The main characters of ‘‘Amigo Brothers,’’ Antonio and Felix, are seventeen years old, best friends, and serious about boxing. The narrator describes how the boys have known each other since childhood and consider themselves more brothers than friends. Despite their closeness, the two boys are very different in appearance and in fighting style. But they share the common dream of someday being the lightweight boxing champion of the world. They train together, work out together, and encourage each other.
Although many boys their age are caught up in the negative aspects of life on the streets, Antonio and Felix keep their minds and lifestyles positive. They are more interested in reading fighting magazines, watching matches, and being experts on all the fighters than gangs or drugs. As fighters themselves, they have both won many matches and represented their community well. They are proud of themselves and their roots.
The narrator explains that while Antonio is a better boxer, Felix is a better slugger. When they train and fight together, the match is always close because of their contrasting styles. At the time of the story, the boys have learned that because of their success in a series of matches, they will face each other in the division finals. The winner will be the Boys Club representative in the Golden Gloves Championship Tournament. This is a big deal, and a great opportunity.
Antonio and Felix continue training together, but the feeling between them is different. One morning about a week before the match, they start their early morning run, but Felix stops them. He knows they have to acknowledge what is different between them, and they need to handle it in such a way that their friendship will not be affected. They speak honestly with one another, each admitting that he wants to win that match, and that he will have to do his best in the match. They have been losing sleep worrying about the tension between wanting to win and having to fight hard against a brother. The integrity of the sport is important to both of them, and neither wants to go easy or give up the fight; they want to bring their very best to the sport, and win a fair match. They agree to train separately and not see each other until the match, and then each boy will do his best to win. There is no ulterior motive and no resentment. They know that doing it this way will be better for them emotionally and psychologically, so they part ways at that moment and train individually.
The time passes more slowly, since they are not seeing each other. Even though they are training apart from each other, each hears about how the other’s training is going. The night before the fight, Antonio finds a quiet place on a rooftop to be alone and resolves to make it as easy as possible on Felix by knocking him out as quickly as he can, to avoid prolonged hurt and injury. Meanwhile, Felix goes to a movie about a fighting match. As he watches, the champion is getting violently beaten by the challenger, but just as the challenger is about to win, the champion rallies, defeating the challenger with an awesome blow. Felix decides to psyche himself up for the fight by imagining himself as the champ and Antonio as the challenger. He walks through the neighborhood at night, and some gang members check him out. When they see his boxing moves, they decide to leave him alone. He continues on to his aunt’s house, looking for rest. The movie and the walk had not calmed him, and he hopes some sleep will do the trick. But the sounds of the fight in his head keep him from sleeping deeply.
On the rooftop, Antonio thinks about how this fight will impact his relationship with his best friend. Although friendship should be irrelevant to someone with a professional mindset, he has doubts. He does some quick footwork and jabs to clear his head, and he goes to sleep. He and Felix pray for the same thing—a quick knockout in the first round, and then it will all be done.
All over the neighborhood, there are posters promoting the fight. It seems that the entire neighborhood is involved, and fans on both sides place bets, excited about the match. The fight has been moved from the Boys Club to Tompkins Square Park because the Boys Club would not be big enough for all those who wanted to attend. Tompkins, however, will allow everyone to see. On the day of the fight, the park starts to fill up early. A nearby junior high school opens up a few rooms for the fighters to get dressed and prepare. Antonio is in his room, and he thinks he sees Felix waving at him across the corridor from another room. He waves back just in case it is his friend. The fighters get changed into boxing trunks, shoes, and robes with their names on the backs. Over the speakers, they hear the event starting with numerous presenters addressing the crowd. They all make a point about being honored to be part of such an important historic event. Between speakers, other fights take place, and Antonio and Felix hear the action and the results.When it is finally their turn, Felix is relieved; he is tired of waiting.
Antonio and Felix are each led out of the junior high by their trainers and fans. When they enter the ring, the crowd goes wild with excitement. This is the main event of the day, and it is about to begin. Despite the energy and anticipation in the crowd, and the importance of the day, the two fighters catch each other’s eyes for just a second, nod at each other, and go to their corners. At the sound of the gong, the crowd quiets. The announcer introduces the two boys, reminds the audience that there will be no draw, and states that the winner will go on to the Golden Gloves championship. As the crowd cheers wildly, the boys listen to the referee review the rules before they fight. They agree, touch gloves, and head back to their corners to take off their robes and listen for the bell. When the bell sounds, the two boys come out fighting. Felix rushes in, but Antonio manages some hard hits. Felix pulls himself together, goes back in, and gets in some hard hits, but then Antonio returns them. Just as the bell rings, both fighters stop punches in the air, and the crowd cheers for their sportsmanship. The first round is over, and neither has succeeded in getting a quick knock-out.
Both trainers advise their young fighters, and the bell rings for the second round. The fighters exchange powerful blows, with neither dominating the other. At one point, Felix’s legs buckle, but he still manages to hold Antonio off. After a few more solid punches, Antonio gets too close to Felix, and Felix lays into him with a ‘‘toe-to-toe slugfest.’’ They continue to fight hard, neither giving up any lead. Felix drops Antonio, but then Antonio drops Felix. The bell rings, and the fighters have a chance to catch their breath in their own corners. They are both hurt but not letting the crowd know. The doctor checks both fighters and clears them to continue.
The bell rings for the third and final round, and everyone knows that this round will decide the winner. They both fight aggressively and with a lot of heart. Felix’s eye is swollen shut, and Antonio’s nose is bleeding profusely. The crowd has gone completely silent. Even though the bell rings, Antonio and Felix do not hear it through the intensity of the fight. The referee and trainers pull the fighters apart from each other and pour cold water on them. This clears and calms them, and they rush toward each other in the ring. The crowd is aghast, thinking they are going to kill each other. But when the two embrace, the crowd erupts in cheers. The judges tally the points, and as the referee announces the winner, he turns to see that both fighters are gone. They have already left the ring, arm in arm. They are not interested in who actually won the match at this moment because they know that they are both champions. Their friendship is more important than glory. The reader does not find out who won.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Piri Thomas – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.