The Lure of the Ring

Former champ Frank Otero needs to sell real estate to make a living. But he needs boxing to live.

As Arroyo parades out to the ring, he raises a gloved fist and his gold teeth flash. One of his entourage unfurls a Puerto Rican flag and hangs it on the ropes inside the ring. The audience cheers loudly for Arroyo, they call his name, tell him they love him, offer advice. He makes short work of Clark, sending him reeling in the third round with a flurry of shots to the head. At this, Arroyo's manager Walter Alvarez, standing with friends and family at the rear of the auditorium, runs toward the ring, shouting, "Knockout!" The referee stops the scheduled eight-rounder. As Arroyo steps through the ropes and heads back up the aisle amid cornermen and hangers-on, a plump red-haired woman wearing a fancy polka-dot dress with a ruffled white collar runs up, grabs Arroyo around the neck, and plants her fuchsia lips on his sweat-drenched cheek.

The next matchup between Darin Allen of Clearwater and Armando Rodriguez of Venezuela, will air live on Telemundo. Miguel Angel Dominguez, who will not fight in the main event for another hour, weaves through the cramped backstage bustle to the edge of the stage and stands silently in sweats, looking out for a long time toward the ring and the audience. The auditorium is filling up, and a Telemundo producer brings a problem to Otero's attention: the Miami Beach Police are threatening to tow away scores of cars parked illegally (a parking place in this part of South Beach being almost unheard of) on a grassy stretch of Lummus Park adjoining the auditorium. Otero runs out and persuades the officers to ticket the cars instead of towing them. Allen and Rodriguez go ten rounds; the decision is unanimous for Allen.

There's enough time between that fight and the main event to broadcast the tape of Arroyo beating up Clark; Otero and Alvarez are happy their kid is getting the international exposure. At 9:30 Harry Brennan, assistant executive director of the Florida State Athletic Commission, walks up to Alvarez, who pulls a quantity of bills out of some concealed place on his person. He counts out five twenties at a time, until Brennan is holding $665. It will go to the several commission people in attendance, including executive director Don Hazelton, the referees, the judges, and timekeepers.

Then it's time for the main event. Hitting so fast and so hard that he loses his balance once and falls following a long left hook, the Detroit prodigy Oba Carr opens a wide gash over Dominguez's right eye by the fourth round. The cut isn't bleeding that much, but Carr is overwhelming his opponent with those left hooks. Dominguez keeps his mouth closed when he gets hit and doesn't change his expression except to tighten his eyes. The live images on the ringside TV monitors look smooth and muted in contrast to the direct, unfiltered vision of the action in the ring under searing white lights. The colors blend better on television, the bruising and cutting of the flesh is not a jarring sight. The monitors don't show the sweat-diluted blood running down Dominguez's side and legs, nor the opaqueness of both men's eyes as they watch each other, circling, feinting, looking for a way to damage the other.

The referee stops the fight seconds into the fifth round, spelling relief for the ringside doctor, who had been debating whether or when to halt the main event and risk indignation from one or both sides. Carr's father and trainer, Eddie, lifts his son's right arm in triumph, and then his wife lifts their young daughter up to him through the ropes. The little girl is dressed in a rhinestone-studded white dress with a big matching cap over long spiraling curls, and she sits in her father's glistening arms under the lights as though he were showing her the monkeys at a zoo. Miguel Angel Dominguez disappears back up the aisle with his short, round, mustachioed trainer, his exact physical opposite. Oba Carr has left no doubt he'll soon be fighting a championship bout and commanding a considerably higher price than the $10,000 he will receive tonight.

Otero finally can relax a bit. He loosens his tie. Before the next fight begins, he gets up to bring large sodas back to a ringside contingent of family and friends. For a few minutes he even sits down beside his wife Nancy. The upcoming contest may be the evening's best. Duran Williams of Jamaica, who trains at Torino's gym, against David Rodriguez of the Bronx, who looks like a brick wall. Both are undefeated cruiserweights. And for the first three rounds, Williams takes a beating from Rodriguez. No matter what Williams tries, he finds himself caught on the ropes, defending against Rodriguez's lethal right hand. He takes a shot in the third round that almost knocks him out. Otero, in the audience, is surprised the referee doesn't stop the fight. In the corner between rounds, manager/trainer Chico Rivas slaps Williams's legs, pours water over his head and body, looks raptly, almost sorrowfully, into his fighter's eyes.

Then Williams imperceptibly gathers himself. He begins hitting Rodriguez, getting in some good left hooks. The fourth round comes interminably to a close, then the fifth round. "This is where boxing becomes one man's will against another man's will," Encinosa says into his microphone. "This kind of fight is hard to make at the eight-round level; the pay isn't good enough [for the amount of punishment both men are taking]."

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