Holy Smoker

By Beacon Staff

It’s all for a good cause, but don’t tell them that.

Anxiousness overcomes any goodwill. Two teenagers – one from Columbia Falls and the other from Whitefish – exit their respective corners. They ignore strategy and defense, instead throwing dozens, no hundreds, of punches. Who has the better aim?

It’s the annual Cat/Dog Smoker and the first fight ends in a knockout. John McMaster, shunning traditional boxing advice that suggests keeping punches short, wound his fist a good two feet behind his back before unleashing it square on his opponent’s nose.

Last month, I dropped $50 on pay-per-view to watch a prizefight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather – two pros who opted to dance around the ring for 12 rounds and failed to land any telling blows. The Smoker was $7 and, within the first few minutes, a thousand spectators at Memorial Field in Whitefish were screaming at all the power shots.

Boxers waiting for their own fights sparred the air and danced behind hotdog-eating ringside spectators. Speakers blared “Eye of the Tiger,” a song off the Rocky soundtrack. Fitting.

I have a Rocky poster above my television at home. I bought it to pay homage to the greatest movie of my generation. When I watch old boxing tapes of Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, that silhouette of Sylvester Stallone makes me emotional. It also makes me pathetic for living vicariously through a fictional boxer.

The boxing canvas is set up outside, centerfield. Dark clouds socked in the valley. It’s a rain delay and now feels like we’re at a real ballpark. Baseball, after all, is what these fighters do best. Proceeds from the Smoker support the Glacier Twins. But don’t tell that to the boy with the gushing bloody nose. Don’t tell that to the young woman who has few answers for the hard-punching blonde girl nicknamed “Hurricane. They’ve probably forgotten the ostensible cause.

I once sparred the air, training for that fight that never happened. If I had chickens, I would have chased them around the coop, just like Rocky did to improve his quickness. I never got into the ring. And any one of these wild-armed, haymaker-tossing high school-age fighters would break my glasses in the first round. But after wasting $50 on a prizefight, it was nice to get my $7 worth.