|11-06-2009, 12:42 PM||#1|
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The promoters first knocked together a ring: a few handy boards covered with shiny red oilcloth. They sprinkled sawdust and wood chips on top, stretched a canvas over that and everybody got slightly seasick looking at the result. Next they scaled the house from $40 ringside all the way back to four pesos (32�) for seats high up in the bowl, figuring—correctly—that those who would occupy the 32� seats would be so far out of town they couldn't hit anybody down front with anything.
As early as 2 o'clock last Saturday afternoon traffic began creeping into the stadium—which is also called the Coloso de Santa Ursula—and by fight time the place was full of tension. All week long, Winstone had been ready. He arrived in shape, so confident that he bought an $84 gold wristwatch that figured to weigh about 70 pounds all by itself. For balance and for his other wrist he turned up with a simple gold identification bracelet with his name spelled out on it in chip diamonds.
Saldivar, who is known as Zurdo de Oro, which translates into something like, "The Lefty of Gold," showed up wearing his customary look of absolute purity. Saldivar is darkly handsome. His hair is cut in a sort of early pompadour, and his face is no more marked than, say, the face of any average guy who has been thrown through a windshield.
The fight went almost according to the plot: Winstone, who does not believe in trancelike states, started off strong, snapping a left hand that was clearly picked up at an old Gene Fullmer rummage sale, and winning points. And Saldivar, changing from handsome to savage, went into his trance three rounds early.
In round 7, while the fans howled their heads off, Saldivar began blasting in with a wild attack, hitting Winstone with flurries that nobody quite believed, fighting alternately out of a combination crouch and upright, leaping, staggering, lurching. In round 9, Saldivar leaned back and hit Winstone so hard he sent drops of his sweat into the fourth row, which is a Mexican all-conference record—and by the 11th round he had completely turned off the world and tuned in Winstone. In the 12th he knocked Winstone down. For the boxing record, the knockdown punch was at least 86 of those fast, golden left hands, and in the next instant Winstone's manager, Eddie Thomas, sailed a towel into the ring.
In Saldivar's dressing room afterward there was, above all, emotion. Saldivar announced he was retiring—to consider a movie offer, everyone said—and that he figured Winstone would be his successor as king of all the featherweights. "He didn't hurt me," Saldivar said, "although he opened my left cheek with a tremendous punch." He was suffering what fight people casually refer to as a four-stitcher, and the fight had left his handsome face in ruins. Well, he can always play mini-Brando roles.
When the fight ended and everybody had stood up and pitched his seat cushion into the ring, the organ suddenly burst into song. The Aztec Stadium was filled with Las Golondrinas (The Swallows), which is Mexico's equivalent of Auld Lang Syne and a stunning farewell to Saldivar. A lot of people cried. It is a nice tune at that. Maybe Terrell can work it into his act.
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|featherweight, saldivar, southpaw, vicente|