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Stepping up his pace a little, Palomino stung Benitez with two right hands midway through the fifth round, and then nailed him with a solid hook to the head near the end. As Benitez backed into the ropes. Palomino chased him. But the bell rang before more damage could be done.
Palomino came back to the corner and told his manager, Jackie McCoy, that his hands felt fine. He had broken the right hand late in 1976, and he had broken the left one in his last title defense against Armando Mu�iz seven months ago. He hadn't fought since. But now Palomino decided to really turn it on. It would be earlier than usual, but he didn't think Benitez had the stamina to survive a furious pace.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, however, when Palomino reached back, he discovered there was nothing there. "I don't know if it was the heat or the long layoff or what," Palomino said later, "but I couldn't move the way I wanted to. I was slow. I could only throw one punch at a time; there were no combinations."
"No zip," said McCoy. "No spark. No fire. He just didn't have a thing tonight."
As Palomino tried to step up the pace, Benitez recalled thinking, "Oh, oh, here he comes." And a round later he thought, "He hasn't got it. He can't hurt me. He's mine."
From that moment, the fight was as good as over. Less cautious, Benitez began to punch in combinations, stinging but not stunning. And the jab, the beautiful jab, quick and deadly, was snapping Palomino's head back time after time.
From the 12th round on, McCoy was telling Palomino, "You're going to have to knock him out to win."
But it was not to be.
In the last two rounds, knowing Palomino didn't have enough left to hurt him, Benitez backed to the ropes, and there he planted himself, supremely confident, hitting and being hit. And knowing that within a few minutes he'd be the new WBC welterweight champion.