If Crazy Horse
had mounted half the firepower of that red-haired, freckle-faced Ute, Danny
(Little Red) Lopez, there might be an Indian rather than a peanut farmer in the
White House today. In two short slam-bang rounds in Salt Lake City last
Saturday, Lopez stood off a valiant cavalry charge by the European
featherweight champion, Roberto Casta�on of Spain, then tomahawked him into
unconsciousness as the second round ended.
The victory not
only was Lopez' sixth successful defense of his WBC featherweight title, but it
also cemented his reputation as one of boxing's sharpest hitters. The 7,500
war-whooping fans in the Salt Palace, many of them Utes from Danny's birthplace
on the reservation near Fort Duchesne, Utah, wearing long braids and ecstatic
grins, certainly would agree.
Right up to fight
time, though, everything in Salt Lake City was as ho-hum as usual. About the
most exciting development was a fire in the downtown Hilton that destroyed
Howard Cosell's wardrobe and sent a squad of ABC lackeys scurrying to fetch the
emperor's new clothes. The lack of pre-fight electricity was odd on two counts.
This match would be only the second world title fight in Salt Lake City history
(the first was in 1960 when Gene Fullmer successfully defended his middleweight
crown against Carmen Basilio). More important, the main event promised to
produce as many ups and downs as the world trampoline championship.
Lopez is almost
as famous for his tendency to hit the canvas as he is for the whiplash,
ambidextrous punches that have contributed 37 knockouts to his 39-3-0 record.
His opponent, Casta�on—"El Conquistador"—was also renowned as a power
hitter, with 20 knockouts in his 29-0 pro record. But Lopez' 3�-inch edge in
height and an amazing 8�-inch reach advantage, coupled with his devastating
punch, made him a heavy favorite. Still, he is so frail-looking that even his
staunchest fans always have their last-minute doubts.
At the weigh-in
on fight morning, at which both fighters registered 125� pounds, Little Red
looked about as thick, back to belly, as an envelope full of tax returns.
"My God," said promoter Bob Arum, "he looks like he just got out of
a concentration camp."
Casta�on, on the
other hand, resembled a high school freshman, but only so long as he remained
in his street clothes. When he stripped for the weigh-in, he revealed a heavily
muscled neck and the thick, sloping shoulders of a slugger. And, clearly, he
loves to fight. "Nobody got me started," he said. "I was walking
down the street one day and decided to punch an hombre. I flattened him and
decided I liked it. So it doesn't bother me to be the villain here. People
always side with the weak one," a dig at Lopez.
This air of cool
continued throughout the morning of the fight. Casta�on spent it in the lobby
of the downtown Howard Johnson's Motel playing electronic Ping-Pong with his
entourage—and winning. Clearly, he knew not what lay in store for him.
The Salt Palace
hoopla was mercifully and tastefully kept to a minimum. Casta�on entered the
ring with high Hispanic dignity. Little Red is now tied forever to the absurd
Technicolor war bonnet that has become his trademark, even though Utes never
really wore such a rig. Once he shed the feathers, though, he was all
in the first exchanges that he could slip Lopez' left jab, thus negating the
reach advantage. He ducked under it and slammed in some heavy left hooks, most
of which merely reddened Lopez' shoulder, but a couple of which bounced off his
forehead. In turn Lopez landed a few sharp rights, punching downward with the
short, reflexive authority that put away those earlier opponents, but Casta�on
shrugged them off. At the end of Round 1, he even managed to trap Lopez briefly
in a neutral corner and buffeted him smartly about the ears. Lopez is known to
be a slow starter. The first round was Casta�on's.
It looked as if
Arum's hope for at least a five-round fight might come to pass. Even the Utes
were mute. Then came Round 2.