- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Nah," says the other. "Not this crowd. I was at the CoCo Fernandez fight at Sunnyside the other night, and before the fight CoCo gets on the microphone and tells his people, 'Please, no matter what happens, don't cause any disturbance.' You know what happens? CoCo knocks his guy dead and they still wreck the joint. Aggie got hit with a chair. Nicky got hit with a chair...."
In the dressing room is Anthony Zinzi, who just got out of Green Haven. "I wasn't worried," he says. "Bobby'll take 20 punches just to get loose. He likes to get hit first—before he massacres the guy. At Green Haven he fought a guy behind the church. He made the guy hit him first. Then he took him apart."
A stocky man with a Fu Manchu mustache and beard is planting a kiss on Halpern's swollen cheek. "I love this guy. I love him," he says. He is Henny Wallitsch; 19 years ago he had fought that brutal six-rounder against Halpern at St. Nick's. "Me and Bobby put on a bloodbath," he says. "The Daily Mirror wrote it was the greatest fight ever fought in New York. The guys at ringside had to move back, there was so much blood. Hey, how about Bobby? He's something, isn't he?"
A month later Halpern destroys a slim, nervous-looking fighter named Freddy McKay at the Westchester County Center. The fight is stopped on three knockdowns at 1:22 of the third. Halpern's father is at the fight. He is short, tremendously broad through the chest, slightly myopic at 77, but powerful. His hand, as one shakes it, closes like a nutcracker. The hand is almost perfectly square. "I'm in the household appliance business," he says. "You want an appliance, you come see me. I'll give it to you at cost. I asked Bobby to come in the business, but he wants to fight. I tell him, O.K., but dance around and don't get hit so much."
As the crowd leaves the dressing room, Halpern's friends are still milling around, still making noise. A black 30-year-old light heavy named Dave Dittmar, who has had more than 100 pro fights, is sitting on a chair, a towel over his head. He waves to Bobby. "Hey, Halpern," he says, "you got it made, man, you're going places. Hey, Halpern, you know you're a hero up here."
Another month later, in June, Halpern fights again, a six-rounder against Diego Roberson in Circle-Go-Round in Nanuet, N.Y. The fight is stopped in the first round after Roberson sustains a deep cut over one eye. Sitting in the crowd is Francis McPartland, the detective who had arrested Halpern on the big one 19 years ago. This is nothing new. The cops from the precinct have followed Halpern's recent career almost as avidly as the neighborhood guys. They've gone to see him fight.
"I wanted to see what Halpern looked like," McPartland says. "He hasn't changed much, a little heavier maybe. He spent an hour signing autographs for kids. They came up here in buses to see him fight. The place holds 3,000, and 2,000 of them must have been people from Bobby's neighborhood. It wasn't what you'd call a great fight. They ran at each other and butted heads, and this fellow got cut. It was more like a billy goat fight."
"It wouldn't have gone more than another round," Halpern says. "After he got the cut, I started hitting him. I would have knocked him out. You know what? The guy was crying."
In September, Halpern knocks out Johnny Blaine in three in Nanuet. He also comes away from the fight with a broken jaw. A doctor wires it to hold the fracture steady. After three weeks, Halpern pulls out the wires himself and starts training again. He has been promised an eight-round main event in Westchester on Nov. 9, a $500 paycheck.
The commission doctor looks at Halpern's jaw. "I don't think I'm going to pass you," he says. But then he sees the look in Halpern's eyes and he approves the bout.