The years — and there have been many of them for Bob Blevins — can be unkind to a heavyweight.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound fighting hulk that once battered rivals into submission is now feeble and sunken, his skin weathered and worn, his walk slow and sluggish. Turning 90 years old, as Blevins did a couple of weeks ago, can do that.
But his hands remain. They are fighter's hands. And occasionally, he still uses them.
"It's fun a lot of times to tease somebody and fake like you're going to hit 'em," he laughed, shadowboxing as best as his age and cataracts will allow. "I fight with a cane now."
But in December 1942, Blevins didn't need a cane. "Blonde" Bob — the name branded on Blevins on boxing writing wiseguys of the day for the yellow mop atop his head — rumbled his way to the San Francisco Golden Gloves finals using his mitts and wits.
There he met Richmond's Douglas Ellison, Nevada's Golden Gloves heavyweight champ. It was a fight he wasn't supposed to win.
"I guess the greatest was that statue there," Blevins said, pointing to the trophy he earned at 19 for shocking Ellison for the title, a feat that few remember. "That's what I'm most proud of."
Born in Gila Bend, Ariz., in 1923, Blevins moved to Marysville and picked up the sport as a teen at the urge of his doctor to battle his tuberculosis. He overcame his illness.
The Golden Gloves win propelled sports scribes to dub the amateur champ and Richmond shipyard worker "sensational." He later turned pro and signed with local manager Ray Carlen. Judging from what was written, he was deemed to go far in the fight game.
Four fights into his professional career, he was thumped in 10 rounds by Redwood City journeyman George Tracy. A year after the defeat, Blevins opted to fight in the Army and was stationed at Camp Millard in Ohio.
By 1951, Blevins was done as a fighter, finishing with a modest ring record of 16-9-1. He had earned — and saved — enough to buy his family's home in Marysville, and opened bars in San Francisco, Reno and Redwood City.
But in his prime in the mid-1940s, the young Blevins rubbed shoulders with fabled prizefighters Homicide Hank Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson, the former cornering one of his bouts.
Blevins' father, a Kentucky-born racist, didn't like that.
"My dad gave me hell," Blevins said. "He said, 'I don't want you messing around with those [guys].' But I messed around with them anyway."
And for good reason.
"He pointed out how to fake somebody," remembered Blevins of Armstrong, "and hit him in the chin and knock him out."
It was a trick he said he used in exhibition matches and sparring in 1945 and 1951 against Joe Louis, the heavyweight champion of the world.
"I was a Golden Gloves champion and a young kid, you know," Blevins said. "He pulled his punches a lot. Thank God."