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Luna Park is the Madison Square Garden of Argentina. The building covers a city block of Buenos Aires near the waterfront. Inside, an iron fence with prongs like pitchforks keeps the people in the cheap seats away from swells in the good seats on fight night. The only Monzon bout that has ever tilled Luna Park was the title fight with Griffith. Monzon beat the popular Argentine middleweight champion Jorge Fernandez twice in Luna Park and got whistled at by the crowd. The Briscoe fight will be the fourth time Monzon has appeared in Luna Park as the world champion. Briscoe wanted the fight in the United States, where Monzon has never fought. Briscoe was quoted in an Argentine magazine as saying the gate would be twice as big in New York and that Monzon insisted on Luna Park because the judges would be inclined to be more friendly. In fact, Monzon says he wanted the fight in Rome. Brusa chose Luna Park because of a tax arrangement with the arena owner. He says he will not allow Monzon to fight in the United States because taxes are too high there. "And if I knocked out Briscoe in the U.S., they would probably claim it was a low punch," Monzon said.
On this day Monzon was laughing and in an amiable humor even though he had just moved into one of his Buenos Aires apartments and gone into hard training in the Luna Park gym. He does not care for training because he says it makes him feel like a hired killer. "When I feel my best is in the ring on the night of a fight," he said. "I feel mean but good. But all this training, it's the worst part, you start to have doubts."
Monzon had risen at 6:30 to run on the waterfront. For a month before a fight Monzon runs 45 minutes every morning, then has a breakfast of grapefruit juice, two soft-boiled eggs, coffee, jam, bread and butter. At noon he eats fruit. In the afternoon he spends an hour and a half at the gym and works up to boxing nine rounds a day before he begins easing off. At dinner Monzon has steak, salad, vegetables, fruit and a dessert called dulce y queso—cheese with a slab of jellied sweet potato or quince. Then he watches television or goes to a movie. He seldom goes anywhere else in Buenos Aires.
Abel had come to the gym with him and was dancing around in the ring while his father got his hands taped. "Look at that kid," said Monzon. "He can be a fighter if he wants to, but I'd just as soon he grew up and learned how to handle the investments." Not long before, at La Esperanza, a steer was to be barbecued. As the landowner, Monzon was handed the knife. He looked at the steer for a while and then handed the knife back to a gaucho, who plunged it into the steer's throat. Monzon turned his back and hid Abel's face from the spurting blood.
A friend walked up to Monzon in the gym and said, "Hey, Negro [a fairly common Argentine nickname, along with Gordo (fat) and Flaco (skinny)], I can't make it to the end of the month. Lend me 10,000 pesos." Monzon reached for his pants, and the friend said, "No, no, it's a joke." For some reason everybody thought it was funny. Except Monzon. Friends say he has no sense of humor, but it very well could be the other way around.
On a Saturday night after Monzon had moved to Buenos Aires to train for Briscoe, Brusa brought down another prot�g� from Santa Fe—an unbeaten junior welterweight named Daniel Gonzalez—for a light in Luna Park with an ex-Argentine champion. Brusa says Gonzalez will be the next star of his stable of 35 amateurs and 10 pros. "Pro fighters are knocking on my door all the time," he said, "wanting me to take them over. But I deal only with those who started with me as kids."
Monzon was at ringside with one of his doctors, one of his lawyers, a dozen friends and Abel. Before the fight Monzon was not introduced to the crowd, dozens of whom peered like prisoners through the cheap seat bars. But a lot of people recognized him and kept watching for his reactions. Monzon clapped for Gonzalez but could not yell much because he had a sore throat, which his doctor says always happens to him for a while when he quits smoking.
Gonzalez won an easy decision in a fight that drew choruses of whistles, and his left eyebrow was cut open. Monzon consoled him while Gonzalez was being sewn up and Brusa was collecting his share of the gate—$340. Then Monzon led a group that had grown to nearly two dozen across the street from Luna Park to an Italian restaurant called Napoli. Watching the champion walk through the door, the doctor said, "You know, people keep talking about his right, but it's his left that really gets them. He sets them up with it-knock, knock, knock, one after the other. Then he puts them cold with his right."
The waiters pulled together enough tables to spread the crowd the width of the room, laid out several kinds of wine (good Argentine wine is less than $1 a bottle) and began serving salads, chickens, hams, bread and pasta. They also found a few pieces of beef from somewhere although it was a beefless week. It was already after I a.m., but Abel sat beside his father. "Abel goes everywhere I go," Monzon said laughing. "The only place he won't go with me is to do my running in the morning."
"I don't like it," Abel said.