Greg Haugen answered the telephone in his room at Caesars Hotel in Atlantic City at 8:04 p.m. Haugen's seven-year-old daughter, Jasmine, was calling from Las Vegas, where, because of the three-hour time difference, the telecast of Saturday's 15-round fight for the IBF lightweight title was just beginning. To many people in the West, Vinny Pazienza was still the champion. Jasmine knew that the fight was over but not that her father had reclaimed his title by unanimous decision.
"Hi, Honey. Did you dial this number all by yourself? You did?" said Haugen, the IBF champion of the East, Central and Mountain time zones. "Did you see me fight? Oh, it's just starting. Yeah, that's right. Well, I put the hurt on him. I broke his nose, and I messed up his eye. Yeah, I did good. Put Cassie on the telephone."
Cassie is Haugen's five-year-old daughter. There was a pause while the two sisters made the telephone transfer, then, "Hi, Cas. Daddy's coming home tomorrow. I got the belt back. I'm on TV now? How do I look?"
The answer to that last question from a ringside observer was: He looked unruffled and tough, sharp and savage, dominating and disciplined. Even Pazienza, who wrested the title from Haugen in a controversial decision last June 7, knew by the first round that he was in for a long and uncomfortable afternoon. "From the beginning he had my number." said Pazienza. "I could do nothing. I felt strong, and I wanted to knock him out. I didn't."
The difference between the two fights was Haugen's jab, which was an indifferent weapon the first time around but one that he landed 160 times in the rematch. Haugen's jab hurt and confused Pazienza, and rendered him incapable of assembling combinations. "I couldn't stop the damn thing," said Pazienza, who, in fact, could stop almost nothing that his opponent threw. Pazienza's twice-broken nose was further rearranged by a hook in the fifth round, the upper lid of his left eye was ripped open (and closed afterward with 14 stitches) by a right hand in the ninth, and his face was swollen and bruised by 45 minutes of punishment.
At the end, Pazienza looked much as he did after the first fight, which he was awarded in spite of taking a terrible battering. Haugen, now 21-1-1, is a solid puncher who nevertheless just can't seem to deliver a knockout blow. Fewer than half of his victories have been KOs.
Through the first nine rounds Pazienza's comanager and trainer, Lou Duva, screamed at his fighter to stop Haugen's punches. Pazienza, now 23-2 (he lost on a disputed TKO to Abdelkader Marbi in 1984), snapped at Duva just before going out for the 10th round: "I can't stop them, Lou. If you want them stopped, you go out and stop the goddam things."
"Oh. Well, you better knock him out then," replied Duva.
"I'm trying," said Pazienza. "I can't do that either."
Across the way, Haugen, much quicker and stronger than in the June fight, grinned at them both. There is genuine animosity between the two camps, although there was little of the prefight fireworks that went off during their first meeting in Providence, a stone's throw from Pazienza's hometown of Cranston.