When I was 16, I got in an argument with a fellow who was 20. He was a high school dropout and had a reputation as a bully and a tough guy.

He was being a jerk, and I, heated by a flare of annoyance, told him to shut up. He dared me to meet him on a deserted school ground that evening and we’d settle the matter with our fists. I accepted.

The rest of the afternoon, fear gnawed at my stomach. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should have just walked away. But no, anger had gotten the better of me, and now I had to fight a guy who was probably going to put me in the hospital.

At the appointed time, I showed up. A few of my buddies came with me. He showed up and had a few buddies with him. The noncombatants formed a ring with the two of us in the middle. A nearby street lamp provided just enough light to see who was who.

He punched me in the face. The anger that had gotten me in this mess welled up, and I hit him back. We punched and kicked and wrestled around in the dirt, urged on by our friends.

To my joy and amazement, I didn’t lose. Nor did I win. When we were both filthy, winded, and out of steam, we decided to call it a draw, shook hands, and walked away.

My buddies were jubilant, recounting key moments from the contest. They swore it was not a draw, but a thorough trouncing. The other fellow’s buddies, no doubt, were doing the same, but claiming that he was the victor.

No matter. I was happy to have survived the fight.

How happy was I? Today, if you are Australian or British, you might say I was happy as Larry, an expression that means exceedingly happy.

Who’s Larry? The answer has to do with street fights, but from another time and place. Many believe the expression refers to Larry Foley.

When he was 20, Foley joined a street gang in Sydney, Australia. In the 1870s, there were many such gangs in Sydney. In addition to theft, defacing property, and other such crimes, the gangs would often fight each other one-on-one.

Foley’s gang was called the Greens. His first fight was against a guy named Sandy Ross, who was the leader of a rival gang, the Orange.

The fight was brutal and went on for 71 rounds. They fought bare-knuckled, intent on knocking the other out. It ended only because the police showed up and stopped it.

Foley’s skill and toughness soon came to the attention of a promoter, and the young man’s bouts moved from the streets to the boxing ring.

He became a great champion, and later, a talented trainer of young fighters. He is often referred to as the Father of Australian Boxing.

How happy was I, at 16, to have survived my first and only street fight? I think you know.

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