But straightening out an author was easier for Rodriguez than faking things with an actor. None of the fighters around were complaining about the movie work. "These guys spar all the time for nothing," pointed out Jeff Bridges (who describes himself as "pretty passive"), "and here they're getting paid $150 a day to take my punch—which is not much."
The fighters' pain was psychological. "It's hard for a pro to hold back a punch," explained Rodriguez. "And in this movie I'm supposed to have a bad stomach—and my stomach is good. I tell anybody, 'Go ahead, hit me there.' In the movie I'm supposed to pass blood—and I never passed blood. A couple of times, after fights, but it was just excitement—that, and getting hit in the kidney. But not from a bad stomach. I made Bobo Olson pass blood."
And here Sixto was, playing an over-the-hill Mexican fighter who comes up to fight Tully and loses because he is "weak downstairs." Keach was game and trim—he had trained with Jos� Torres for four months in New York before moving out to Stockton. But in the ring he looked like the diametric opposite of Billy Walker—stiff above the hips. He also was hurting in the ribs and under the heart, his thumb felt sprained, and he couldn't help noting that when he accidentally hit Sixto a little too squarely, Sixto responded a little too instinctively.
Sixto showed a hitherto unrealized flair for falling down and showing pain— "pretty good for somebody who never got knocked out, huh?" he would say in a strained voice—but he had a hard time making it look as though he weren't intentionally opening himself up for Keach's punches.
The scuffling went on for three days, sometimes convincingly, sometimes not. "You go poom, poom and I'll go pow" the combatants would say to each other. Silvani made suggestions and Huston looked on from the background, giving everyone plenty of rope.
Finally, on the last afternoon that could be devoted to the Tully fight scene, Silvani took Keach and Rodriguez aside. "O.K.," he said. "This is the last time we're going through it. So if somebody gets hit a little bit...." Silvani shrugged.
"O.K., gringo," Sixto said to Keach with a big smile, and the two climbed in and started going at it in a spirited way. There were flashes of a combination of manifest gusto and concealed restraint that almost amounted to an art form in itself. What looked like Tully's mouthpiece went flying; it was Tully's cauliflower ear. The extras breathed mineral-oil vapor, smoked Huston's Supremas and cheered and cried for blood with semispontaneous feeling. By the time Huston said "Print it," the fighters had knocked off all of each other's artificial scars.