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Luis had 18 victories in 19 professional fights—the only loss was a disputed 10-round decision to former bantamweight champion Alfonso Zamora in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 18, 1979—an excellent record considering that he'd been using heroin for several years. Mostly at the urging of Edwin, Luis checked into Promesa, a drug rehabilitation center in the Bronx last November. Edwin visited him when he came to New York for treatment on his wrist. Luis is improving, but it's doubtful that he'll ever box again.
"They say each mind is a different world," says Elizabeth, the boys' mother. And she's glad of that. "Edwin has observed what his brother has gone through. He has taken the right road."
That road began, as it did for Luis, at Siaca's gym when Edwin was eight years old. The place is well-equipped, well-attended and well-managed by Siaca. It's situated in a room built by Siaca in a corner of La Pista de Levittown, a dilapidated public stadium now used primarily as a jogging area. Siaca doesn't suffer interlopers lightly: There's a guard at the door, which is kept locked during workouts, and Siaca has installed a barbed wire "net" to greet those who would gain entry through a crawl space between the ceiling and the side wall.
Siaca has a number of assistants, including Antonio, who has been helping out—holding Vaseline jars, lacing up gloves, etc.—since Luis started boxing. Antonio is now cornerman for Edwin and dominoes partner when they travel. Antonio always wears a cap, and Edwin chuckles at the sight of his father, who's only about 5'2" compared to his 5'6", peering through the ropes when he fights. "All you can see of him is his face and that hat," Edwin says.
Siaca requires that each of his boxers shakes hands with everyone else in the gym, friend or stranger, upon entry and departure. "I think you have to show respect to everyone," says Siaca, who with his short hair, goatee and roundish body resembles a Beat Generation jazz musician.
Edwin didn't command respect when he was a skinny youngster. "It was kind of a joke when Edwin started boxing," Siaca says. As a pre-teen Edwin was a better shortstop and second baseman than a boxer—"I was a champ on the double play," he says—and even when he started boxing as an amateur at age 13, "he used to tell me, 'I'd rather play baseball,' " Antonio says. But once he gained confidence, helped by sparring sessions with Luis and other pros around the gym, he became unstoppable.
He also has no lack of confidence with women, as 36-year-old Rafael Torres, a fisherman who shared Rosario's house before Rosario's marriage three months ago to 18-year-old Alma Linda Melecio Rodriguez, can attest.
Rosario's sense of humor runs from the subtle to the bizarre. When Siaca says he doesn't care for Rosario's fishing expeditions, Rosario says, "No, he only likes to eat the fish." Then there was the time that Rosario hired five locas (homosexuals) to pounce on Torres when he awakened from a nap. He seems to be the quintessential quiet boy who instigates from the back of the classroom without getting caught. He admits that while he stays relatively tranquilo, he likes his friends to be the opposite. That probably explains the success of his relationship with the hyperactive Siaca.
Though Alma says Edwin doesn't like to be told he's wrong, he has to this point avoided the excessively macho displays of many Latino boxers. A short while ago the newlyweds learned that Alma is pregnant. "He's infatuated with the idea, very proud, much more than me," Alma says. Edwin is also serious about the conga drums on which he practices regularly in his home, and a local trio, Los Faraones, is considering recording a song he wrote several years ago entitled Llevame Contigo (Take Me With You). The first two lines: "Take me with you wherever you go/I wait for you crying, crying for your love."
Rosario admires the old fishermen around Toa Baja more than he does any boxer except, perhaps, DeJesus, who's now serving a life sentence in a Puerto Rican prison for murder. Out of the ring, Edwin walks the road of the pescadores, and it has kept him away from the temptations that brought down others around him.