|It’s About Fathers And Sons
by Coyote Duran (May 3, 2007) Doghouse Boxing
I never saw eye-to-eye with my father.
I gather it was all part of the grand design of things. Being an open and willing proponent of fate at an early age, I fully accepted it. Joseph Narro Duran (my old man) was always a stubborn Indian. Raised in Texas under the guise of a Mexican identity (It’s dodgy as to whether or not ‘Duran’ is actually the family’s genuine surname prior to my father’s and his siblings’ birth), my father suffered the indignity of toiling among his five Mescalero brothers and sisters (Felix, David Jr., Johnny, Martina and Albina) for 14-plus hours a day, all week long, harvesting cotton.
My father and his family were profoundly destitute. I mean, they were poor as f__k. That’s what ‘destitute’ means, Howlers. David Sr., my grandfather, yanked my aunts and uncles out of school (my father at third grade, particularly) and
forced them to work in hot, sun-scorched fields side-by-side with migrant workers with the only reward being mashed pinto beans and homemade fry bread at the end of the day .
Every single day for many, many years.
When I would ask my father what his life was like as a kid, he would fly into typical Indian lore mode and totally bullshit me. One of his tales involved his first-grade year on a bus en route to elementary school when some fourth-grade white kid made fun of him and his bag of lunch. Whereas this bully had ham and cheese or a nice PB and J on white, my father had a bag laden with luke-warm pintos and folded-up fry bread.
Well, according to my father, this silly, pale Anglo decided that on that day, it wasn’t just a good day to die or hunt; it was a good day to tease the runty Indian kid with the sub-meager lunch. When on the fourth sunlit day, the silly, pale Anglo lad went too far.
This is when Joseph Narro Duran, descendant of Geronimo himself, became Taza, Cochise, Crazy Horse and Billy Jack all in one high-tone, crazy-ass, six-year-old Apache gang of one.
And, in his own words, he headlocked The Silly, Pale Anglo until he cried ‘Uncle’ right before the kid’s head popped sickeningly off of his own shoulders. On the f__king school bus.
I’m a little fuzzy on the exact details but I do believe I shit myself in fear.
I am certain that throughout my youth, I did whatever I could to NOT piss that man off.
I was pretty sure that Joseph Narro Duran didn’t like me, even as a small child (Me; not him). The old man became a trucker; an owner-operator, if you will, whereas I was into reading and art and music and romance and life …when I was seven!
He didn’t dig it. Because when I was seven, as his first-born, I was supposed to look to my father as the ‘be all/end all’ of everything and I wasn’t willing to do that. Look, I knew that driving a truck put chow on the table and clothes on our backs and made sure the heat and gas stayed on, but Goddammit, the prodigal son did NOT want to drive a truck.
He did NOT want to tally up his old man’s toll receipts during tax time because Dad had no idea how to add.
He did NOT want to have to explain what a run-of-the-mill, polysyllabic word in his own six or seven-year-old mind meant.
He did NOT want to have to explain how badly he felt to his father that the final stroke between the Capulets and Montagues resulted in the most tragic of life decisions.
Dad would NOT understand. You know what?
It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t my fault.
Fathers and sons can be just that different. No matter how close (or not) they might be, there’s gonna be something that drives a wedge between them. Turns them against each other. Makes them feel more paranoid of each other than they’d ever been. Makes them feel like their own personal pursuits are just…well…
Upon watching HBO’s ‘De La Hoya-Mayweather: 24/7’, I’ve come to the conclusion that some dads are pretty f__ked up, now, aren’t they? For the most part, they couldn’t give a damn if you fell off the roof of the Palmer House but if it came down to saving their asses on a sinking boat, well then, you’d better believe it that Big Daddy had better be the first cat on the dinghy.
What do Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have in common? You’ve got it. Insufferable fathers. Men that had to have their way or else their own personal legacies, no matter how petty they may have ever been, would die. Egos like the obstinate of the obstinate in Joel De La Hoya Sr., who just had to rob his younger, less-resistant son of a normal childhood in
order to justify his own self-centered means of egotistical foundation.
