Posted by R. Berg 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.
: I am speechless.
The Dict. of Amer. Slang doesn't have "tomato can" with that meaning, but one of its definitions for "tomato" by itself is "An inferior prize fighter." No explanation is given there. --rb