Posted by Bruce Kahl on August 02, 2001
In Reply to: Tomato can posted by ESC on August 02, 2001
: : I would like to know the origin of the expression "tomato can" used to describe a lousy boxer.
: I found "tomato can" in the following reference. It means a fighter that throws the fight. But it doesn't really explain it. Do tomato cans sink rapidly?
: GO IN THE WATER - "To take a dive, intentionally lose or throw a fight. 'They say he's a tank artist, a tomato can, a guy that goes in the water for a few bucks..' (Pete Hamill, 'Flesh and Blood,' 1977)" From the "New Yawk Tawk" section of the "Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms: Local Expressions from Coast to Coast" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 2000).
Yes, a tomato can is "...a guy that goes in the water for a few bucks..".
But I think the tomato part is in reference to the color of blood.
A tomato can is a really, really bad boxer who is matched up against someone faster and stronger than he is and who has a considerably brighter future. The tomato can gets knocked around the ring for three or four rounds until his head finally springs a leak, or both of his eyes swell shut and the ref ends the fight. The victor looks like a great boxer, and the tomato can sits in the locker room for half an hour trying to remember where he left his car keys.
I have no source, though, to confirm this just something I was told by my father's brother, Uncle Wolfie, a while back. But I did see it in a newspaper.