And on the other side, you have ‘The Poet That Doesn’t Know It’ in Floyd Mayweather Sr. who just couldn’t be complete unless he lived selfishly and vicariously through his namesake.
And I mean that in every sense of the phrase. Because from what I could ascertain, in some ways, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is but still a child. He just has a helluva lot more money to be that child. Whether it’s betting over 30 large on a pro basketball game, counting up stacks of money or throwing members of that same family of money at a camera, only to have one of his many lackeys collect the bills afterwards, ‘Pretty Boy’ does it all with a gleaming, boyish smile. With the exception of his livelihood, everything Mayweather enjoys in life is but a mere frivolity. And that’s exactly the way he likes it. Although his childhood was appropriated for the means of Our Sport, Floyd’s not bitter. And who would be? With all that coin flying around these days, I could forget about missed boyhood opportunities too, man.
But Mayweather’s frivolous approach to life seems to influence those close to him more that he, himself. Whereas, while De La Hoya waxes emotionally about the future of his young son Gabriel, Mayweather seems perfectly content in instructing his own little son to rub in a little “You know my daddy’s gonna kick your ass.” in the face of a sparring partner before Floyd bloodies him and jokingly compares himself to O.J. Simpson.
Is this the Mayweather destiny? To become the product of a demanding father? To be the obedient son and, as a result, become that same demanding father in kind, with each new incarnation becoming more and more crass than his predecessor? It sure looks like it. But just when you think the hopeless little punk in Floyd Joy Mayweather couldn’t be more incorrigible, he shows you a different side that reeks of self-preservation. Kindness. Innocence. Friendship. Yeah, they’re all there. They emerge subtly when Floyd is receiving a pre-camp physical or when he’s stylishly cutting a rug with members of his entourage.
Ah, yes. Smell that? That’s the sweet smell of humanity. It’s hard to hate what can humbly relate to you and yours.
Oscar De La Hoya has never been ‘street.’ I suppose that can be attributed to having such a demanding hardass for an old man. In the case of Oscar, that demanding hardass kept him off the streets and inside a gym where the future Olympian and world champion professional honed himself into a complete fighter, yet, historically and ironically, could never satisfy the man who brought him to the show in the first place. De La Hoya accepted this. Perhaps an open and willing proponent of fate at an early age, Oscar rolled with it. As long as he could hear the fervent cheers of his mother, Cecilia, he knew all to well that this life was his fate. When his mother passed away, only she had. Her dream for her son lived on, immortally, much like her spirit would live on to inspire him.
Like a good son, he lives and works to honor her to this day. This dedication is more than lavished onto his own immediate family as well. Some sons never forget.
Some fathers shine brighter than others. Interestingly enough, those who act above and beyond in the best ways possible, in this situation, aren’t either De La Hoya’s or Mayweather’s natural fathers.
When De La Hoya’s trainer of six years, Floyd Mayweather Sr., bailed on him due to not getting an obscenely unreasonable amount of money to train De La Hoya against Floyd Jr., Freddie Roach stepped to the plate. A man who had already a ridiculous roster of fighters depending on him took in Oscar; much like a devoted foster parent would take in just one more child. Why not? There was enough food and love to go around.
Roach, for his relative youth, has a profound fatherly quality about him. Possessing few years more than many of his fighters, it’s not alien to hear him in a corner between rounds, staring down his fighter, calmly filling him with encouragement.
While calling him, ‘Son.’
De La Hoya’s not a special case. Roach treats all his children like this. All the while, battling his own physical demons. Like any good, unselfish dad, his children gain all of his love above all else. What else is there to say?
Inverse to the white hat in Roach, Floyd’s longtime trainer/uncle Roger seems to enjoy controversy almost as much as his famous charge. When reinstated (from a year-long suspension which honestly should have resulted in a disqualification loss for Floyd Jr. Sue me. That’s just how I feel) by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his role in the wild brawl that ensued during the 10th round of Floyd’s welterweight ‘title’ (Yeah…right) match against Zab Judah in April of 2006, upon leaving the hearing, Uncle Rog was aloof and cocky in his minor victory, jokingly comparing himself to O.J. Simpson.
