I was never a close friend of the Volk brothers. But we got along okay. After they entered Benson High trade school and I entered nearby Washington High, they still invited me over to their place occasionally for a little roughhousing, a workout on the bags, and a “free” boxing lesson. They issued the same invitation to Dan Borich, another neighborhoodbuddy. Maybe they were just looking for naive sparring partners they could knock around. Nevertheless, we accepted the invite now and then. It gave us a chance to hang around and listen to the famous Eddie Volk, himself.Eddie had been a rock-solid middleweight with a dangerous left hook who made a name for himself, scuffling for a buck around Portland and Seattle during the early (30s.Piling up something like a 24 or 25-2 record, including several knockouts, he started grabbing the attention of the big-time promoters. They signed him up for his first big moneymaker. He took on the pride of LA’s rabid boxing crowd—an explosive young Mexican with lightening speed whose name I no longer remember. I do remember what happened, though. Eddie Volk was cut to pieces. The fight ended in a bloody TKO, seventh or eighth round. Startling flash photos were splashed across the Oregoniansports pages the morning after. Eddie’s legion of Portland fight fans went into shock.Eddie was never quite the same again. A few bouts later, he wisely gave up professional boxing. But he didn’t give up the ring. In the old barn out back of the Volk’s house on 24th Street, Eddie built a boxing ring and makeshift gym. He devoted his spare time to teaching his younger brothers and other neighborhood kids something about “the sweet science.”
He emphasized what he called solid mechanics—things like a proper tight fist, keeping your body compact, the confident step forward, keeping your hands up, the virtue of the three-punch combination and other stuff I’ve long forgotten.
Several times, I put on the gloves and danced and shuffled around the ring with young Joe Volk, as if I knew what I was doing. Joe was my age. Maybe I learned a little footwork, a quick jab. Maybe how to slip a punch. Then again, maybe I didn’t. One sweaty, sweltering afternoon, sparring with Joe Volk,-1 got my ears pinned back. The second time he hit me flush in the cheek … bam … I felt groggy all the way down into my toes. I tell you, I didn’t like it one bit.