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Kwan Manasseh Versus Himself

Fight night is just two weeks away and Kwan "the Bomb" Manasseh has put on his hard face. It's time to get serious. He knows it. So he furrows his brow, twists his mouth into a scowl and lets his eyes go dead. They seem to recede into his head, which is shaved and lumpen and looks like it was built for beating on. Which is good, because it has been beaten. Plenty of times. More than Kwan cares to count. But that's not what Kwan is thinking about at the moment. He's thinking, I got to let my hands fly this time. That's what got me wins at the beginning. The hook. The jab. The haymaker. He tells himself over and over, I need to throw more punches.

As he assumes an orthodox fighter's posture--left hand held high, right hand cocked, chin tucked down--Kwan looks like he could be a world beater. At 180 pounds and a little under six feet, he is lean and chiseled, with balled-up biceps and pecs. He appears younger than his 39 years. At his age, most professional boxers are usually over the hill, retired, or dead. Kwan believes in his future in the ring. Way he sees it, he could be a champion one day. He can't deny that something has gone wrong lately. Facts are facts: He has 17 straight losses. He's got to stop the bleeding. He's sure that's what he'll do come May 1, when he steps back into the ring.

To his mind, it's a comeback fight, the most important fight of his career. A final chance to turn things around. "In order to get somewhere in the world, I need to get a win," he says. "And if I don't, I should stop." He doesn't say anything after that. Those aren't easy words, and they hang in the air like a fart. He isn't ready to walk away.

On this mid-April day, Kwan has sought a tutorial from an old acquaintance, Thomas "Chaos" Jones. Jones, who fought professionally for a few years in the '90s as a light heavyweight, is not Kwan's trainer. He has never worked Kwan's corner. He has no plans to do so. But because Kwan doesn't have a trainer at this juncture in his career, Jones has offered to dispense some pointers. Also, he has agreed to hold the hand pads for Kwan. If you're trying to fix your technique, you need someone who doesn't mind getting his palms whacked.

The workout session is conducted outside Chaos Clothing, Jones's retail clothing business in south Minneapolis. In the basement, there is a training area with some basic boxing paraphernalia--gloves, weights, a heavy bag. But there's not enough room there for a ring. Which is why Kwan is outdoors, on the corner sidewalk at Chicago Avenue and 40th Street, for all the passing world to see.

As he works up a sweat, bobbing and weaving and throwing punches at the hand pads, motorists and pedestrians take in the spectacle with alternately bemused and puzzled expressions. Kwan doesn't notice them. His eyes are drilling holes in the hand pads. He's bearing down. Focused. Everybody always said that about Kwan. Outside the ring, Kwan had a lot of troubles. But in the ring and the gym, Kwan was serious. In his prime, he trained hard and often. Nowadays, he still punctuates every practice punch with a sharp verbal exclamation: Uh! Uh! Uh! That lets everyone know he throws with bad intentions. Just like Mike Tyson, the boxer whose name he most often invokes.

After three minutes, a guy in the store who volunteered to act as timekeeper lets out a shout. Kwan stops to catch his breath. During the lapse in action, Jones shakes his head disapprovingly. Kwan may look fearsome, but Jones has detected numerous flaws in his style. "I got to tear him down. Rebuild him from the foundation up," he whispers. Still sucking air, Kwan is oblivious to the slight. He simply stares into the middle distance.

The one-minute break ends. Kwan resumes his workout. As he slowly chases Jones around in a circle, he fires off his arsenal: uppercuts, hooks, jabs. When the fight night comes, Kwan plans on throwing more jabs. That's the fundamental thing, and he hasn't done enough of it lately.

After a few more rounds, Kwan is ready to quit. He says he feels sharp, every bit as good as he did back in the beginning. That was almost 10 years ago, but he remembers it like it was yesterday. He was cooling his heels in jail when he saw a big Indian guy pounding on the heavy bag and suddenly found himself overwhelmed by thoughts of a boxing career: I want to do that. I could do that. The more he teased it out, the better it sounded. After all, he was always in fights. Why not get paid for it? Until then, Kwan's life had been dominated by a messy cycle of crime and punishment. The life of a boxer couldn't possibly be worse than the life he was living, could it?  

 

He wasn't always Kwan Manasseh. He chose that name because he hated the one he was born with, Fred Shaw. What a boring, normal name. As a kid, he had a friend named Kwan. He didn't know what the word meant, but he dug the sound of it. He found a new last name in the Bible. Manasseh was the son of Joseph in the Old Testament book of Joshua. Mixing translation and scriptural interpretation, Kwan says his name means, "I love the one who made me forget all my sorrows."

