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Mute Boxer Wins Fight For Speach

 

By OSCAR FRALEY

United Press Sports Writer

NEW YORK, March 29.

They don't call Eugene Hairston by the deaf-mute nickname of "Silent" anymore. Five years ago the chunky middleweight contender couldn't speak a word. But now the young man with the explosive fists easily can make himself understood—and his favorite word is "champion."

Hairston, who boxes Kid Gavilan in the main event at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, can give credit to persistence. It was that quality which gave him his chance in boxing —and the same attribute which has given him back his voice.

Silent 13 Years

Stricken with spinal meningitis when he was two years old, Eugene became deaf and dumb. For 13 years he never said a word, not during the days when he was going to school or later when he was shining shoes or working as a pin boy in a bowling alley. He couldn't tell anyone that he wanted to be a fighter, so he just showed them. Hairston began to frequent a Bronx gymnasium known as the Tremont A. C. which is operated by Mike and Joe Miele. Every day for six months the brothers would find the youngster waiting when they opened the gym in the morning. Every day for six months they ran him off.

Joe Gave In

Finally, Joe, admiring the youngster's determination, invited the boy to get into the ring with another amateur. Hairston simply shucked off his shirt and undershirt, slipped off his shoes and climbed through the ropes. For the first time m six months, Hairston smiled. His opponent was an amateur who had fought six fights. Despite the fact that they were using pillow gloves, Hairston made him call quits. "We saw he had something," started to teach him how to box."

Cleaned up Amateurs

It was rough going for a while.They had to write out their messages or speak slowly so Hairston could read their lips. Meanwhile, the boy was proving that he really did have something as he waded through 61 amateur fights with only one loss, winning the Golden Gloves welterweight championship in 1947. So, in July of that year, they turned their fighter pro. Meanwhile, the education of Hairston outside the ring continued. "When he wanted to write a message tore up the paper or broke the pencil," Miks Miele explained. "We insisted that he try to say the words. I think he hadn't tried to talk because he was embarrassed, for pretty soon he was making sounds."

Better All the Time "Then," Miele added, "he began to pronounce words. We couldn't understand him at first, naturally, but gradually we could. Then, Gone got so almost anybody could understand him and he's getting better all the time." Hairston still can't hear. But he is an excellent lip reader. And, in the ring, he just keeps swarming until his opponent quits fighting at the bell. Then  he stops, too.