A tattoo. She will have a tattoo, right? And a shaved head. And maybe a few teeth missing.
“Bertha,” I say to myself, as I drive to the restaurant to meet her. “Her name will be Bertha. She will be — what? Three hundred pounds? Yes. I think so. Three hundred pounds.”
She can pick up the check, I decide.
I am hesitant, but I drive on. I am a sports writer on the cutting edge of a big story.
I am about to interview . . . a female boxer.
A female boxer? Yes. That’s what I said. I park the car. I walk to the door. I have never met a female boxer. I did not know they existed. Where I come from, females do not box. They do not even watch. If boxing is on TV, they always change the channel. A female boxer?
“Over here,” yells the publicity man. I take a deep breath. She probably smells.
“This,” he says, gesturing, “is Pauletta.”
Wait a minute. This is not a boxer. This girl is thin. This girl is young. This girl is . . . cute. I would ask this girl out. Maybe I should —
“And this is her husband, Curt,” says the publicity man. He points to a big guy with bulging arms. “He is a boxer, too.”
“Oh, uh . . . hi,” I say. Steps into the ring tonight I sit down. I tell them to order. Whatever they like. Potatoes. Raw meat. She orders a Diet Coke.
“Why do you want to box?” I begin.
“It’s fun,” she says.
“Fun,” I scribble in my notepad.
She says she started about a year ago, after she and her husband had a play fight in their Iowa living room. Her husband noticed how hard she could hit. So did her kids, Jennifer and Scott.
Soon, she says, she was at the gym every day. She spars with men. Sometimes they take her lightly, so she whacks them until they feel pain.
“One day, Curt brought a guy home from work to spar me in our living room,” she says. “He didn’t believe I could box.”
Curt nods. “She broke his nose,” he says.
She fought several women’s kick-boxing fights in the past year. Now she will “straight” box at Cobo Arena. Tonight. Four rounds. Pauletta Muhl vs. Sharon Harrington. The first-ever women’s boxing match in Detroit.
Pauletta vs. Sharon?
Yes. They will each take pregnancy tests. They will each wear chest protectors. Then the bell will ring and they will try to knock each other out. Uppercuts. Jabs. Right hooks.
I look at her husband. I notice he has a black eye. “Did she . . . ?” I ask.
He nods. She did. Hit on her, she hits back I ask more questions. This is what I learn. As a child Pauletta was scared of fighting. When she got married, she planned on being a housewife. She lives in Grand Rapids. Her ring name is “The Cyclone”
— but her husband calls her “Sweat Pea.”
And she loves to cook.
“I make great cinnamon rolls,” she says.
I am not sure what to ask after that.
“Do you get hassled in singles bars?” I say.
“To be honest,’ she answers, “that’s a fantasy of mine. I’m waiting for some guy to keep pushing me, pushing, and I say, ‘Get away, I’m married,’ and he won’t get away. He’s gonna get it then.”
She grins. “I know where to hit, you know.”
All during this time, her husband listens attentively. He is a bricklayer by trade. He is very macho-looking.
I look at the two of them. They are holding hands. Each has a shiner under the eye. I know what this is. This is the couple of the ’80s.
“He’s always behind me,” she says.
I’d say that’s the safest spot.
What do I make of this? I have no idea. Pauletta says if men can box, why can’t women? I keep thinking I should have a good answer. I don’t. Not really. I do know this. I will never go to a singles bar again. Not without headgear.
We get up to leave. For the first time I notice the soft sweater she is wearing and the stylish black slacks. She looks very pretty.
“You are not what I expected,” I admit.
“Why?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “You just don’t seem that . . . that tough, I guess.”
She holds up her fists. She grins.
“Wanna spar?” she says.
I tell her thanks. Maybe next time.
I do not ask her ask about the tattoo.
I like my nose where it is.