The son of a warehouse porter and a hairdresser, Kwan was the oldest of three brothers. He grew up in Detroit and was a scrapper from the start. He never had much use for school. It was easy to get lost in the crowded classrooms. By the time he was a teenager, he stopped paying attention. What use were books? What Kwan wanted, what he needed, was some walking-around money.

When he picked up his first job application, he was flummoxed. The form said they wanted a reference. What did that mean? How was he supposed to get a reference? Nobody had ever explained such things to him. Frustrated, he crumpled up the application and stalked off. At that moment, he felt that old suspicion come over him again: The straight life is for suckers.

As he tells it, Kwan approached his criminal life with workmanlike discipline. "While you are at your job, I was at my job. Stealing cars. Selling drugs. Robbing people," he says. At age 15, he wound up in Michigan's juvenile justice system. Incarceration didn't bother him. He'd been whacked around a lot as a kid, he says, so any punishment absent the sting of physical pain didn't feel like punishment. Two stretches in different boys' homes didn't make a difference. When he turned 18, he kept chasing trouble.

He was in and out of the system. Once, he wound up in a maximum-security wing at the state prison in Jackson. He'd been in medium custody for stealing cars. He got transferred after assaulting one inmate ("a snitch!") at the behest of another inmate. Max was different. It was full of guys doing 40 years or life who didn't give a shit about anything anymore. That was the first time Kwan remembers feeling truly, really scared.

Other frightening moments came later. As he exhumes the memories, he begins with the dates. He tries to remember them. September 13, 1991, in a part of town called Cass Corridor. Back then, Kwan says, that was the toughest part of Detroit. There were never any kids around; once the sun set, the merchants would shutter their stores. The actual hour didn't matter, only the sunlight or lack thereof. Darkness meant the night people were moving in. Kwan knew this because he was one of the night people, selling drugs on the corner.

Things had a way of happening quickly in Cass Corridor. Kwan says September 13 was no exception. "This guy just came up to me and said, 'Hey, get off my corner! My ho is out here!' He started walking toward me. I met him halfway, and I hit him. Boom. Boom. He was dazed. Then he ran across the street," Kwan recalls. "This chick in a tight dress and high heels comes running cross the street and puts something in his hand. I could see it shining in the light."

The first shot missed, but the second hit him in the legs. "Missed my manhood by an inch," Kwan says. "Any different, and I'd have to be working from the lips, not the hips." He laughs uproariously at his crack. A third shot struck his upper torso, where it passed through his shoulder. The scar on his shoulder blade is the size of a quarter. Getting shot was strange. It wasn't like television, where you drop dead. Kwan didn't even drop down for very long. He staggered two blocks to a hospital and got stitched up. A couple of days later, he walked out under his own power. Back on the streets, he resumed his old life. Another bust, this time for selling drugs. He was shipped off to prison.

The years passed. The cycle repeated. All told, Kwan figures he's spent about 12 years behind bars.

In 1994, while serving a sentence in a low-security prison, Kwan took what he calls his "bush parole." He laughs at the figure of speech, which is jailhouse slang for an escape into the wilderness. Kwan's bush parole came on a cold, moonlit night in late February. Nobody expected an escape, he says, so it was easy. He just walked into the cold countryside, stole a parked car, and made his way to Battle Creek, where a brother lived.  

He was wild as ever. He robbed people. He robbed dealers. Eventually, he started to worry that his transgressions and fugitive status might catch up with him. It was time to relocate. He had family in Minneapolis--his mom and a few cousins. His mind made up, he financed the move with a final Michigan strong-arm robbery that yielded him a car, some cash, and some weed. "When I got to Minnesota," he remembers, "I had a Pontiac Fiero, $500, and a key."

Minneapolis wasn't the fresh start Kwan was hoping for. He only lasted 13 days before getting busted. He thinks it was one of his cousins who turned him in. When the cops pinched him, he gave them a fake name. Under an alias, he was sent to the Hennepin County workhouse for 90 days. It was there that he happened to see a fellow inmate--a beefy Indian heavyweight named Brian Sargent--pounding on the heavy bag. Something clicked in Kwan's head. "I thought, 'Man, I don't know how to do shit. I learned a lot, yet I don't know shit. I realized I was a fool, but I ain't got to be. I'm still young enough to change.' I was tired of shitting on myself." So Kwan walked over to Sargent and asked him about the fight game. Sargent knew the score. He had already been boxing professionally for four years. He gave Kwan the phone number of Ron Peterson, a small-time fight promoter and manager out of Mounds View.

