Most of the time, it appeared, Nino was just satisfied with being styleless, a fact that raised questions. Was he trying to disturb the rhythm of Rodriguez with his sloppy maneuvers, or was he certain that the referee—in any exchange of heads in close—would be sympathetic to him? If he was trying to direct the referee's attention to Rodriguez' head by crowding him, he was effective. Luis was so wary of being disqualified that often, when on the ropes, he held his head up and away. No fool, Benvenuti took advantage of the head's position and thumbed and laced it at will.
"Even with the referee," said Dundee afterward, "we could have had this fight. It was ridiculous what they were letting Benvenuti do in there. Still, even with the fight he was forced to make, Luis was a winner. Maybe it was close. But then he goes and does what we tell him not to do all week. He drops his head into the left hook, instead of throwing the right over it."
Alone in the shadows of his dressing corner, Luis uncoiled quietly. He was not happy, but he was not morose, either. "It was my destiny," he said. "It is like my nose, my destiny. It comes from my grandfather. I must protect it, but I can't change it." The nose, besides his glad spirit, is the thing no one can forget about Luis Rodriguez. It is simply magnificent, as long and as wide as the boot of Italy. "People kid me," he says, "but to me it is a joke. I don't mind when they call me feo viejo. It means 'old ugly.' I tell them I really think I'm pretty. But there are mirrors, you see. They do not lie. But—you pretty in the face is nothing. The wonderful of a person is in your heart. I am rich there, here in my heart, and some day I will be rich in my pocket. I hope so."
It is unlikely that Luis will ever become affluent. He has fought long and often, but money has a way of vanishing among Cuban fighters. The same cannot be said for Nino Benvenuti. With his various businesses and a recent movie to his credit—one which convinced critics he will surely remain a boxer—Benvenuti is in training to be a millionaire. He is also certain that he is immortal now that he has beaten Rodriguez. He said before the fight that he would accomplish that. "My goal." he said, "is to become immortal, to be always remembered by fans for having done something extraordinary, something fabulous." In European boxing, however, Benvenuti is suddenly sharing much of the continent's adulation with a Spanish heavyweight named Urtain. Baptismally, Urtain is known as Jose Manuel Ibar. His other names are: The Tiger of Arrona, The Basque Bull, The El Cordob�s of the Ring. Few in Spain, or in the other less enlightened areas of European boxing, doubt that he will become the heavyweight champion of the world. He was on the Benvenuti-Rodriguez card last week and he quickly knocked out an excessively wary American import. His manager, jubilant in victory, said, "Urtain is the strongest man in the world. He lift a stone once, and it weigh 250 pounds. He lift and shoulder it 198 times, without breaking the succession." Urtain holds up his arm and makes a muscle. He may be able to chop down a forest of trees but he will not be the heavyweight champion of the world.
Nor will Nino Benvenuti remain immortal for long in Rome, though for a time he has provided Romans with their bella figura and made them glad to be Italian. As for Luis Rodriguez, he could not have cared less about Italy's social and political climate. He had come for a title and he left only with a lesson. "Certain things never do," a wise man once mused. "Never play cards with anyone called Doc, never eat at a place called Mom's and never tie up with a woman who has more problems than you have." It also would be prudent, Luis would now agree, to avoid fighting in Italy with anyone called Nino Benvenuti.