The anger came out in a couple of short bursts. Roberto Dur�n was waiting beside the ring to do a television interview, his hair still ruffled and perspiration still rolling down his face from 12 rounds of frustration. One thousand one. One thousand two. He waited and he steamed and he said nothing, but when he heard a happy voice calling from amid the celebration in the ring, the voice of Vinny Pazienza, he snarled.
"Roberto, good job," Pazienza said.
"You're lucky, man," Dur�n shouted back in English. "You're——lucky," he quickly amended.
He gave Pazienza a look—the look that he has given to other boxers for 28 years, that malevolent stare that would send any sensible grown man home to change the locks and upgrade the security system—and there was no doubt that he was thinking about what he would have done, could have done, 10 years or 20 years ago. Do you see this right hand? Do you know how many times I would have hit you with it? He would have done it last Saturday night too, done it in a moment. If he could have.
He was trapped, instead, inside the 43-year-old body that he dragged around the ring as if it were some ungainly dancing partner. Twelve rounds, and the body wouldn't do what he told it to do. Twelve rounds, and Pazienza kept bounding away from him, mugging for the crowd of 10,382 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Twelve rounds, and this last best shot at another title—even though it was a shot at a bogus super middleweight title sanctioned by the bogus International Boxing Council—was gone. Unanimous decision for Pazienza.
"I wanted to move my head a lot more," Dur�n said through his manager and interpreter, Luis DeCubas. "I wanted to move my waist a lot more. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to punch down low and then come up with combinations. I couldn't do it. My arms got real heavy. My punches had no snap, no sting."
His mind was young, but his body was old. End of story. A body of stone had been grafted to his famous hands of stone. The nights against Ken Buchanan and Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, the big paydays and the stop-the-clock melodramas, now seemed as if they had happened in another century. Even the first fight against Pazienza, seven months ago, in which Dur�n knocked down his opponent before losing a 12-round decision, seemed long, long ago. He simply could not move. He could not do half the things he once did.
"His speed is gone, nothing," Pazienza's trainer, Kevin Rooney, said. "His reflexes aren't dead and he still can punch, but he can't move. To me, it's kind of tragic to see him like this. Boxing's a sport filled with tragedies, guys like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson fighting way past when they should have because they needed the money, and I guess this is another one of them. Here's a guy, might have been the greatest lightweight who ever lived—though I would have put Henry Armstrong against him. He shouldn't have to be doing this."
"I could have fought so he didn't hit me with a punch," Pazienza said afterward. "But that isn't my style. The people wanted a show, and I gave them one."