Monzon had spent the week before the fight in a fairly dodgy humor. He told a Buenos Aires magazine three of the things he hated worst were reporters, photographers and questions about his hand. "If the press complains about me, they ought to be in my shoes so they know what hell is like," he said later. Monzon's entourage had moved into three suites at the Sheraton Hotel, where they passed the evenings playing cards and one thing and another. Other than his hand and the specter of Briscoe, Monzon was worried about a court case charging him with assault on a free-lance photographer. It happened five years ago in Santa Fe. Monzon appealed but was found guilty, and under Argentine law could be stuck in jail while the court decides his sentence.
On the day and night before the weigh-in, Monzon dropped from 161 pounds to 157� by not eating or drinking, but when he came into the ring he was grinning and blowing kisses, in contrast to Briscoe. Before the fight Briscoe had been saying, "I been fighting this out in my bed every night. It's never out of my mind, who'll celebrate Saturday. Gotta be me, Lawdy, gotta be me." Briscoe's gleaming head tossed off sweat like a garden sprinkler as he bounded in his corner. It has been shaved that way since he was 16, as were the heads of his nine brothers.
The fight began with the styles that had been expected. Although Briscoe had said, "Any plan blows up in your face, man. You got to go out there and do it," there was only one thing he could do—attempt to get inside Monzon's superior reach. He had to accept two or three punches to the head to plant one on Monzon's kidneys. In the second round Briscoe was warned twice about low punches by Referee Victor Avendano, a 1928 Olympic boxing gold medalist who works mostly for Luna Park Owner Juan Carlos Lectoure. But Briscoe continued to attack Monzon's kidneys while Monzon would vary his retreating, counterpunching technique by standing occasionally like a sharpshooter and firing at Briscoe's head.
By the ninth round Monzon was well ahead on points but had not been able to slow down Briscoe, who never once sat between rounds and never swallowed a drink of water. In the ninth Briscoe hit Monzon a right to the jaw that made the champion hold on and cast a desperate eye at the clock. Briscoe tried to push Monzon off him to get room to swing some more, but the referee moved in quickly and parted the fighters widely. With that help, Monzon made it through the final 20 seconds.
In the 10th Monzon opened a cut in Briscoe's right eyelid and hit him with enough punches to have floored everybody in Dottie's Truck Stop, but Briscoe kept moving in. After the round Milton Bailey, Briscoe's cut man, was busy trying to retrieve his cut medicine, which had been snatched away by some ring official. It was several rounds before Bailey recovered the medicine. Now Briscoe was sometimes backed off by Monzon. But Briscoe always returned, and in the 14th round he staggered Monzon again with a right.
Then Monzon did a great thing. Instead of laying back in the final round to protect his lead, he went at Briscoe as if it were Monzon who needed the late knockout to win. When the last bell rang, they were still trying to lay each other out, and nobody was sure that one of them might not do it.
The true difference between the two fighters was Monzon's longer arms. Briscoe could never stay inside long enough to accomplish his mischief. It was a courageous fight by Briscoe, but Monzon clearly won. Briscoe did not feel embarrassed. "I came out of the ring with the proper sense I went in with, so I feel good. Monzon is no bum," he said.
Later at dinner in their hotel, Quenzell McCall said he figured Briscoe must be pretty tough. "When I told him it was the 15th round coming up, he could hardly believe me. No telling how long Bennie could have fought." Seated calmly across the table after what had seemed a terrible pounding, Briscoe appeared to have no mark other than a tiny bandage on his right eyelid. He must have had a headache, but he did not show it. "I'm not proud of myself that I lost, but I'm proud that he didn't put me down like he did those other guys. And I fought for the world championship. Now that's something not everybody can do, and I might do it again," he said.
Monzon had left Luna Park and gone with his usual tribe of dozens to a bright, loud Italian restaurant. His wife Mercedes said she had never suffered so much at a light, and Monzon agreed that he had been very close to falling in the ninth round. "What saved me first was I was against the ropes and couldn't go down," he said. "My body was just about out of control, but my mind was O.K. I looked up at the clock, watching the seconds and telling myself, boy, this is going to be terrible."
There was a slight swelling over Monzon's right eye, and his right hand was very swollen, especially the little finger. "My arms were so tired," he said. "I had to keep moving back and moving my arms all night. It was the hardest light I ever had."