Over the next few years, Damon and his brother lived with three different families. “I lived with a Jehovah’s Witness family, and in an Italian household,” he says. “Just friends of the family that helped while my dad was busy trying to make a living.”
“I got tutors for them,” Marty Feldman says. “I got whatever I could get to keep them up to par with a normal family.”
Damon recalls the day he and his brother were “hysterically crying” and Marty let them move back home. Damon was 10. Some boxers Marty was training were living in his house, and brothers Frank “The Animal” Fletcher and Anthony “Two Guns” Fletcher helped raise the Feldman boys.
“Uncle Frank and Uncle Anthony. They made sure I had dinner all the time,” Damon recalls. “We’d go to the mall, to a movie. I talked to Anthony about the adversity I was going through. He was there, man. It’s unfortunate now he’s on death row.”
Feldman won the Philadelphia Junior Olympics at 13 and turned pro at 19. As a suburban, Jewish super-middleweight, he got attention from local papers and TV news, and promoter J. Russell Peltz milked it, putting him in fights at the Blue Horizon against beatable opponents to build his record. By 1992, Feldman was 9-0 with four knockouts. Already he was promoting his own projects. He told newspapers about a “Boxercise” aerobics program he developed and planned to take to a fancy hotel in Argentina. Then he slipped, outside a grocery store in Broomall.
“The curb broke as I walked off it, and I just fell. I hit my neck and my head, messed my disk up,” he explains. He never boxed professionally again. For a while he pursued a lawsuit based on lost potential earnings as a Jewish boxer. (He won the suit, but not very much money.)
“I really didn’t know what I was gonna do,” he says. “I took odd jobs. I was down the Shore one weekend and saw these two guys fighting, a bar fight, and I thought: We should do this in the ring.” He staged a tough-guy tournament. “Eight guys, one night, one winner. We drew 500 people.”
IT’S TWO DAYS before the King fight. A table is set up with microphones at Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philly. After a Michael Jackson impersonator dances, Feldman introduces the fighters to the lunchtime crowd. Ex-cop Simon Aouad, King’s opponent, has been strutting around like a jackass, wearing a scowl, a mohawk, and a lock and chain around his neck.
“I’m really pissed, and I just want to crush every bone in his body,” Aouad says.
King has a badass reputation – he’s associated with violence — but really, he’s no fighter. He can’t even muster fake rage. “I’m eager to get in the ring with this guy,” he says respectfully. “This is going to be a real moment for me, truly is.”
Suddenly a thought occurs: What if Rodney King gets beaten up again?