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In his dreams of future glory: "This year I will become the first boxer in history to win a fourth world championship. I'm going to beat [middleweight champion Marvelous] Marvin Hagler. Moore's tough, but he's young. He cannot win. It's a new beginning for me in boxing. I call this fight 'my last chance.' "
Moore was at approximately the same crossroad where Duran had left him in Madison Square Garden in June 1983 by exposing him as a mere amateur. Duran thumbed him in the first round, closing Moore's right eye, and whipped him mercilessly, finally stopping him in the eighth round to lift his title.
"His confidence was so badly shaken then," Arum says. "He had it in his mind that Duran was washed up and the fight was a no-contest. And then to get beat that way! He became totally incoherent. You couldn't discuss anything rationally with him." Moore and Leon Washington, his manager, parted ways and Moore began managing himself. He had had only one fight since Duran, knocking out Monte Oswald in March.
When the Benitez fight was made, Moore was ecstatic. "I'm in this to redeem myself," Moore said. "I'm in it to get my title back. This guy can't beat me." That exuberance notwithstanding, no one knew where either fighter's head truly was. "This is for the psychiatric championship of the world," Arum said on the day of the fight. "They don't need a referee in there tonight. They need a shrink."
Two minutes into the first round, Benitez threw a jab, and Moore fired his right over the top, hitting Benitez flush on the potato. Wilfred crumbled, his ankle broken. He got up shaking his head to try to clear it and blinking wildly, his eyes glassy. He staggered and shook his right leg and retreated to his corner. Moore pounced on him, but Benitez put on a masterful display of defense, ducking and slipping most of Moore's bombs.
"I got excited," Moore said. "He's slippery."
Persol exhorted him between rounds: "You're headhunting too much. Take your time."
In the second, Benitez stuck to his corner, and Moore teed off. He missed often but finally caught Benitez with a left hook, then staggered him with another right. That was when Lucia stopped it, 1:18 into the round. "That was too easy," Moore said. "I want Hearns [the WBC junior middleweight champ, who last month destroyed Duran]. Hagler or Hearns. What I really want is Duran, but he's gone. I'm going to take a bath in Dom Perignon."
Benitez limped back to the dressing room past a politely clapping Rainier. The fact that he had survived on his feet seemed to please Benitez. "I don't know how I did it," he said. "I didn't get hurt. I'm clean. I should have won. I know I could beat him. I know I can fight as a middleweight and become champ. I will have to continue training."