Life was seldom peaceful for Danny, and sometimes it was downright harrowing. When he was 13, he was confronted in a shattering way with the dark side of the Moons. The Moons' son-in-law had beaten him severely for a trifling offense, and during a subsequent argument with Mrs. Moon, Danny heard his foster mother tell Larry to go fetch her son-in-law. Danny raced upstairs and pulled out a .22-caliber rifle, then announced that if the son-in-law came up after him there would be trouble. "I didn't have any shells in the gun," Danny says, "and my brother never went to get Mrs. Moon's son-in-law, so I never actually held the gun on anybody."
Mrs. Moon did call the cops, however, and the next day Danny was arrested for assault and battery. "They put me in jail for a month with a lot of older criminals," he says. "They shoved my food in through a hole in the door. It really began working on my mind, and I started to hear voices." Eventually, the charges were dropped, but by that time Lopez had become so embittered toward the Moons that he decided he could never go back to live with them, and moved in with an aunt and uncle on the reservation. Lopez has had a change of heart; he now considers the Moons to be his parents, and has even paid to fly them in to some of his fights.
Life did not go a great deal more smoothly for Lopez when he was living with his aunt and uncle, who tried to forcibly convert him from Mormonism to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Not surprisingly, Lopez was becoming slightly rebellious and soon began to get into trouble. "When I was in junior high everybody thought I was pretty tough even though I didn't weigh much," he says. "I started hanging around with all the mean guys. We'd get an old Indian to buy us some beer, then we'd go get drunk and cause trouble."
Once, after a street fight, he was hauled into court and told that if he were caught fighting again he wouldn't be allowed to box as an amateur in the town of Orem anymore. When word went out that Lopez was on probation, a local tough tried to take advantage of the situation by socking him in the face. "Before I knew what I was doing, I had hauled off and broken the guy's nose," Lopez says. Luckily, a friendly teacher happened by and got Lopez away from his stunned victim before the police arrived. "I guess I was a little hard to get along with in my younger days," he says.
Even between fights Lopez doesn't weigh much more than 130 pounds, but he walks thickly, his feet set apart and his shoulders rocking from side to side. His head is wedge-shaped, like the head of a tomahawk, and his face is lightly but earnestly freckled. Lopez' hair is more than just a little red and he parts it down the middle, like Mickey Walker, ex-middleweight champ. Lopez looks less like an Indian than the guy the cavalry used to send out to scout for Indians. When he vouchsafes one of his three-word speeches, he dishes it up tonelessly, smiles as if he's not sure he's glad he said anything, then nods his head once or twice as if to leave a couple of emphatic ellipses hanging in the air.
Lopez lives like a little guy, even though Georgino says his fighter earned more than half a million dollars in 1978. There is a little house in San Gabriel Valley, a little wife and three little sons. Danny even drives a 1977 Mustang, and has somehow resisted the most basic California extravagance, a vanity license plate. The only big thing on the premises is the trophy head of a six-point elk he shot last year in Colorado.
There are almost no marks on Lopez' face, which is astonishing in view of his style. "You look at his features," says Georgino. "He's had 42 pro fights, but his face ain't that messed up." Even Danny's hands are fragile-looking; like clouds, they seem wispy and frail, but within them lies the Lopez thunder. There is a small scar on the inside of his right index finger; it was operated on to remove bone chips after he won the title from David Kotey in Ghana in 1976. Some of Little Red's later victims have reason enough to believe the surgeon left his scalpel in the hand.
Lopez' victory over Kotey was remarkable in several respects, not the least of which was that it was the only time in his career he had gone 15 rounds. He had arrived in Accra, the capital of Ghana, two weeks before the fight, and was immediately dumped into a creaky old hotel with no hot running water, despite the fact that there were several first-class tourist hotels available. Lopez' manager at that time was Howie Steindler, but Steindler was ordered not to make the trip by his doctors, who feared it might bring about another heart attack. Cast almost totally adrift, Lopez trained four rounds a day in the tropical heat, suffered all the intestinal indignities inflicted upon visitors unaccustomed to African fare, and received subtle pressure from his hosts. Shortly before the fight, Ghana's president, General Ignatius Acheampong, told him, "You will not leave Ghana with our title."
"He wasn't fooling around, either," says Lopez. "I just told him, 'We'll see.' "
Lopez had Kotey in trouble at several points during the fight, but each time he did, the Ghandaian timekeeper rang the bell, allowing Kotey time to recover. "Some U.S. Marines who were stationed over there made videotapes of the fight and sent them to me," says Lopez. "I timed the rounds, and every time Kotey was about to go down, that round would be shorter than it was supposed to be. One round was only two minutes long."