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In the early rounds Tiger's long, lunging solitary left hooks to the head seemed futile, even foolhardy, to almost everyone but Ferrara and Jersey Jones, Tiger's other American representative. "Come on, chase him, chase him," they exhorted Tiger from the steps leading up to his corner.
From the fifth through the eighth rounds, Rouse did much as before, except that he largely neglected his right, and, as Tiger began to press him, Rouse's resolve visibly waned. In a sense he lost the fight long before the first knockdown. "I wanted to concentrate more on the jab." he said afterward. "I felt I was reaching too much with it and that he was getting under it. And I thought I should stop throwing the right. It's dangerous punching down. I felt he might come over the top."
Instead, because Rouse was, in fact, reaching with the jab, Tiger, who was troubled with bleeding from a minor cut over his left eye, came in, both beneath the jab and, to Rouse's eventual pain and sorrow, over it. Rouse throws what they call "an elbow jab"; that is, instead of shooting the fist straight out and bringing it back along the same path, he jabs primarily and weakly with his forearm like a man bending his elbow at the bar. The move momentarily leaves his head, in the words of Cus D'Amato, "hanging out there like a lantern in a storm."
Despite his shortcomings, Rouse was still in the fight until the ninth round, when he failed to do what he was told. Bentham said to him in the dressing room after the fight, "Remember when I kept saying 'Don't pull back?' Then that's the one round you pull back." Bentham amplified: "The style was right. Everything was perfect going up to the round he got knocked down. I said, 'Don't pull back.' All he had to do was give it a little bend. I thought he was home in the ninth round. Them was all sucker punches."
Tiger threw a long, loopy left, and Rouse pulled back from it, nowhere far enough. It caught him flush on the mouth, split his lip open, cracked his mouthpiece and knocked him on his back. Rouse got up, but he was not the man he used to be and Tiger chased him the rest of the ninth, although he did not catch up.
In the 10th round, he did. He caught Rouse in close with another hook. As the challenger grabbed him around the waist, Tiger kept hitting Rouse, who, still hanging on, slid to the floor. This time he arose at two and was a bloody sight, like Macbeth coming, astonished, out of Duncan's bedchamber. Rouse was even bleeding from the left knee.
When the bell rang for the 12th round, Rouse was still sitting bemusedly on his stool, suddenly alone and defenseless, innocent. A few moments later Tiger hit him with a right hand. Rouse fell forward, somersaulting, but again was up at two. He stood submissively by the ropes while Referee Jimmy Olivas picked up the mandatory eight count. Olivas, never finishing the count, changed his mind and indicated the fight was over. "He was out on his feet, plus the cut," Olivas explained. "He was cut too bad."
Olivas was right in both respects. The cut took 14 stitches and, in any case, Bentham and Pete Jovanovich, Rouse's manager, were about to stop the fight themselves. "I said, 'Let's stop it,' after the 11th," Bentham said, "but Rouse said to let him go another round."
"I have a thousand thoughts," Jovanovich said later. "Might have done. Should have done. Could have done. But you can't refight it. I don't know much about boxing. I wish I did."
"He was doing all right," Bentham said. "He was driving him crazy. It's only that when you lose, everything is wrong. Ah, but I don't like losing."