When Kwan was released from the workhouse, he made his way to the Rice Street Gym in St. Paul. "He asked me if he could get a fight. I said, 'Let's see how tough you are,'" Peterson remembers. "I put him in with Sargent, and of course he got slapped around pretty good. But he didn't whine. He didn't complain." Peterson says he told Kwan he was too old to develop into a winning boxer. But he could make a little money as an opponent.

Kwan didn't care what Peterson thought. He just wanted action and a payday. So Peterson found him a spot in an untelevised fight card in Galena, Illinois--four rounds, $100 a round, against a local guy with experience. Kwan didn't win. But he didn't go down, either, which impressed Peterson. "I said, 'Holy fuck, you are tough.'" Peterson recalls. "And Kwan was happier than shit to get paid."

Not long after his ring debut, Kwan's career was derailed. Following yet another arrest, Kwan says, the authorities got wise to his true identity and fugitive status. He was shipped back to Michigan, where he served out an 18-month sentence. In stir, he dreamed about his boxing career, how he was going to train and go straight and turn his life around.

On March 3, 1998, after a three-year, one-month layoff, Kwan returned to the ring. Fighting a four-round preliminary bout on a card at Treasure Island Casino in Red Wing, Kwan was matched against a former kickboxing champion from Blaine named "Wolfman" Marty Lindquist. At the time, Wolfman had racked up a respectable 7-1 record. Kwan, still a raw 0-1, wasn't supposed to win that night. But by the third round, the Wolfman was splayed helplessly on the canvas, fumbling around for his mouthpiece, just wanting to get the hell out of Red Wing and get high. Kwan holds the memory of that night tight. "I whupped him real bad," he shouts. "I whipped his ass so bad he quit!"

But it was Kwan's professional debut--not the fight with Wolfman--that set the tone for his career. He started losing. He got a reputation as a hardheaded guy who could be relied on to give better fighters a good workout, but nothing more. In boxing parlance, Kwan had become an opponent. The opponent is a vital figure in the ecology of the sport. Opponents, the guys who build the shiny records for contenders, the guys who ramble around the country fighting for $100 a round against hometown heroes. They get booed by the locals fans. They get called all kinds of names: tomato can, palooka, trial horse.

Among most boxing fans, though, opponents don't get much respect. It is one of the strangest ironies of a sport full of strange ironies. After all, boxing celebrates toughness as a central virtue. And what is tougher than standing in a ring and taking punches from a better, stronger man? Which begs a question: Who, then, is tougher than an opponent?  

Still, most boxers don't want to think of themselves as opponents, and Kwan is no exception. "I don't want to be known as strong and tough," he explains. "I want to be known as the winner."

 

A lot has changed in the lives of Kwan and the Wolfman since they tangled at Treasure Island. That bout came at a low point for the Wolfman. Before the fight, he had been bingeing on meth for eight days. After the defeat, things just got worse. Eventually, he got pinched for participating in a botched robbery of a pot dealer. ("We got high and stupid and told people what we were planning to do.") He did 73 days in the Anoka County workhouse and was put on 10 years' probation. He also made five trips through rehab. Now, the Wolfman is counting his sobriety in days, not months or years. But come May 1, he will have been clean for 100 days. He's got all the foundations of the straight life in place: a girlfriend, steady work as a floor installer, an apartment, and, for a boxer, that most elemental of things-- a regular routine at the gym.

Kwan's life--it's not like that. There is no girlfriend, no job, no apartment, no gym. For a while, he worked out at the Rice Street Gym in St. Paul, the place where he got his start. Recently, he thought about returning, maybe getting in some sparring before his upcoming fight. When the bus drivers went on strike, that option disappeared. Then there was the Circle of Discipline, a gym on East Lake Street in south Minneapolis. Kwan was in with the guys there for a while, a bona fide member of the Circle. He still has the tattoo on his forearm to prove it. Sometimes, Kwan wishes he could go back. He got his best training there. But it's an old familiar story, different only in the details: A fighter and trainer have a falling-out over money and expectations, hard words are uttered, and the fighter isn't welcome anymore.

