The fight ended with Mike Rossman sitting on the stool in his corner, unable to go out for Round 10. His right hand was broken and his WBA world light heavyweight title was lost to Victor Galindez of Buenos Aires, from whom he had won it seven months before. Rossman had fought as long as he could with just one hand, but after the ninth round in the New Orleans Superdome last Saturday afternoon, he knew he couldn't go on. And it was then that Jimmy DePiano, Rossman's father and manager, told Referee Stanley Christodoulou that Galindez had regained the title. As an afterthought, DePiano added. "It's a loan, not a gift."
Rossman figured that he had broken the hand on Galindez' head midway through the fifth, a round in which he had thrown at least 12 rights. From then on he had mostly used his left jab, a case of a pistol against a cannon.
"Mike could have quit after the fifth round," said Jim Robinson, Rossman's trainer. "But he didn't. His only complaint was that he couldn't get the right off. He fought four rounds in pain, trying to get lucky with the left. He couldn't even protect himself with the right. It hurt as much to block a punch as to let one get through."
From the start this was a far different fight from the one in New Orleans last September. On that occasion, Rossman, the challenger, had hammered a poorly conditioned Galindez, slicing up the champ's scarred face and forcing a halt after 13 rounds. Until that night Galindez, 30, had held the title for nearly four years, and hadn't been beaten since Dec. 18, 1971.
Then came last February's fiasco in Las Vegas, when Galindez pulled out of the rematch at the last minute after the Nevada State Athletic Commission had refused to allow the WBA to import its neutral (read Latin) officials.
But the WBA and Galindez did not have such problems with the Louisiana State Athletic Commission, which imported Christodoulou from Johannesburg, South Africa, Waldemar Schmidt from San Juan, Puerto Rico and Jesus Celis from Caracas, Venezuela. Christodoulou has a history of refereeing Galindez' defenses. In 1976 he allowed Galindez 10 minutes for repair work after Richie Kates cut him badly. Galindez then knocked out Kates in the 15th round. And when Yaqui Lopez fought Galindez in Rome, Christodoulou chose to ignore what Lopez called frequent low blows, butts, rabbit punches and hitting while holding. After 15 rounds, Galindez won by unanimous decision.
"Galindez must like these officials," Rossman had said in disgust a few days before the fight. "I haven't heard him say a word. If the Latins can reach in and steal the title from an American fighter right here in America, then there isn't any justice."
While Rossman's people feared a possible heist if the fight went 15 rounds, they were even more fearful that Galindez would be cut—and that Christodoulou would rule that it had been caused by a butt. If the fight was stopped on a cut, Rossman might lose the title by disqualification.
"If he cuts, I don't care what they call it," Robinson said. "I'm going to tell Mike to go out and rip it open as wide as he can, to chop Galindez to pieces. He also has to worry about the officials and he has to worry about a disqualification. They are holding all the cards. It's not right."
Perhaps Rossman should have worried less about the officials and more about his opponent. Galindez had trained long and hard and was in excellent condition. The last time they fought, the Argentinian had trimmed his body by starvation; this time he did it with grueling workouts. Galindez is a proud man and he was ready.