One Tough Bird

Gary Smith is a brilliant story teller. In his 1995 article on boxer Roy Jones Jr., “One Tough Bird”, he does not simply list facts about Jones’ life but he employs layers of imagery and quotes to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. “even with the three-inch steel spur running through his skull, the Rooster did not forget the secret. Even with the blood fever making the dogs yip and the men close in howling, “It’s over! He’s dead!” Even with the teenager’s nervous fingers trying to yank the metal from the rooster’s brain, with the talons of the other rooster at its throat.”

Smith is not afraid to illustrate graphic images for his readers to follow his story. I particularly love the lines, “Even then….The boy’s heart was beating its way up his throat, but he couldn’t show his fear or sorrow for his bird” and “Boxing is the heart’s cry for personal space”.

Smith ingeniously draws parallels between Jones’ fighting roosters as a boy to him boxing men. “By the end of this story the boy will be a man, and there’ll be fighting roosters everywhere, hundreds of them in cages all over his land. By the end he’ll be known as the best boxer, pound for pound, in the world, 28-0 with 24 knockouts, the super middleweight champion whom some will call the best boxer since Sugar Ray.”

He goes on to challenge the reader’s knowledge, thereby encouraging the reader to read on,“If you, the reader, are asking yourself, Roy Jones Jr.? The best fighter in the world? Why have I barely heard of him?…well, that too, by the end of the story, you will see. You’ll know, like the rooster, all you need to know about distance.”


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