The bad feeling hung on you from the start, like the black shawls worn by the old, toothless peasant women. Even as the cold, late-afternoon Mexican sky began to hide, you could reach out and feel the strangeness and the ominous hum that would explode and rip the night apart and turn the Plaza del Toreo into a nauseating zoo unsuitable even for a jungle full of monkeys.
It was a night for pickpockets—the smoothest in the world are in Mexico City—and a night for every shut-out marksman looking for a score. A night for the old women to peddle their leather goods and their fried pork meat and beans; a night for the unrelenting lottery-ticket salesmen; and a night for the kids with the sad, larcenous eyes and gaunt faces to polish their beginners' crudeness in petty theft, a subject meticulously taught in the Herradura de la Miseria, the Horseshoe of Misery.
Twenty-three thousand pushed and jabbered their way into the bullring where Manolete had performed and where Antonio Ord��ez had made one of his flawless fights against a bull named Cascabel. They came from the Horseshoe, which is on the rim of Mexico City, where the bullring is located, and they came from downtown to see Carlos Ortiz defend his championship against Sugar Ramos, a Cuban who now lives in Mexico City.
None of them, it seemed certain during the preliminary bouts, which were splashed with blood, would consider the evening a success unless they saw tragedy or cruelty spread before them. Blood and stupid courage—this is what boxing is to them, this is why the peons who make only 120 pesos ($10) a week will hit the loan companies for the price of a ticket. A lot of them pack a gun or a blade. Everyone was searched before entering the bullring, but inside you could still see gun butts dangling out of coat pockets.
"They're animals," said Daly.
"We've been all over the world," said Ortiz, "and we've never seen anything like it."
Ortiz has seldom looked sharper anywhere else. The 30-year-old champion, stronger and cockier than ever before in training, stayed with his punishing left jab in the first round. He was beating Ramos, who catches a lot of punches, with the jab and forcing him to come in close. In the second round Ortiz jabbed again, and then made the mistake of dropping his hand too quickly. Ramos came in with a right, and Ortiz went down. He was up immediately, shaking his head and smiling. He never really believes anyone can hurt him.
In the third round Ortiz, wary of Ramos' right hand, began to hook off his jab. Flurrying with his hook and following with solid rights, Ortiz started to close Ramos' left eye. In the fourth. Ortiz clubbed away at that eye, and blood flowed from an inch-long cut. Ortiz put a rocking combination together, Ramos' legs wobbled and the blood from Ramos' eye was all over Ortiz now. Billy Conn, the referee, stepped in and signaled for the boxing commission's doctor to come up and look at it. The crowd exploded. The doctor refused to enter the ring.
At the end of the fourth round Conn walked over to the doctor and said, "Listen, Doc. You better get in there and take a look at that eye. I don't want the boy to get hurt." The doctor remained seated, telling Conn to wait and see how the eye held up in the fifth round. If it became worse, stop the fight, the doctor said. Ramos' corner men could not close the cut, and in the fifth a pair of jolting right hands extended and deepened the wound and sent drops of blood spraying over ringside.
Conn parted the lighters and motioned once more for the doctor. When the doctor did not move, Conn stopped the fight.