Part of it was in the way he left the ring. It was good, and it spoke of the night. The robe, the color of a boiled potato, hung over his shoulders, and all the women with that Town and Country look and the men, the ones with the big rings and the white-on-white shirts and the ones with the hanging bellies and old faces whose thoughts of boxing had been stolen by a distant time, looked long at Joey Archer as he passed down the ramp. They wanted to say something special, but didn't because it would have all come out like a high note on a bad horn. How do you tell a loser he was special—that he had brought magic to the night?
Archer was in the middle—the head tilted up, the eyes looking at nothing—when they moved down the ramp at Madison Square Garden, where Emile Griffith had just beaten Joey to keep the middleweight championship of the world. Freddy Brown, the trainer with an old boxing glove for a face, shuffled behind like a man searching for lost coins, and Jimmy Archer, the brother and manager, was out in front. They hit the tunnel, flattened out beside each other and moved through the darkness and quiet, the sounds from above now like a faraway El train. Nobody spoke, until finally Jimmy said: "Joey, dammit, you were good." Brown nodded oracularly, and then at the far end of the tunnel a fan, trying to climb over a saw-horse and a cop, sang: "Hey Joeeeeeey!" Archer smiled thinly, and the group turned into the dressing room.
There Archer sat on a table—his pale, thin legs dangling loosely and swinging—and held out his palms. When the tape was cut from his hands, he shot out his clenched fists in frustration and then let them flop to his thighs, bringing a wet smack from his drenched green trunks. "I thought, I really thought, I had it 9-6 easy," he said. "Yeah," said Jimmy, "you did everything you had to do." In a sense Archer had, for he and Griffith had put on a stirring show, and that's something in a ring these days. But in a sense he hadn't. Just ask the longshoremen from the Bronx, the Irish and all those who were Irish for a night.