Many of us who knew Jack from our Peace Corps days have heard his stories of boxing in college and boxing briefly as a professional in Mexico before returning to Michigan and becoming a boxing coach as he finished his degrees. I asked his daughter Jane Constantineau to spend me Jack’s account from his book and she was kind enough to do so. JC note.
Kill the Gringo
In retrospect, I question the wisdom of my boxing coach’s plan to send me south of the border with no handler, no Spanish, and no backup. But at the time, I found Marty’s idea ingenious. We were dealing with long odds in trying to maneuver me, an undergraduate boxer, into the position of head boxing coach at the University of Michigan, and I was willing to go the distance to overcome them.
On a hazy day in June I crossed the El Paso-Juarez international bridge carrying a small suitcase of clothes and a large duffle bag with my boxing gear. The local promoter, Marty’s friend and probable relative of Don King, assured me that my first opponent would be a “poosh ober.” By the time I climbed into the undersized ring in that dingy Juarez warehouse, the crowd was already worked up, chanting passionately in unison:
“Mata al gringo! Mata al gringo! Mataloooo!”
The bad news was that I was the gringo. The good news was that I had not yet become familiar with the Spanish verb “to kill.” Standing in my corner listening to this ominous chant, I reviewed the unsettling facts: I was a pale, skinny Midwestern kid within minutes of making my professional boxing debut in Mexico. In this seedy border town, “debut” was probably too elegant a term for what was about to transpire. Here boxers wore four-ounce gloves, half the US regulation size and only slightly thicker than dress socks.
In urgent need of reassurance, I asked my second, a teenager from El Paso, what the crowd was so excited about. He replied, deadpan, “I sink zey saying you welcome to Juarez, meester.”