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All week Spinks had been complaining of a thick chest cold, and throughout the fight he had trouble breathing. He spent most of the time between rounds just trying to clear his lungs.
Still, Spinks, throwing those tiny punches from incredible angles, won the seventh and eighth rounds. He was leaving himself wide open, but Holmes was unable to unload the right.
After the eighth, Spinks slumped in his corner, barely listening as his cornermen yelled instructions. Finally he said, "Enough. Leave me alone. Just wet down my hair."
Across the way Giachetti was begging Holmes to throw the right hand to the body. "That shot is hurting him. But you've got to throw more combinations to the body. Wake up. Let's go."
Just as everything seemed to be going Spinks's way, Holmes almost broke the challenger in half with a right to the ribs in the ninth. Suddenly Spinks seemed to remember that he was facing a heavyweight, and began to fight as though he had lost interest. The people in his corner kept urging him to fight harder, until midway through the 11th round when Spinks turned away from Holmes and yelled, "Shut up. I'm doing the best I can."
Later Spinks explained: "My corner kept shouting at me, so I shouted at them. Goddam, I was doing all I could. It got to a point where I felt they were trying to force me to do something, and I was already doing it."
Both fighters were now complaining to Padilla about the other's unsportsmanlike tactics. At one point Holmes accused Spinks of thumbing him, and the challenger stopped fighting and apologized. "I really didn't thumb him." Spinks said after the fight. "But I apologized anyway. I didn't want to get into a kicking fight with him. I wanted it to be a fight with class."
All of the late rounds took on a sameness: Holmes stalking forward, loading up, scoring with harder punches but never quite able to land them dead-solid perfect; Spinks on the run, most often in a curious Groucho Marx posture, his head craning forward, seeming to drag the rest of him in figure-eight patterns around the ring; Spinks pausing to fire a light barrage before running again.
At the end of the 14th, two of the judges, Dave Moretti and Harold Lederman, had the fight even. The third judge, Larry Wallace, apparently pleased that Spinks was still on his feet, had the challenger ahead by two points.
As Holmes stood for the 15th, a worried Giachetti said, "It's the last goddam round. There's no tomorrow. You got to to let it all hang out."