By contrast, Beau Jack, one of the more lustrous lightweight champions, fought an unknown named Ritchie Jones in his 12th fight and beat him in three rounds. He didn't fight a 10-rounder until his 38th fight, against a nonentity named Carmelo Fenoy.
In his 12th bout, Ike Williams, another great lightweight champ, fought Joe Genovese and beat him in five rounds. Twenty-six fights later Williams had his first 10-rounder, against Ray Brown, an ordinary club fighter. He didn't box a world-rated fighter, Bob Montgomery, until 10 fights after that. Of course, boxing was a vastly different—and much less lucrative—game in Jack's and Williams' day.
Davis didn't arrive in Houston until four days before his fight with Watkins. The previous week he had been thumbed in his right eye during a sparring session with Aaron Pryor, and there was immediate fear that the Watkins fight would have to be called off. "The eye slammed shut," Davis said. "Then one morning I woke up and it was fine."
The first thing the 23-year-old from Glen Cove, N.Y., did after arriving in Texas was to search for a health-food store. He is a dedicated and almost fanatical vegetarian.
Davis began experimenting with his diet more than a year ago, but it wasn't until last April that he became really serious. He then went on a two-week fast, during which he consumed nothing but water, shed 20 pounds, dropping to 119.
"I couldn't believe it. He got younger looking and thinner, and I aged five years," says Davis' co-manager, Mike Jones.
The fast, Davis explained, was designed to clean out his system. Since that time he has eaten nothing except raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. For Watkins he weighed 133�.
"The difference from eating bad, from eating dead flesh, to eating right is fantastic," Davis said. "I feel more serene, more peaceful. I don't get mad anymore. If anything, I am stronger and faster."
Watkins had done some fasting of his own, but for a more conventional reason. For his last two fights he had weighed 140� making him a small welterweight. For Davis he had to get down to 135—or pay a penalty of $10,000 for evey pound over that weight. He hit the mark exactly.
The Houston fight was as important to Watkins as it was to Davis. Watkins had just turned down a $25,000 offer—plus $2,000 for expenses—to fight Scotland's Jim Watt, the WBC lightweight champion, on Nov. 3 in Glasgow. He had agreed to the title bout on June 20 but later decided against it.