knocked out Satterfield in the first round, and I was stunned. After that, whenever I dared make a sports prediction, my friend would always caution me: "Remember Satterfield!"

Russell L. Walsh

Anaheim Hills


"The Champ" was a real championship piece of writing about real lives. It caught me on the chin many times and won by a TKO. Also, good for the editors who insisted on the extra digging that proved Harrison's identity.

Bob Wilkinson

West Hills


I've always despised the violent, Neanderthal "sport" delicately referred to as "boxing." Participants of any such blood sport have little right to distinguish themselves as being superior to dumb animals.

Nevertheless, while I have difficulty accepting Moehringer's justification for this violent form of recreation, I hold in great esteem the manner in which he described it. He managed to weave a painstakingly researched story of a boxer into a tale with very human parallels, a pattern to which virtually everyone can relate.

Remi Enobakhare



Moehringer handcrafted the article to read the way that a Stradivarius violin sounds in the hands of a virtuoso. "He brings the fist from behind his back like a bouquet of flowers"--just poetic.

James McQueen

Beverly Hills

We have a family business in Santa Ana, and, through the years, Harrison stopped by from time to time to chat. On one occasion, my brother found him in the gutter in a stupor and took him to get some food.

Whether Champ is Satterfield or Harrison doesn't matter. Being the Champ is what keeps him alive. He is indeed a fighter; he'd have to be to survive in the world of the homeless.

Dina Koehly

Santa Ana


I myself am a writer, and if I'd been writing that article, I'd have been happy if the research had concluded before I found the true ending of the story. The perseverance of the author and his editors made for a much better story than I'd have come up with.

George Bamber



"The Champ" was a great story even before Satterfield turned out not to be Satterfield. Afterward, well, it became a modern-day tale right out of Kafka. It was the best piece I've ever seen in the magazine.

David Leaf

Santa Monica


So Champ wasn't a champ but a fake. Still, Moehringer wrote that he "felt less betrayed" when he thought the ex-boxer was a child molester.

There's no way that such a petty deception could be more wounding than the lifelong sentence carried by a child who has been carnally assaulted. Molestation is a criminal act of betrayal against humanity.

Harmony Kahn



Reading "The Champ" was like reading a novel. I could imagine every place, every conversation and every smell just by the way Moehringer described them. Best of all, I could feel the emotion in the words when the author met his father for the first time and how he expressed his feelings about having not a father but rather a "ghost father" while growing up.

Raymond Chandler would have been jealous.

Maxine Arnold

Studio City


As an aspiring writer, I will keep this article as an example of nonfiction that is as well written and plotted as a novel. I can understand why good editors insist that writers substantiate the identities of their subjects.

Sandra J. Meeker



I'm no literary critic, not even an expert. I'm a network engineer--not a stereotypical computer nerd but one who dabbles in the written word (poetry is my writing devotion).

"The Champ" puts images into words and feelings into ink. It's full of heart, courage and feeling as well as genuine concern for both the Harrison and Satterfield families.

Jim Kunysz


Kudos to Moehringer for his outstanding personal strength and character, which were revealed in his portrayal of the Champ. The emotion that spilled from this writer's pen as he juxtaposed pieces of his own life with his analogy of men, boxing and fatherhood made for fabulous reading.

Teri Nichols

Laguna Beach


Moehringer has written a masterful story. He sculpted what could have been just a sentimental human-interest story about an ex-boxer into a moving account of the love and shame of fathers and sons and, in the process, reminded us why we all get back "into the ring" again and again.

Who's the champ? I think Moehringer earned the belt.

Jim Hassinger

Silver Lake

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