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THE FIESTA IN THE TOWN OF GHOSTS
Gary Smith
October 05, 1987
A RITUAL FISTFIGHT HIGH IN THE BOLIVIAN ANDES REVEALS A PROFOUND BUT SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND BOXING
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October 05, 1987

The Fiesta In The Town Of Ghosts

A RITUAL FISTFIGHT HIGH IN THE BOLIVIAN ANDES REVEALS A PROFOUND BUT SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND BOXING

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Darkness. Punches from the darkness to my belly. I want to throw up. I want to cry. I want to turn and leave.

"Don't you worry. This fight ain't over, no, it's not. He got somethin' up his sleeve. Ali, he a magician. He—"

A pickax of a right hand cuts him off. My eyelids shut. I feel it land and rip through me.

"A ruse. He playing another game. That Ali...oooooh!" A Larry Holmes left strikes Muhammad Ali's head. Me, I can only feel it in the belly. Kneeling in the darkness in an aisle at Madison Square Garden. The only light shafting from a projector to a screen. Next to me, the black man is finally silent.

Ali's jaw sags. Holmes looks at him and, almost sorrowfully, throws his right again. Why? Why?

No other sport, no other form of art or entertainment—no, only boxing keeps rubbing our faces in this spectacle. Jim Jeffries, returning to be ravaged by Jack Johnson. Louis, pulverized by Marciano. Frazier, fungoed by Foreman. Masters, again and once more and again, coming back to be humbled.

What makes them do it? What makes me watch it? Duran, Leonard, Arguello, Foreman, Ali, Holmes, each of them walking away and then running back, risking injury in their decline. Money did it, people said. Pride. Ego. Go down! I almost scream to Ali on the screen. My eyes drop, glance sideways, briefly meet the black man's. Both of us look back to the floor. On the screen, they are stopping the fight. Swiftly I turn and walk into the night.

"What does tinku mean?" I asked.

"Tinku means fight," the drunk waiter told me.

"Where is the tinku? I asked.

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