That's hardly the only messy situation in his life. Kwan is not sure how long he's been homeless. Depends what you mean by homeless. The last time he had a place in his own name? Four years. He can't believe it's been that long. He must have been in a trance or something. He wasn't on the street the whole time. He stayed a lot of places and still does. Once or twice a week, he sleeps at one of the shelters in downtown Minneapolis. "I was there seven years ago, and I'm there seven years later and I see a lot of the same faces," he sighs. "It's sad. There's a lot of people living life just to die, hoping tomorrow don't come."

Over the years, he lived with a few different women. Back in Detroit, he fathered a boy. Kwan hasn't seen his son in years. He knows the boy is 17 and thinks he's doing well. Occasionally, Kwan gets word. Kwan's relationships with women never work out. Mostly, Kwan figures, that's because he shacked up with women he didn't love; he was with them because it meant that he wouldn't have to be on the street. "I was there out of convenience," he concludes. "They were nice people, but we didn't click."

Kwan has been out of work just about as long as he's been homeless. Now and then, he grabs a day labor shift. But he hasn't been able to get hired. He figures that's because of the rap sheet. A couple of years have passed since he was last arrested (on a misdemeanor assault beef, May 2002), and nearly a decade since he was been clipped for a felony (third degree assault, June 1995). But in this economy, a rap sheet hurts.

Back in the late '90s, when Kwan's boxing career was humming along, things were better all around. He was married for a little while. He worked a mess of part-time jobs. "When I came back from jail in Michigan, I had 20 dollars, two pairs of pants, two shirts, and some gym clothes," he says. "I got a job with a maintenance company, cleaning the K-Mart at 66th and Nicollet, and at the age of 33, I opened my first bank account." He also worked as a shelter employee, a bouncer at Glam Slam ("Stephon Marbury was a triple A-hole"), a male dancer ("for life experience"), and a Park and Rec volunteer. "I put as much effort into it as I put into being a criminal. I had four credit cards, the most legal money I ever had. Life was great," he says.  

The fat times didn't last. First the marriage fell apart. After a fight with his wife, Kwan was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge. He disputes that he ever struck his wife. Only a punk-ass man does that. But he was kicked out of the house, and he lost his jobs because he was in jail. Later, he found work as a prep cook at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant. He lost that job, too, in a personality conflict with the manager. Kwan thinks his recent run of bad luck is a punishment. "I always had this feeling that I would lose everything because of the bad things I've done in the past. What goes around comes around," he theorizes.

Sometimes, he says, the bad spirits tempt him to do wrong. A few years back, after he had sworn off crime and had a vision of Jesus, he came across an unlocked station wagon. It was cold outside. He was homeless. So he climbed in the wagon, and sat in the back for a minute to warm up. It was nice inside. Comfortable. Quiet. He rummaged around and found a screwdriver. He started messing with the ignition. "And then I just got out of the car," he says. He pauses as the memory rolls around in his head. "You know what a Pandora's box is? It's a box of hidden evils. If you don't open the box, the evils don't get out," he says. "I've learned to leave the box alone."

His reformation hasn't translated to success in the ring. In the nine years since Kwan first fought the Wolfman, his losses have piled up at an alarming rate. Heading into May Day, his official record stands at six wins, 20 losses, two draws. There is a reason why Kwan lost so often: He kept going on the road to take fights with superior boxers. With very little seasoning, he took on prospects, hometown heroes, and fringe contenders. Still, he had good showings. One time, he fought on television--ESPN 2--and lost a narrow, hometown decision to an undefeated Iowan, James Crawford. Another time he went the distance with former World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Lonnie Bradley. He even managed a few decent paydays. He earned $2,500 in a fight with Minnesota's top light heavyweight, Fabulous Fred Moore.

The problem is, all boxers--even opponents--need to get a win now and then. Kwan's last victory is a distant memory: a second-round knockout of the journeyman Laverne "Fists of Fury" Clark in Chicago on February 2, 2001. Kwan is at a loss to explain the streak. He thinks he needs to be more of a fighter, less of a boxer. More aggressive, less tactical. He has to do something. In November 2002, after Kwan lost a six-round decision in North Platte, Nebraska, the Nebraska Boxing Commission suspended Kwan's federal boxing license. They noted that his winless streak had hit 17. Kwan was worried. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to fight again. He wanted to get back in the worst way.

Finally, he marched down to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he told the nurse on duty he was having trouble with his balance. It was a con, he says, but the only way he could get a brain scan. When the EEG didn't show evidence of a scrambled brain, Kwan applied to have his license reinstated. After protracted haggling, he got it. Kwan doesn't worry about brain damage. "If I get the shakes and wind up like Ali, God bless. I got paid for that," he says. "There are guys out in the streets who got their butt whupped for free! And they're shaking!"

