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All last week in broiling Las Vegas, Pinklon Thomas, the World Boxing Council's heavyweight champion, was saying that he was the one and only heavyweight champ. " Larry Holmes [IBF] and Tony Tubbs [WBA] are just contenders like all the rest," he kept repeating. And everybody else was saying that Thomas, a natural southpaw turned around, had a great left jab, perhaps the most powerful since Sonny Liston's, and that he brought his right fist into the ring only for balance.
It was Thomas's jab that won the day as he took the title from Tim Witherspoon, and it was the jab that installed the 27-year-old reformed heroin addict as an 8-5 favorite over Mike Weaver last Saturday night at the Riviera Hotel. Nobody, not even Weaver, mentioned the right hand.
Angelo Dundee, Thomas's trainer, liked it that way. "I hope everybody thinks he's gonna come in the ring wearing just one glove," Dundee said. "I hope Weaver forgets that Pink even has a right hand. Because when Weaver gets banged with that hand, he's gonna forget how to stand up."
Just a little over two minutes into the first round, Dundee's prophecy and Thomas's right hand intersected at the head of Weaver, the shy, muscular, 33-year-old who, from March 1980 until December 1982, was the WBA heavyweight champion. It wasn't even a clean shot, but Weaver was stunned. Forgetting his ring discipline, Thomas, whose 26-fight pro record included 20 KOs, unleashed a flurry of 11 arm punches, the last of which, a chopping right to the top of the head, dropped Weaver. Rising quickly, the WBA's No. 1-ranked contender took a mandatory eight count from referee Carlos Padilla and was able to stay out of trouble for the final 30 seconds of the round.
As Weaver sat in his corner, Dr. Kip Homansky of the Nevada State Athletic Commission leaned in between the ropes. "You O.K.?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Weaver. Disgust carved lines in his face.
Across the way, Dundee struck a cautionary note. "Keep doing what you are doing," Thomas was instructed. "Pick it up a little. But don't look for one big shot. Set it up. Make him worry about the jab."
The champion had danced for most of the first round. Now he came out flat-footed. The jab, fired from down around the waist, hammered Weaver's disgusted expression into one of confusion. Midway through the round, the challenger yelled over to Padilla and covered his left eye with a glove. When the glove came away, Weaver's eye was blinking and tearing. At the end of the round, Padilla came to Thomas's corner and said to Dundee, "Your guy is thumbing."
"Bull——," Dundee bellowed. "It's the jab. He can't thumb him; look at his gloves." Dundee grabbed Thomas's arm and held up the glove, a 10-ounce Tuf-Wear with the thumb stitched to the main part of the glove. The semithumbless glove had been agreed upon by both camps. "He's got no thumbs," Dundee protested.
Padilla withdrew the charge.