Bruce ‘The Mouse’ Strauss. I don’t know if I ran this story before. I can’t remember. I think I did. The first time I was in Stockton was on my way back from a seminar in Berkley. Stockton is about 50 miles east of San Francisco. The seminar was called Men, Sex, and Power and it was, well, it was the eighties, Google it. The good thing about it was that a guy in another seminar program called est gave me a hundred bucks to help me pay for it, and my girlfriend paid the other 300 bucks.
So that was good, and I borrowed my girlfriend’s car which was more roadworthy than my 1971 Dodge Polara and also better on gas. I think it was an ‘84 Cavalier. I was with, I think, two other guys on this trip. We spent the first night in Berkley at a graduate of the programs house and the second night at another graduates place, graduates of the Men, Sex, and Power program. I think it was in Palo Alto. I slept on the couch in my shirt and in the morning I’m asking him if he has an iron. “No, but you can look in the garage.” It was cluttered in there and I leaned on a flimsy shelf and everything came down. Now this guy is telling me that I have to drive into town and get brackets to fix his shelf.
One of the things about the seminar, which was created by some est trainer named Justin Sterling, was that you were expected to provide a meal for the banquet that happened after the training was over.
I made nice borscht and I had that in the back of the car. One of my passengers was some young kid and he borrowed my girlfriend’s car, I let him borrow it and he spilled my fucking soup all over the back seat. So I had to try to fix it up without out a stove and nobody even tried it. That’s number one.
This kid was pretty chummy with the asshole that didn’t have an iron; they both of them sounded so pompous. That’s number two.
The last thing I can remember is this kid talking to me with total disrespect. That’s number three, and I blew a fuse and hit him in the chest. I gave him time to see it coming. I didn’t want any trouble, I just—he needed to be hit. So, I said, “F**k you and you can fly back.”
Plus I got out of having to fix that guys shelf. Heyyyyyyyy! That’s the way I was in them days.
On the way back I had the other guy with me and for the world of me I can’t recall a thing about him. Maybe he caught a ride with someone else. That’s possible. I think he did come back with me, but I don’t really even remember his face.
I knew Jamie was training in Stockton so I followed the signs and I got there and I hung around there for a couple of days. I liked Stockton. It was midsummer, hot, and there were palm trees, and I like that. Stockton is a tough old fight town. A blue collar town and whites are a minority in that town. The city of Stockton went bankrupt last year.
Jamie showed me the Fat City boxing gym and it was just like in the movie. Jamie had found a sponsor and he was training there. I still have a photo of us in front of the gym in boxing poses.
Jamie was learning stuff, how to be more defensive, not be so straight up; slipping punches and rolling under punches. We went for a run around a little park. He told me it was two miles, but to me it didn’t seem like two miles. “They said it was two miles and that’s enough for me.” I understood what he was saying; he had over trained for his fight with Santana in the finals of the ESPN Junior Welterweight Tournament. He told me that and I believed him. There is such a thing as over training and as well if you have to drop too much weight you can come in flat.
I spent a couple of days and I enjoyed it. I had talked to Ollenberger about maybe turning pro; this off of a five and four amateur record. And I’m 29 or thirty here. But that’s boxing. Almost anybody can fight for money. That’s what professional means: for money.
What did I have going for me? I was white, a Jew, which is even rarer in boxing nowadays, and I had a good punch. I was strong and fairly sturdy. Now in retrospect, I’m glad it never happened. And Jamie had told me that he couldn’t live with himself if I got fucked up. He also told me, “One thing for sure is that if you did turn pro you could have a lot of knockouts. You don’t realize how strong you are, you can see your power.”
I asked him, “What do you mean?” “You’re backing these guys up.” This was later, after I moved to Vegas and Ollenberger was also training there. I mean I’d heard this over the years, from other guys. I’d seen it in the gym and fights. Power is good. But I was so raw and starting so late. On top of that even gifted and brilliant fighters end up getting messed up.
See, anybody can be moved. But then again, as Jamie said, “It’s hard to find little guys who can’t fight.”
Later on, in 1988, Jamie was in Las Vegas and we were training at the Golden Gloves Gym and there was a white guy sitting next to Jamie and I was working out, doing something, hitting the heavybag. This guy is watching me and he asks about me and Jamie tells the guy my age, about thirty two by then. Jamie steered the guy away, he was trying to look out for me.
This guy was an interesting character named Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss. Strauss was a professional opponent who had over two hundred fights. He happens to be Jewish. He traveled around under different names and on one card he fought twice on the same night. And he fought from welterweight all the way up to heavyweight; he would load his pockets with lead to make the heavier weights. Sometimes he won but mostly he lost. He would put up a fight but it was relative to what he was getting paid. And further he said that if a fighter couldn’t get past him then that was a useful thing for a manager to know about his fighter, he was like a litmus test for prospects. You can’t even do what he did anymore, not with the widespread advent of computers. I saw him being interviewed by David Letterman and he acknowledged that his time was over. Forever.
The last time I came through Stockton I was on the run from surviving cancer, a relationship that was beyond salvation, and I had quit my good job at the cemetery, and finally, the kicker was that I owed ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Twelve hundred bucks for 23 points and I didn’t have it. And if I did have it they still ain’t getting my money! I was unrepentant.
I had talked to Jamie on the phone and he was in trouble down there because he had gotten a cut on the left eyelid when he was sparring and it had gotten infected. He caught a taller fighter’s elbow. But the promoter was pushing Jamie to fight, since he was the top of the card and he sent Jamie to his own doctor and the doctor cleared him to fight. Jamie went to his own doctor who advised against fighting. Regardless, Jamie dropped off the card.
While I was there that time I saw Angelo Dundee at the pool of the motel where Jamie and Tony Dowling, his manager were staying, Dundee had a prospect on the card. I also saw Yaqui Lopez, he lives in Stockton.
The sponsor wasn’t ready for me; he just took on a new guy, which is probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. I pushed on to LA. My uncle lived there, in Torrance.