"Duva threatened me there," said Haugen. "All I said was that I had ordered a stretcher to carry Vinny out of the ring; that I had ordered a stretcher to carry Vinny's father, Angelo, out of the ring; and that I had ordered two stretchers to carry Duva out of the ring, because he's so fat. Then Duva said if I won I'd never get out of Providence alive. Now I consider that a threat. By the 13th round in that fight I wasn't thinking about Vinny; I was wondering how I was going to get out of town."
This time the closest the two fighters came to exchanging heated words was at a press conference after Haugen said, innocently enough, that he was there to reclaim his championship belt.
"The only belt you are going to get is the one I give you after the fight," said Duva. "My own cowboy belt."
"I can use that to tow my car," replied Haugen with a glance at Duva's waistline. Then Pazienza threw a red pacifier down before his seated challenger. "Here," he said. "Instead of crying after the fight, you can suck on this."
Tame stuff, that. Nobody even raised a threatening fist. Pazienza, no doubt, was more concerned with his own weight. He was carrying 160 pounds at Christmas, and he had cut that to 143, eight pounds over the lightweight limit, four days before the fight. His diet for the last month was mostly liquid.
At the press conference two days before the fight, Angelo spotted his son slipping four chocolate-covered cherries into his pockets. "What are you doing?" Angelo cried in alarm. "Aw, I'm not going to eat them," Vinny replied. "I just want to carry them in my pocket until after the weigh-in." Pazienza was less than happy when his father confiscated the miniature sweets.
After the weigh-in for the first fight, Pazienza had gorged himself on green apples, bananas, raisins and juices, and was almost sidelined by a crippling attack of diarrhea. This time Duva had imported Tim Hallmark, Pazienza's conditioning coach in Houston, to supervise his charge's prefight food intake.
Under Hallmark's watchful eye, the champion dined sparingly after Friday night's weigh-in on bland noodles, green apples and a powdered fluid supplement mixed with water. On Saturday, the menu was lean turkey, oatmeal, one dry pancake and wheat toast. "He wanted to put syrup on his pancake," said Hallmark. "But that is why I was there, to slap his hand."
"What a terrible diet," said Haugen, who came in lean and strong after undergoing a conditioning program designed by Las Vegas physical therapist Keith Kleven, Larry Holmes's former fitness coach. As a result, while Pazienza's plate was nearly empty, in the days leading up to the fight Haugen dined on linguini and clams, spaghetti with meat sauce, eggplant, and eggs Benedict, and consumed a large bowl of strawberries just before the bout.
Pazienza saw destiny in his diet. "I was sick before the first fight," he said, "and because I was weak it made me box more, and I won. This time I felt strong, and I thought I could knock him out. I had no defense, and defense is an important part of my game. Lou told me to jab, but I didn't use my head. I have no excuses. He fought an excellent fight, and I didn't fight well at all."