The Harder They Fall: Sunset's Boxing Journal
By Sunset Thomas, Doghouse Boxing (June 12, 2009)  
I probably should have seduced Mike “Mama Mia” Marrone at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncaseville, Connecticut back in 2006 after he stopped Heavyweight Dan Whetzel in the Sixth Round. He was such a sweet kid—big and strong—but naïve as hell. Frankie Gambino insists that doing so would have done nothing to change the course of history, but somehow I have my doubts…

See, I started following Mike early on. Back when my associates at Reno Ring LLC put on their first boxing event in Lake Tahoe. That’s when I first met Lou and Dino Duva—and that’s when I first found out about their young prospect—Michael Marrone…

Oscar Diaz headlined that card—he was a hot ticket and he knocked out Juan Carlos Amezcua in two rounds. Tragically, “El Torito’s” career ended in the ring against Delvin Rodriguez earlier this year. By the grace of God he is still with us—a little prayer for his continued healing would be most appreciated.

Anyways, Marrone fought some guy named Michael Moncrief that night. He TKO’d him in the first round. It was only Mike’s third fight and what was most obvious about the young stallion was his amazing hand speed. In fact, Ray Mancini (who was ringside), commented that he’d seen very few heavies with hand speed that rivaled that of Mike Marrone…

After the final bell had tolled and the last bouts scoring was tallied and announced—the lot of us sauntered off to the casino to drink and gamble and essentially carry on. Meanwhile, young Mike headed off to the kid’s section of Caesars to play some video arcade games with a sack of quarters that “Papa” Lou Duva forked over. He was so damn cute…

I followed Michael’s career religiously and when I turned Frankie Gambino onto the kid he quickly became a fan (though Frankie thought Michael might not have the weight to be a truly effective, top-tier heavyweight).

“He ain’t no Rocky Marciano…” Frankie lamented after watching a fight where Marrone was clocked and dropped—beating the count, however, and ultimately knocking his opponent out. I nodded, just happy the boy had survived.

“…But I’ll admit he does have hand-speed and some power. And with old man Duva in his corner—well, you never know.” To be honest, Frankie continued, “With the current crop of fatsos, Two-Ton Tony Galanto or even that Bayonne Bleeder fella, Chuck Wepner might be champs.” [Frankie calls most of the big-guys today default heavyweights because they’re so fat they couldn’t fight in any other division.]

Lou Duva’s involvement in Mike’s career, however, was particularly poetic. See, Marrone used to hang out in Duva’s Florida gym when he was just a little kid (seven or eight years old). Lou would have him fill water bottles, fetch tape, organize gloves—that sort of thing. As the little Marrone grew into a young strapper, his gym-rat background lent itself to lacing up the gloves himself—and whom better than Lou Duva to guide him along…

But I’m digressing, getting a little sentimental (Frankie says I do that because I’m Irish).

In any event, let me get back on point. After all, I opened this column pontificating about giving “piece” a chance. In other words, I believe I should have banged the kid before some other broad could get into his head and turn it into the mush mass that no puncher had been able to do prior.

Of course, all Frankie Gambino says is, “Sunset. You’re a friggin’ freak!”

“Sex has no place in the squared circle,” he’s fond of preaching. “In fact they oughta just have a little street light installed in one of the corners and let those round girls mingle under it between rounds—holding up their cards and damn near everything else for the whole world to see!

“Why in my day you saved the dames for after the dance. You didn’t dare even let them near a training camp. It was strictly verboten to have vagina anywheres near a man preparing to do battle!”

It’s fairly futile to argue with Frankie Gambino (sometimes I call him Crankie Gambino), though I did remind him that the first time we met he’d grabbed my ass!

“Turn around and I’ll do it again,” he said with a wink as he pinched and then lovingly slapped my cheek (the one on my face).

What I’m getting at and what Frankie is too damn old-fashioned to understand is that I believe I could have blown out the whole damn muff mystique from Marrone had I seduced him back at the Mohegan Sun.

I believe if I had that he might not have been lulled into the la-la land of first love. Where a piece of tail can be mistaken for the Holy Grail and many a young man is seduced like a sex-crazed sailor lured to his death by those sea-faring Sirens. I believe that’s what happened to Michael Marrone…

Yep, I’m pretty sure a piece would have been the perfect antidote. And you know what? Frankie Gambino doesn’t know everything. I’m not even sure a little poonani is poison to a fighter in the first place!

Dino Duva once told me a story about how his dad (the aforementioned Lou) walked in on his fighter, Livingston Bramble, the night before his fight against Ray Mancini. Bramble was getting “Boom Boom” from no less than three babes—the night before the fight no less!

Lou couldn’t believe his eyes (and knowing Lou he kept them wide open!) Anyways, Bramble’s legs weren’t affected (well maybe just one leg) because the fight went fifteen hard (no pun intended) rounds and Bramble won a unanimous decision!

Frankie Gambino pooh-pooh’s that little ditty, “Hey, there are freaks of nature in every sport,” he says. “Look at the Bambino, Babe Ruth, why that guy could drink, smoke and eat in the dugout—and still knock one over the fence!”

“There’s no winning with you is there Frankie?” I countered.

“Hey, I can’t help it if I never lost. If I retired undefeated,” he mocked me.

“You only had one damn fight!” I reminded him.

“So put an asterisk after my name. I don’t care, you’re still not gonna convince me that a piece of…well…a piece of asterisk, would have helped that Marrone kid!”

See what ultimately happened to Michael was that he faced Francesco Pianeta in Germany for the WBC World Youth Heavyweight Title. Mike lost in 2 rounds—he hadn’t lost prior. Look there’s a lot of mitigating circumstances—a tragic death in his family, the possibility that he simply faced a better man that night in Germany—but me, I truly believe it was a case of first love/lights out…

I think some ill-intentioned tootsie got into his head and that’s why I think all you trainers and managers out there ought to take your young toughs to the Wild Horse Ranch in Reno or any legal brothel in Nevada for that matter. Get these young’ens laid. Get the mystic of sex and boobs and babes out of their youthful systems. Help them before some ditzy digger gets her claws into a promising prodigy and puts him out of business before he even starts understanding what the hell the biz is all about!

So there—I don’t care if Frankie Gambino is reading over my shoulder—huffing and puffing and shaking his head. If he wasn’t a gosh-danged apparition, he wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance with this horny hussy!

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