The Messenger’s Left Hook

By Jeffrey Sussman on August 18, 2014
The Messenger’s Left Hook
“If I had that fight, I coulda moved up, maybe even ‘av been a contender, ya know.”

“When I turned eighteen, they brought me back ta the city and introduced me ta a guy named Frankie Carbo. Ever hear of him?”

I met Walker back in the 1980s when I was doing public relations and marketing for a boutique law firm that specialized in real estate transactions. While escorting me to the elevators, one of the firm’s lawyers lightly touched my elbow and said: “See that old guy, our messenger? We hired him last week. He was once a promising welter weight in the 1930s and ‘40s. I know you’re interested in boxing so you should talk with him. He’ll get a kick out of reminiscing.” He introduced me to Walker, and I asked him if I could take him to lunch at the diner just off the lobby.

“Sure,” he said, “especially since you’re the one whose gonna be paying”

“Of course,” I said and grinned at Walker.

We sat opposite one another in an ersatz leather booth. Walker ordered a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich and light coffee.  I had tuna salad on a Kaiser roll and black coffee. I studied Walker’s broad, pink face: it was the face of a former boxer: the bridge of his nose had been pushed in; his ears were slightly misshapen; two scars crisscrossed the eyebrow above his left eye, which had a slight droop to the lid; and there was scar tissue above both eyebrows. Yet, his blue-gray eyes twinkled and his gray crew-cut still had a touch of russet.

“I’ve been told that you were a promising welter weight fifty years ago.”

“Not just promising. I was a contender.”

“How did you get into boxing?”

“I’m the son of a poor Jewish woman and an immigrant Italian father. Ma was a seamstress; Pop was a bricklayer and mason. They didn’t always work. It was tough for ‘em. We had very little. My family had six kids to feed. I was the oldest, and I ran with a gang on the Lower East Side, Italian and Jewish kids. We got tagetha and started a small-time protection racket. We would threaten candy store owners, push cart guys, laundries, whatever, and shake ‘em down for a few bucks each week. We had ta protect our territory from other gangs. Well, one day after a big brawl in which I nearly killed a kid, I got pinched. I told the cop that my name is Walker, so the pinch wouldn’t get back to my folks. The cop took me aside and said he could beat the crap outa me, teach me a lesson, ya know, or I could learn ta box at the PLA.  I took the deal.”

“And then what?”

“I discovered I really liked it. I was good at it. I developed a powerful left hook. Could knock a guy unconscious with one punch. I learned ta bob and weave. I had a head that jerked like a puppet. I was hard ta hit. Of course, there were guys who could fake me out and land a coupla solid ones. I took my blows. But I gave as good as I got, sometimes a lot betta.”

“What then?” I asked.

“I quit school right afta the eighth grade and got a job on the loadin’ dock of a warehouse in Brooklyn. I kept on fightin’ at the PLA. By the time I turned eighteen, a coupla guys, you could call ‘em Augie, asked me if I wanted to make some money boxin’. Sure, I said. And that’s how it began. Small amateur fights. Fifty bucks for a win. That was more than I was earnin’ on the dock. So I started trainin’ full time. Jeez, I fought in some awful dumps. Fought all around the country. When I turned eighteen, they brought me back ta the city and introduced me ta a guy named Frankie Carbo. Ever hear of him?”

“Everyone in boxing knows the name.”

“Well, I was just askin’.


“So anyway, he tells me if I sign with him, he can get me some major fights. I signed and he got me the fights. I started makin’ some real money for a change. I was ridin’ high, higher un I thought I could go.”

“Then what happened?”

“I had a manager and he told me that I had to take a dive. The smart money was on the otha guy. I did what I was told, but I never got a shot at the title. If I had that fight, I coulda moved up, maybe even ‘av been a contender, ya know.”

“Are you bitter?”

“You can’t be bitta at my age. I take it one day at a time.”

“Who was the best welterweight of the 1930s?”

I’d have ta say Barney Ross. He was somethin’ ta see.

“By the way, how’d you wind up as a messenger for the law firm?”

“I got no pension. I get Social Security, but you can’t live on it. The son of one of my managers is a client upstairs. He got me the job. I worked as a trainer for awhile, but young guys don’t want an old fart like me tellin’ ‘em what to do. Unless your trainin’ some hot pro, you’re not gonna make much dough.”

I paid the modest check and we left the diner. Walker headed to the bank of elevators to take him up to the law firm, and I hailed a cab, heading back to my office. I did not see Walker for several weeks.

One day, I was sitting in an inner office of the law firm, consulting with my client, when we heard loud yelling coming from the reception area. We ran out, and there was a big guy yelling at the receptionist. He said he was going to kill one of lawyers. Walker pushed the guy against the wall and told him he better leave.

“Outa my way old man!”

Walker rushed the guy and with his powerful left hook, he knocked the guy to the floor.

Furious, the big guy pulled a snub nose .38 from his coat pocket and fired three shots at Walker. Each bullet died in his chest and Walker fell to the floor with a groan. Blood gurgled out of his mouth, then he was silent.

There were three of us at his funeral in Queens. Walker had no family. No obituary was published, so I paid for a death notice in the Times. The law firm paid for a stone. On it was Walker’s name, but no date. No one knew the year of his birth. Below his name was an image of two boxing gloves.

Jeffrey Sussman is the author of ten books and has a marketing/PR company,

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Bob 06:03pm, 08/20/2014

    Nice work, Mr. Sussman. Good story.

  2. NYIrish 02:38pm, 08/20/2014

    Good story. Thanks.

  3. peter 10:05am, 08/19/2014

    Yet again, another classic Sussman tale which captures the distinctive aroma and flavor of the 1950s. It’s amazing how the name “Frankie Carbo” still raises eyebrows.

Leave a comment