David Brewster made me feel like a million-dollar baby. Long
before Hillary Swank won her Academy Award for the story of
a woman boxer, Brewster was in my corner. But the roles were
switched from the movie: he had all the confidence; I had
When it came to writing, I wasnt sure where to put the
commas, and I always felt my stories could have been written
My worst fear was that I wasnt aggressive enough to
be a journalist. I couldnt even figure out how to get
a chair in the newsroom. Every journalist had a chair to claim
but me. Needless to say it was difficultnot to mention
nerve-wrackingto be fighting a deadline and searching
for a chair.
One day it occurred to me to sit at the sports desk to do
my writing. Sports writers worked in the afternoon, so I could
write my stories in the morning and do my interviews in the
afternooninvert my day so to speak.
Thats how I met David Brewster, one of the best sports
writers in the world. He was also one of the nicest guys youd
ever want to knowa real people kind of person.
The first time David praised my writing, I nearly fainted.
I knew he was in a league way above me. Then, one day, he
said the unthinkable: Why dont you be a sports
I think he said, Why dont you be the first woman
sports writer, but I might just think I remember him
saying that because he was always out to make me feel like
I was number one.
Sports? I asked, like what?
Boxing, Brewster smiled.
Sports Editor Mervyn Wells supported the idea. And so it was
I came to boxing.
My first assignment was to interview David Noel. Brewster
offered me advice: Go to the gym; see what boxing feels
like from a womans point of view.
Brewster set up the interview with Noels manager.
At the gym, I found it was impossible to get a boxer to stop
moving. Eventually, I saw my opportunity. Training finished
so I tagged along behind my boxer.
Suddenly I realised I was in the mens locker room. Men
were shedding clothes like snakes shed skin.
Back at the office, where I was paler than usual and a bit
shaken, Brewster asked, How did it go?
When I told him about the locker room experience, he said,
Thats it! The headline is going to be, Help!
Men are taking their clothes off around me!
I was sceptical. I didnt think I should be the point
of the story, but I learned not to argue with Brewster. He
knew how to write a lead and angle a story like few people
in the business. He said he had learned from good sports writers
who came before him. Brewster always had time for retired
sports writers who visited him.
Needless to say, Noels manager was not impressed. He
thought the story was a fluff piece and he cussed out Brewster
over the phone. Brewster listened. He could take a cuss like
no one I have never known. Didnt phase him a bit. In
the end, Brewster laughed and said, It was a good piece.
Soon Brewster and I were going to boxing gyms in the Beetham
where I wrote about the next contenders. Then, boxing hit
the big time with a world title match between Leslie Tiger
Stewart and Marvin Pops Johnson. I was pregnant
with my daughter, Ijanaya, and so I was experiencing punches
inside of me to rival any I was watching in the ring.
Mervyn called me aside one day and said he wanted a story
on Pops wife, whose nickname was Tiger, and Brewster
decided I should do a piece on how pugilists spend the night
before a fight. See what they eat and how they relax,
Because of Brewster I got to interview a cut manjust
like Frankie from Million Dollar Baby. That turned out to
be one of the most fascinating stories I ever did.
Then Brewster hooked me up with Johnsons sparring partner.
He turned out to be from my home town, Mansfield, Ohio. Through
Pops sparring partner I got a ringside seat for the
big fight in the stadium and when the fight finished and chaos
ensued, Pops bodyguards ran to me and shielded me and
my big belly from flying chairs.
By the time Stewart fought Don La Londe, Brewster had me covering
fights. Soon after, Trinidad boxing got a knockout punch,
but Brewster hoped for a comeback. He talked about it all
the timeeven when we went out for Chinese food on our
We were both born on the same day, September 27. One birthday,
Brewster gave me a plaque of The Serenity Prayer: God
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the
difference. It sits on the desk in my study.
I will always remember Brewster pecking out a story with both
index fingers. I will always live with the regret of missing
his funeral. But then, God must have known I could not have
said goodbye to Brewster.
I am sorry that Brewster and I drifted apart because I took
a job as a teacher; but Ill never forget what he taught
me: keep your chin up; deliver the right jab; always protect