In the days before the fight, the craggy-faced Antuofermo sat much of the time in his Boston hotel room, playing solitaire and waiting for the next reporter to walk in and ask him about his supraorbital ridges.
Advance ticket sales for the fight hadn't been great, but the promoters might have hoped for a late lift from lovers of a bloodletting despite the fact that Antuofermo had had his supraorbitals fixed. They are the bony ridges behind the eyebrows—in his case prominent and sharp—that caused the worst of the many cuts he has suffered in the ring. The supraorbitals broke the skin from behind when he took a punch, causing blood to stream into his eyes.
And few who saw the fearful, bloody mask that he wore at the end of the eighth round when he failed to regain the title from Minter in London a year ago would have believed Antuofermo would ever fight again. A proven bleeder, Antuofermo was, with a face of paper. Forget him, everybody said. But a few months later, there he was at Hagler's victory party in London, talking about the new doctor he had found.
A surgeon, more precisely, and a neighbor of Antuofermo's on New York's Long Island, Dr. Jerld Acker, who took a look at those supraorbitals, decided they were the cause of all the trouble and planed them down so that they wouldn't cut through so easily. And so, $4,000 lighter and three days in the hospital later, the new-model Antuofermo emerged, one perhaps without the automatic blood-donor features.
In April he went 10 rounds with Mauricio Aldana, and though he won the decision, he was cut four times—but not on the brows, where the most incapacitating wounds, the blinding kind, used to occur. (If they had, Antuofermo was heard to declare, not altogether jokingly, he would be wanting his $4,000 back.)
Antuofermo's scarred visage was the focus of all the prefight battling between the rival camps, symbolized by Freddie Brown's little black bag, which, Petronelli believed, contained all sorts of arcane and illegal substances meant to stanch wounds swiftly. "He's not going to use that hokey-pokey stuff, that axle grease of his, on cuts," said Petronelli. "It's illegal. I have a copy of the rule book, and it says a [1/1000] solution of Adrenalin only. Freddie Brown's been around maybe a hundred years—it's hard for him to climb in the ring between rounds—but that don't mean nuthin'."
The jockeying went on: Even the certification of the weigh-in scale was disputed for a time by Antuofermo's camp. In the end the cut stuff in Brown's bag was cleared, but it would be unavailing. Still, no one could have forecast how swiftly the ax would fall.
The patched-up Antuofermo came out for the third, and Hagler put him down briefly with a straight left. And then that tormented, flailing courage of Antuofermo's was seen for a moment or two as he pressed forward. Effortlessly, Hagler kept him at bay with steady rights. There was more patching by Brown before the fourth, and then a hard right opened a new cut under the right eye. Finally an apparent butt by Hagler made the worst split of all—just above the same eye. Arms waving, his mouth full of cotton, Brown was in midring again to protest at the bell, but in Antuofermo's corner Tony Carione, Antuofermo's co-manager, had already conceded.
It was called a TKO in the fifth, and for Vito Antuofermo, it should be a TKO to a career. But when asked, inevitably, if he would fight again, a huge grin spread over his face.
As for Hagler, the hard man, what were his plans? "I'm not fighting in Massachusetts again," he said, having given the question some serious thought, "unless I get a tax break." Sticking to essentials, as usual. That's our Marvin.