Cliff Walk: A Liam Mulligan Novel

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Book: Cliff Walk: A Liam Mulligan Novel by Bruce DeSilva Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bruce DeSilva
his inspiring story and partly because he was small but tenacious—just like Rhode Island. He grew up as a skinny undersized kid who played a mean Little League shortstop, provoked on-field brawls, and kept the playground bullies at bay with his wild-eyed ferocity. When he was fourteen, he sat in the dark in the Park Cinema in his hometown of Cranston, watched Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed beat each other half to death, and decided then and there that he wanted to become a boxer. He hit the weights, built himself a gladiator’s body muscle by muscle, won a hundred out of a hundred twelve amateur bouts, turned pro in 1983, and defeated Greg Haugen for the IBF world lightweight championship in 1987.
    In 1991, a few weeks after he pummeled Gilbert Dele to win the WBA world junior middleweight title, Vinny woke up in the hospital with a broken neck. A car crash had cracked his third and fourth vertebrae. Doctors told him he would never fight again. He was lucky he could even move his legs. Three months after the accident, he limped out of the hospital with a medieval-looking brace still screwed to his skull and went right into the gym. Just thirteen months later, he outpointed former WBC world super welterweight champion Luis Santana in a tune-up fight and set his sights on bigger things.
    Over his twenty-one-year ring career, Vinny took some beatings. Héctor “Macho” Camacho bloodied him. Roger Mayweather and the great Roy Jones Jr. knocked him around the ring. But along the way, he beat the legendary Roberto Duran twice, and by the time his final fight ended with a victory in 2004, he was a five-time world champion. His final pro record: ten losses and fifty wins, thirty of them by knockout.
    When I walked into the gym Joseph was already at work, his fists thudding against one of the heavy bags hanging on a chain from the ceiling. Each time he slugged the bag, it swung away from him as if it feared for its life. He had to wait for it to swing back so he could punish it again.
    “Hold this fuckin’ thing still for me, will ya?” he said.
    I stood behind the bag and steadied it while Joseph clubbed it with lefts and rights. He fired a ten-punch combination of hooks and uppercuts, backed off to catch his breath, and then went at it again. He completed his workout with a flurry of blows that traveled through the bag, up my arms, and down the length of my spine. Then he backed away, snorted like a bull, and said, “Your turn.”
    Joseph showed me how to wrap my hands with strips of two-inch-wide cloth, weaving it between each finger, over each knuckle, and back around the wrist to protect the joints and tendons. When I was ready, I approached the bag and threw a couple of tentative left jabs. I tried a right cross, a left hook, a right uppercut, and found a rhythm. I liked the smacking sound my fists made when they met the bag. It felt good to be beating on something that didn’t hit back.
    Afterward, we reconvened over beers at Hopes.
    “You beat the crap out of that bag,” I said. “That how you hit King Felix when he pulled a gun on you?”
    “Fuck, no. Asshole wouldn’t still be walkin’ around, I hit him like that.”
    He chugged his Bud and waved for another. “You know,” he said, “you smacked the bag pretty good yourself. For a rookie. Got some pop in that skinny-ass frame.”
    “Maybe we can do it again sometime.”
    “Sure. Anytime you want.”
    When the waitress arrived with his beer, I ordered another for myself, but I was already two beers behind him.
    “I need to ask you something,” I said.
    “If it’s for the fuckin’ paper, I ain’t got nothin’ to say.”
    “Off the record,” I said.
    “That means you won’t write what I tell you?”
    “That’s what it means.”
    “What, then?”
    “Think the Maniellas could be making child porn?”
    Joseph’s face drained of color. “Do you?” he said.
    “I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.”
    “I ain’t ever heard nothin’ like

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