There were also questions about Pedroza's ability to make the 126-pound weight. On Friday, the day before the fight, there was a special weigh-in requested by the WBA. The two fighters were not expected to meet on this occasion, but Pedroza deliberately hung on in the gym so that he could pounce on McGuigan and grab his hand. "I could see in his eyes he was scared," the Panamanian said later. And at the official weigh-in on Saturday morning, there was more brouhaha. Pedroza, in his brown briefs, skipped onto the scales for only a split second, and Eastwood protested when the champion's weight was quickly announced at 126, right on the limit.
But the McGuigan camp didn't lose all the rounds in the psychological skirmishing. After the national anthems were sung, Pat McGuigan led the crowd in a drawn-out version of Danny Boy that left his son and fans visibly charged up.
If McGuigan was scared, he had a curious way of showing it as he tore into the champion from the start. Working his left jab steadily on the retreat, Pedroza scored well early on even as the crowd, seeing only a man on the run, began its chant of "Easy, easy" and "Here we go!" But the crowd was, in fact, a lot more worried than McGuigan; because it had been fed the theory that its man had to kill quick, in the first six or seven rounds, or be outpointed over the 15.
Pedroza tried to stand his ground, counterpunching with his left as the Irishman charged ahead. Then at the end of the seventh came that mighty right. Pedroza was down, and Santiago del Rio, the champion's manager, turned away in pain himself.
But in the eighth, Pedroza took the fight to the Irishman. McGuigan said later, "He'd been in deep trouble, but he was still so hard to connect with." Then, at the end of the ninth round, another big right left Pedroza rubber-legged. He was also rocked by another McGuigan right in the 13th.
By then, the crowd knew it was over. "Champion, champion!" they shouted, but not to Pedroza, who bravely tried to fight off the blazing bolt of energy that McGuigan had become.
And then the referee, scarcely audible, announced a unanimous decision for McGuigan that set off wild jubilation among the 12,000 Irishmen on hand. McGuigan had become only the fourth home-based Irishman in boxing history to wear a world crown.
Even before the official decision was announced, Pedroza, in a sportsmanlike gesture, acknowledged defeat, one arm around McGuigan, the other indicating him as the new champion. That was just as well, because suddenly the crowd lost restraint, crashing through the barrier marking the section for press and officials, smashing telephones and clambering into the ring to get to the man they worshiped. "Remember last week," an official shouted desperately. "Remember the eyes of the world are on you."
Later, in the peace of the dressing room, McGuigan, wife Sandra at his side, 20-month-old son, Blaine, on his knee, explained his monastic behavior during the week. "Sparring Monday," he said, "I pulled a ligament in me left arm, and they've been working on it with ultrasound ever since. Thank God that Gerald Hayes [an adviser] guessed that Pedroza would have trained to avoid my left.... But wasn't that a pacy fight? Wasn't it good? Wasn't Pedroza a great champ?" McGuigan could have talked, as usual, all night. But he was interrupted by a phone call from Irish Republic Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald. "The country is delighted," Fitzgerald told McGuigan.
Indeed, so delighted that gigantic bonfires were lit in McGuigan's native Clones to celebrate his victory. But now a doting Ireland may owe its favorite son an even greater debt. During the night the house in Clones in which McGuigan grew up, and in which his parents still live, caught fire, and investigators said that sparks from the bonfires may have been the cause. Two rooms of the house were destroyed, and, perhaps the saddest loss of all, the McGuigan family's videotape collection of Barry's previous fights was lost.