Now that’s a pattern I’m not quite comfortable with, pals.
If that isn’t enough, the only man in the mix who is actually someone’s actual pop in this maelstrom, Floyd Mayweather Sr., has become a virtual man without a country. Pissed off about how he was portrayed and presented on ‘24/7’, Floyd Sr. and Jr. had yet another rift.
Roger gloats. Floyd Sr. spouts another crappy poem. Floyd Jr. smiles and remains unaffected.
Hey, just like old times.
In the pursuit of legacy-defining success, is having a father-figure a reasonable solution to experiencing and ultimately gaining wisdom and knowledge? That’s a tough one to process. On one hand, you have Oscar De La Hoya who’s had several ‘father-figure’ types shadowing his career, seemingly looking for something that perhaps has always been missing from his relationship with his own father. Many fathers. Most, if not all, have been proud, pleased and satisfied with De La Hoya and what he’s offered his own career and Our Sport.
I guess no matter who you are and how much you and your father butt heads, maybe there’s always something there that begs for his ultimate acceptance.
According to De La Hoya, Joel Sr.’s unconditional acceptance emerged after Oscar suffered his first loss to Felix Trinidad. Go figure. A loss brings father and son together. What can ya do?
With Floyd Mayweather Jr., I’m not certain if I should feel sorry for him or feel like Karma had her way with him. One on hand, you have a father who thinks he’s God’s gift to tight braids and shitty poetry and on the other hand, you have a smug uncle who’s so delusional that he thinks he can fool Freddie Roach into revealing De La Hoya’s strategy during a conference call.
And to think that this maroon (and that is indeed an insult to Elmer Fudd. Sorry, Elmer) had the temerity to belittle Roach and the late Eddie Futch at a presser at the Hollywood Theatre, according to writer George Kimball. Roger would go as far as calling Roach a “punching bag” and the legendary Futch a trainer that “didn’t do shit.”
Classy to the end, Roger. He’s also someone’s father, last I checked. Poor kid.
In Roach, before and after De La Hoya, no matter what happens, Parkinson’s or not, the unassuming man with the trademark spectacles and the silly smile will always be someone’s surrogate father; guiding him to glory or consoling him in defeat, but doing it with the love and care that any ‘real’ father should be obligated to.
A young fighter should be so fortunate.
As a writer, on Saturday night, my inner fanatic wants so badly to cheer for Oscar De La Hoya in the real-life ‘Rocky’ movie this tale has metamorphosed into. And it has. Think about the switching of camps, the out-of-the-ring legal issues and the fighter nearing the sunset of his career and taking on a man who the world sees, consensus-wise, as the pinnacle of what great boxing stands for. But I also need to stay on the fence because Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not the villain he so desperately believes himself to be. A villain never gets into the villainy business with evil in mind. It’s almost a self-absorbed morality play. Read some comic books. You’ll see it in a quickness.
Yeah, it sounds ‘Psych 101-ish’, but truth is truth. We are all products of our environment. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a perfect example of that. Encouraged by his elders to be great; molded into an undefeated champion of the world. But, at the same time, those same mentors were Floyd’s greatest enablers; telling him that he was greater than everyone else out there. You begin believing all you own hype and everything and everyone around you suffers to an extent. From the gate of life, that’s never been Mayweather’s fault.
Looking back, suddenly my ‘relationship’ with my old man doesn’t seem that bad. But I’m not a fighter and neither was or is my father. Things were never THAT bad.
When I wrote my piece this week regarding whether or not De La Hoya vs. Mayweather Jr. will satisfy boxing history, I was asking what this fight was about. Was it about some lousy green belt or was it about fighting for the sake of fighting and emerging with only the title of The Better Man attached. When I take the time to think again and look back to where Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have come from so many years ago and keep an open mind that life always comes full-circle, it’s not about any of that. It’s about what should always be happy but in reality, is more often than not (for Oscar and Floyd), the saddest relationships of all.
It’s about fathers and sons.
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