James E. Flynn Jr.
Dapper former boxer has taken his lumps.
Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue
Are you always so dapper? I grew up on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Dressin’ up is all I know. I own about 75 suits.
How did you make your way to Chicago? One of my friends, Cliff Taylor, had been drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1974. He told me he’d put in a good word for me at Bears training camp because the team was interested in a big running back like myself. I had been a walk-on athlete at Memphis State University. Ultimately, the Bears told me not to come to camp because in the ’75 draft they got Walter Payton. All of a sudden, they weren’t interested in seeing another runner.
Were you embittered? No, sir. Never was I bitter. You can’t win ’em all. It’s true. Sometimes you lose.
What kept you in Chicago? Boxing. One day, I walked into a gym run by the Catholic Youth Organization on the West Side at Racine and Jackson and started training to become a championship prizefighter. I had the speed and size—I felt I could do anything athletically. I did a lot of sparring with Chicago heavyweight James “Quick” Tillis. Jersey Joe Walcott was my inspiration because he set the record for the oldest man to win the heavyweight title—and I wanted to break that record. I had a few amateur fights, a few professional fights. It was a pretty lackluster career.
Did you ever get KO’d? By a couple of cats, yeah. Everybody gets knocked out in the beginning. You just have to get back up.