Kwan's exile from boxing officially ended on February 20, on the undercard of a show at the National Guard Armory in St. Paul. Kwan was certain he fought well enough to win. After all, he'd staggered the kid, a raw white middleweight from White Bear Lake. The judges didn't see it that way. Another loss. That's boxing. What are you going to do? Look forward, that's what.

For a change, Kwan actually does have something to look forward to. On May 1, not only will he be stepping into the ring again, he'll be in the main event. That sounds so good. Kwan Manasseh, main event fighter. His opponent: Wolfman Marty Lindquist, the guy who gave him the first victory of his career. Kwan's been telling everyone about it--folks he meets in restaurants, in shelters, on the streets. Minnesota Sports Café. Fridley. Doors open at 6:30. In all his years in the game, Kwan only topped a card once. Now, after he nearly got run out of the game, he's a headliner, God bless. He often ends his statements with a "God bless." It's part exclamation point, part verbal tic, part affirmation, and part prayer.  

It's May Day. Kwan's day. After the weigh-in, he has spent the afternoon trying to burn off some nervous energy at the Candy Palace, a hole-in-the-wall candy shop in north Minneapolis. He's already swept and straightened. Now he's manning the cash register. It's not a job, exactly. Kwan has been staying at the Candy Palace since September, when he and his most recent girlfriend split. The place is owned by a big burly guy called Heavy, who is also from Detroit. In the old days, Kwan and Heavy did time together. So in exchange for a little light labor, Heavy lets Kwan sleep in the storeroom. There's no cot or pillows. Kwan simply spreads three cardboard flats on the floor, rolls up clothes as a pillow, and lies down. He doesn't mind a hard surface. You get used to that in jail.

The room is about eight feet by 12 feet, with fake-wood paneling, a battered little TV, some five-gallon buckets of pickles, and a pleasingly raunchy Lil' Kim poster. A big cardboard box shoved in the corner contains the sum total of Kwan's worldly possessions. A couple of sports coats, a couple of sets of slacks, workout clothes, some boxing gear. He's got an old black-and-white composition notebook brimming with letters he's writing to an old prison buddy in Michigan. Kwan promised he'd keep the guy abreast of his career on the outside and in the ring. He's written faithfully. Problem is, he hasn't mailed the letters. No money for stamps. In fact, as Kwan readies himself for the fight, dubbed May Day Mayhem, he is flat broke.

As he steps out the doors of the Candy Palace, he is natty. Black sport coat, black slacks, black shirt. On the ride to the fight, he breaks out the mantra. He beat the Wolfman once. He can beat the Wolfman again. "I know he's mad and wants to get back. That's cool," he says. "But there's a difference between someone wanting revenge and someone fighting for their life." He promises this fight won't go the distance. Tonight is where he turns it around.

It's a little after 6:00 p.m. when Kwan arrives at the Minnesota Sports Café, the bar-athletic complex where the fights are being held. The place used to be called Spikers. It's not hard to figure out why: The Mayday Mayhem will take place on a converted volleyball court, now covered with folding metal chairs and a half-assembled boxing ring.

Inside, last-minute preparations are underway. The vibe is chaotic. Everybody is drinking light beer. The card girls are preening. Guys with a lot of hair gel are walking around trying to look important. The MC--paunchy, young, dressed in a sagging white tuxedo--is doing his best Michael Buffer imitation. Because the sound system is terrible, his bellowing sounds like the P.A. on a New York City subways, circa 1975. Meanwhile, Ron Peterson, the boxing promoter who gave Kwan his start, is strutting around fitfully. Peterson is promoting this show. So of course he is irritated. Somebody forgot to bring one of the ring ropes and everybody else is a moron and now here's Kwan, and he forgot his fucking mouthpiece.

One by one, the problems get solved. As the fights draw nearer, Kwan is strangely tranquil. He mingles with other boxers and various fight-world folk. He's been around, so he knows a lot of the guys. Before long, he bumps into Brian Sargent, the heavyweight who first introduced him to boxing at the Hennepin County workhouse. Sargent isn't fighting. He drove down from the White Earth Reservation to supply some opponents for the card. He has brought three inexperienced native kids, who everyone in the know expects will get their asses beat. They will be fighting out of the blue corner. So will Kwan. The guys who are supposed to win tonight? They are fighting out of the red corner. Most of them train at the Anoka Coon Rapids Gym. The Wolfman trains at ACR.

