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The absurd series of fights between Paul Pender of Brookline, Mass. and Terry Downes of London, England finally was concluded in Boston last week when Pender regained the version of the world middleweight title recognized in Massachusetts, New York and Europe. Their first fight, in January 1961, should by natural law have been their last. On that occasion Pender felled Downes in the first round and sorely beat him until the fight was stopped in the seventh, with Downes freely bleeding from a nasty cut on his nose, or, as he calls it with an affection normally reserved for small animals, his ' "hooter." There was some wishful thinking among the British boxing writers, who have had a bleak generation of fallen heroes, that Downes was just beginning to "come on" when the fight was terminated. This optimism was not shared by Downes. He admitted that, panicky from the knockdown and the cut on his hooter, he not only neglected to use his brains but was getting them beaten in.
On July 11 of last year, however, the two men fought again, this time in London. The only reason for the rematch was that Pender was guaranteed $84,000 (the law of supply and demand overriding any other consideration), an amount that would keep one, as Terry put it, in plenty of "bread and jam." The fight figured to be easy pickings for Paul, but this time Downes won, although under baffling circumstances. Pender was leading by a narrow margin when he abruptly retired on his stool (a respected British custom) before the 10th round, crying, mystifyingly, "He can't do that to me! He can't do that to me!" Downes said that Pender quit, adding heatedly, "He didn't quit because I was quoted as saying he quit. He quit because he quit." After alarums of betting coups and disasters (and after Sam Silverman, the Boston promoter, was given a kick in the shins by an inflamed London bookmaker), Pender explained his withdrawal: he had caught cold when a parishioner sneezed behind him in church several days before the fight, and he was beginning to feel fragile. This explanation was received skeptically. As Aristotle says, "A convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility."
Of course, there was a return-bout clause and an opportunity for still more bread and jam all around. This led to the fight in the Boston Garden last Saturday night, where the action was generally of a piece. It was an unruly, hard-fought contest, largely artless. Downes was cut once again; Pender was cut; even Referee Jimmy McCarron, a serene, slow-moving gentleman, seemed to come up with a nick near his left eye. Pender, whose nose increasingly resembles a cheerless mountain range but who otherwise is a wan, clerkly-looking fellow, was unsettled at the start, ill-coordinated, even drowsy. Downes consequently won the first two rounds. From that point on, though many of the rounds were close, Pender was in command. Downes would stalk mulishly forward, intent on either hitting Pender "downstairs," which was supposed to sap his energies, or throwing a right-hand lead to the chops—but too few of these, too few. If eventually anyone was fatigued, it was Downes, and this in spite of the fact that he drank a mysterious potion after the weigh-in. "A secret preparation," Terry explained. "I got it from the aborigines in Paddington."
Pender, for his part, moved lightly about, jabbing famously, as is his custom, hooking deftly with the same hand and throwing some noteworthy rights. "He's a strong, tough kid," Paul said later, "and he keeps coming, but you can read him pretty well." Indeed, Pender noticed that whenever Downes was going to toss his right, he sympathetically lowered his left, enabling Pender to cross over with his own right. More important, Pender often threw punches in sequence, which Downes never did, and was able to contain Downes's rushes either by sidestepping or by some judicious holding. The latter so enraged Downes that he retaliated by butting and heeling in the clinches—for which he was reprimanded several times.
Pender clearly was the sharper and more accurate hitter, and from the 10th round on, since Downes hasn't the punch to knock down a moving target like Pender, the outcome was foreordained, at least to everyone but Terry; at the final bell he paraded about the ring alternately blowing kisses to the crowd, which included 137 gloomy compatriots who had flown over on a chartered plane, and extravagantly shaking hands with himself above his head. He was dumb struck and smote his temples when Pender received the decision on all of the cards. Judge Harry French was most competent, scoring it 146-141. The referee and the other judge had it far too close: 144-143 and 145-143 respectively. Said Pender wryly: "And these fighters worry about coming here and getting a Boston Decision!"
Downes was, admittedly, a somewhat better fighter than he had been the first go-round. The lesson he said he had learned from that fight was "not to lead with my face." Indeed, he protected it from time to time by holding his arms vertically in front of it like prison bars. He remains, however, just a club fighter, lacking Pender's ability to adapt, his resourcefulness, his variety. Sam Burns, Terry's manager, said that Downes had come to America on a boat instead of flying "because he can swim a few strokes but can't fly an inch." He can't box a lick either. Or, as Al Lacy, Pender's trainer, said, "If Downes would only concentrate on trying to improve instead of trying to destroy everybody who gets in his way...."
Downes, balancing an ice pack like a tam-o'-shanter on his head, was bitter at his fate. "I'm not complaining," he prefaced his postfight complaint. " Pender is a brilliant fighter, but he fought in flashes. Pender's the same, only he holds a little better now, like Ozzie the bear. [In Boston, Downes trained in a wrestlers' gym—retouched photographs of bearded giants and grinning dwarfs on the walls—where he said he had watched a wrestling bear named Ozzie work out.] They don't want a fight here. They want a wrestling match. Fight a little, hold a lot. Then they mix it up. Hold a lot, fight a little. Unfortunately, neither I nor the referee could stop him holding—but I was trying harder than he was. Well, maybe I'm biased." In Downes's favor, he has a point about holding. Although illegal under U.S. rules as well as English, the ban against it is more rigorously enforced in Great Britain. In fact, unless absolutely flagrant, a bit of holding is just part of the game hereabouts.
Pender was bitter, too, though for more involved reasons. He is a strangely introspective, brooding and disappointed man. "I'm not satisfied with myself," he said on becoming champion again. "Still fighting, a man my age." He is 31, Downes 25. "A man my age, with a family, should do something else. I should think by now I should have done something far more constructive in life. Ah, but you go along with the trend, the drift; you drift. What's everyone's ambition in life? To do things the easy way rather than the hard."
Still, the evening ended on an unexpectedly jolly note. Downes jauntily came to Pender's dressing room to pay the customary respects. Then he proceeded to undress. "We've been together all evening," he said good-humoredly, stepping into the shower with Pender. "We might as well stay together."
Where do we go from here? Pender will most likely settle the middleweight championship—and eliminate the confusion and controversy surrounding it—by taking on Gene Fullmer, who is the National Boxing Association champion, acclaimed in all states save Pender's, as well as Asia and South America. Cus D'Amato, Floyd Patterson's manager, offered Pender $100,000 to fight his middleweight, Jos� Torres. But Torres, like Dick Tiger, an even worthier opponent, will have to get in line.