Many waited in three separate theaters with a bag of popcorn and a soft drink in anticipation of a boxing match. Little did I know this evening would be a trip down memory lane for me and many others. But this was not any boxing match, folks. A boxing match held in Brooklyn, NY in 1953, originally broadcast in black and white with a monotone announcer of yesteryear. “In this corner . . . weighing in at 126 pounds, at 5’2”. Gene Smith . . . in the opposite corner Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales from Denver, Colorado weighing in at 130 and a quarter pounds at 5’6”!” An occasional shout out “Go Corky” in the audience by local friend and former bodyguard, T-Dog, and ongoing assorted audience applause after connecting jabs from Gonzales, brought everything back into reality in the dark theater.
As my mind began racing, trying to absorb the black and white film in front of me yet simultaneously connecting with my childhood, I was . . . amazed by both technology and a boxing match that was held in 1953 and now broadcast 61 years later. Moved by the signs of the time including men in the audience dressed in business suits and fedoras. Surprised by a Jack Benny and Walt Disney look alike, sitting front row. Disappointed by the presence of one sole woman spotted in the audience, but then remembered it was 1953. Intrigued by a television supporting audience who sporadically shouted out Corky’s name in a time when minorities meant second-class citizenship. Impressed by the cool cat, Jack Nicholson type, in the audience wearing sunglasses, but even more impressed by the fact that a Latino made it to pro boxing in 1953. Saddened by a more innocent time when black and white film some how lessened the anguish of reality.
Gonzales and Smith fought for 10 rounds, a rule of boxing long gone. They were two young men looking for the glory of the win. Ultimately Gonzales, the better fighter, won the bout by decision. As I watched that young man called Corky Gonzales at the young age of 24, married with two daughters, bask in the glory of victory, I wondered what he must be thinking on this day in 1953. Did he know he would be long remembered by more than just his family and friends?
Quite certain this screening held in the name of fundraising evoked memories and emotions for many. Family and friends watching this historic film have their own carved memory of Gonzales and the innocence of 1953. One can only imagine what the Gonzales family felt. Quite sure they felt shades of pride and loving memories of days long gone. Surely they shared memories of a father who would be much more than a boxer fighting for a title. Without question, no one can erase the memories of a father who created controversy in his backyard, his city, state and the country, yet inspired change, because now he will be forever remembered as we enter the doors of the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Denver Branch Library.