Up the main aisle marched two lightweights, each a vaunted 1-0: Marvin (The Bloodhound) McCoy, from Richmond, and Miguel Figueroa, from nearby Camden, N.J., who wore a patriotic robe of. red, white and blue. They were supposed to go four rounds, but Figueroa took it to McCoy early and forcefully, and soon McCoy understood why visiting boxers sometimes refer to the Blue Horizon as the House of Pain. The fans were on their feet and chanting, "Blue! Blue! Blue!," their fists thrust in the air. Suddenly, McCoy was down for the count, invincible no more, while Figueroa remained unvanquished and could still imagine that he was immortal.
The tempo slowed after that bang-up start. The next two bouts offered no fireworks, only a familiar display of ineptitude. Up in the balcony, where the humidity was about 2,000%, the fans fell into a hypnotic stupor, waking from their doldrums every now and then to shout out a chorus of half-hearted boos. But when Chris Walsh and Tom Cameron—two white middleweights who were supremely fit—slipped into the ring and commenced to pound on each other at the first bell, the torpor in the balcony turned into pandemonium. Feet stomped, lips pursed, crazy whistling filled the air, and applause roared down on the boxers in ripples, pushing them on. Walsh landed a solid right and stung Cameron so soundly that he went funny in the legs, but Cameron had no quit in him and came lunging back with a stunning flurry of left hooks. For six full rounds, they gave it everything they had.
Exhausted at the finish, the fighters were showered with more applause, gathered up in the crowd's embrace. The victory went to Cameron in a close decision, and when he returned to his upstairs cubicle, where a sheet of black plastic served as the door, he was still pumped up on adrenaline. He posed with his gloves to the fore, the Delaware Destroyer incarnate, while his manager crowed, "He's 5-2-and-2! He's 5-2-and-2!" as if the ever-so-slight improvement in his record amounted to a giant step toward some mythic crown.
"Great fight," said a fan in the balcony.
"Yeah," the fan's friend responded, dredging up an old boxing adage, "too bad a white guy had to lose."
Then it was time for Rocky Poletti's brief sojourn under the lights. He polished off Jose Torres (10-17) in less than three minutes, delivering a haymaker-right to end the tepid affair. Then Dennis Cain stole through the ropes. He still looked embarrassed, even though somebody had altered his record on the program, changing it from 1-8-1 to 6-3. Next, Nobles made a grand entrance, with his entourage following in a daffy conga line. It seemed preordained that The Jedi would swiftly add a seventh KO to his videotape, but he proved to be slow of foot and laggard of punch. Where had the tiny monster gone? Nobles held on to poor Cain through the second round, circling in a plodding waltz, and by the third round the catcalls were loud and strident and bouncing off the turquoise ceiling. Cain gasped for breath, let his fists droop and glared at Nobles in frustration, as if to say, Just hit me one decent shot, Gerald, and you'll win. But The Jedi couldn't do it, so Cain took matters in hand and refused to budge from his stool when the bell rang for the fourth.
In the hallway, Luddy DePasquale was going on about Poletti's terrific performance and how the kid bore a striking resemblance to Rocky Marciano—a resemblance that some people hadn't noticed at all. When somebody said that Torres had been an easy mark, Luddy scoffed and replied, "Well, at least we didn't put him in with a guy who's 1-8-1, did we?"
A program was produced for Luddy's benefit. It showed the altered record. "It says here that Cain was 6-3," someone said.
"Ah, that's just for the public," a fan told him.
Upstairs in a dressing room, his name posted outside it on a scrap of cardboard, Will Taylor sat by himself and waited for his summons. It was approaching 11 o'clock, and the wait must have seemed unimaginably long to Taylor, hour piling up on listless hour, surely enough time for his nerves to undo all that he'd mastered in his recent weeks of training. After his single loss as a pro, he'd suffered a drug relapse that had sent him crashing into rehab, so he had that to worry about, too. Taylor had something at stake this night—his well-being, yes, but also that potential TV payday down the line—as did Napoleon Pitt, who had been a highly regarded super middleweight until he dropped his last two bouts. If Pitt didn't win tonight, his career as a fighter of promise might be over.