When the preliminary fights commence, Kwan watches from the blue-corner dressing room. It's not a room, actually, just a hallway with chairs and tables arranged to block out wandering fans. But it has a decent view of the action, which is a mix of spirited brawling and appalling mismatches. The three boxers from White Earth have an ugly run. In the first fight, the native kid, clearly a novice, is too brave and gets bloodied. The second White Earth kid is hopelessly obese and gets pole-axed by a muscle-bound tax resistor. The third--Brian Sargent Jr.--has an asthma attack and quits on his stool. And so it goes. The crowd is lusty and partisan. They root for anyone from Anoka County.  

At intermission, Kwan and the Wolfman greet each other in the red-corner dressing room. It's not a real dressing room either. But unlike in the blue-corner dressing room, at least there are walls and a door. The Wolfman is in high spirits, almost courtly in his overtures to Kwan. He makes an offer. Whatever happens, the Wolfman proposes that both fighters leave the door open for a rematch. Kwan is game. These days, any fight sounds good to him.

When Kwan's time finally comes, he enters the ring wearing borrowed trunks and, in place of boxing shoes, regular sneakers. After the Wolfman does his ring walk, an electrical circuit trips and the lights die. There's a long break until finally the lights flash back. The announcer introduces him. When he says that Kwan is fighting out of Minneapolis, the crowd boos lustily. In Fridley, this makes him the out-of-town guy. The announcer introduces the Wolfman, and there is bedlam applause.

At last, the bell rings, the fighters touch gloves, and it begins.

Kwan never seems to get in synch. He is off balance. He doesn't fire many power punches. What looked athletic and quick on the Chicago Avenue street corner appears clumsy and slow in the ring. The Wolfman, despite clear technical limitations, is determined and disciplined. He keeps defense in mind, holding his hands high, and Kwan can't get through.

In the second round, there is a long delay when Kwan's protective cup comes undone. It falls on Peterson and a corner man to reposition the cup without removing Kwan's trunks. At the bell signaling the end of the round, Kwan lets out a bellow of frustration. He doesn't know what else to do. The outcome starts to feel more obvious. After the third round, the Wolfman and his ACR buddies are celebrating, even though the fight is scheduled for six. In the corner, Kwan looks beaten, like a guy who better find another line of work.

A left hook ends it one minute, four seconds into the fourth round. It doesn't seem that deadly. But it connects at the top of the temple. Kwan goes down hard. He stands up, wobbles, and gets tangled in the ropes. Fight over. The ACR fans go wild. The Wolfman is ecstatic.

Kwan is furious. He promised himself, If I get knocked down, I'm taking my time getting up. I'm taking an eight count. And then what does he do? Pops off the canvas without taking an eight count. Damn. Damn. Damn. Motherfucker.

Kwan makes his way to the red-corner dressing room. The walls are covered with xeroxed pieces of paper that read, "Please refrain from taking out your anger on our walls." Kwan would like to stick a fist through the Sheetrock. But he doesn't. A doctor enters the room and peers into his eyes with a flashlight. During the examination, Kwan is docile. He says he's fine.

He shucks off his boxing garb. For a few minutes, he just stands there in his underwear. People stop to offer consolations and encouragement. Kwan laughs, then gets serious, then laughs. What he really wants right now is a shower, but there are no showers at the Minnesota Sports Café. Since there is no shower at the Candy Palace, he'll probably have to go to Harbor Lights or one of the other downtown shelters. He doesn't feel like showering at Harbor Lights. He asks three more people whether there is a shower here. He gets the same answer each time.

There's something else Kwan wants to know: How long will he be suspended from boxing? Under the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions, a fighter who gets knocked out faces a mandatory suspension of his license. Kwan has been suspended before, but for consecutive losses, not for a knockout. So how long, he asks. Sixty days, comes the answer. A few minutes later, he asks again. Sixty days, he's told.

"I can't fight for 60 days? Man, I need a damn job," he huffs. He pulls on his pleated slacks and dons the Mayday Mayhem T-shirt that he received for tonight's labors--that and an $800 purse, paid in cash. He pulls out the fat roll and peels off a $20 bill. He puts that 20 in his pocket and stashes the rest in a wallet in his knapsack. He double-checks the location of a wallet. It's there. Good.

He feels like getting a drink of alcohol. He says he can find a ride back to the north side later. For now, he just wants to go to the bar and mingle with the fight fans of Fridley.  

There's one other thing he wants to know. "So what round was that?" he asks. "Was it the fifth or the sixth?"


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