I Always Wanted To Be Somebody
Once he got the idea of me boxing professionally out of his head, all Daddy was trying to do, aside from teach me right from wrong, was to make sure I would be able to protect myself. Harlem is a mean place to grow up in; there's always somebody to gall you no matter how much you want to mind your own business.
If Daddy hadn't shown me how to look out for myself, I would have got into a lot of fights that I would have lost, and I would have been pretty badly beaten up a lot of times.
I remember once I was walking down the street with a bunch of pebbles in my hand, throwing them at targets like street signs and mailboxes and garbage cans, and this big girl came up to me and said, "What, are you supposed to be tough or something? You're supposed to be bad?" I tried to pay no mind to her. I wanted to avoid her. But she wouldn't let me. She hauled off and hit me right in the breadbasket and I went down to my knees, in agony. I prayed that she wouldn't hit me again while I was trying to get my breath back. But she didn't; she just walked away, and I ran home crying. Daddy didn't give me any sympathy at all. When I told him what had happened, he said, "If you don't go back out there and find her and whip her, I'll whip the behind off you when you come home."
So I went back and I found her and I beat the hell out of her. I really tore into her. I kept hitting and hitting, and I wasn't hitting like a girl, either, I was punching.