More than 500 fans from Mancini's hometown of Youngstown, Ohio had come to see the fight, and when the judges were announced, the Ohioans booed. Mancini's manager, Dave Wolf, claimed on the morning of the bout that "the fight's fixed—one of the promoters came to me with tears in his eyes, saying, 'The fix is totally on. You've got to win by a knockout, and even then you might get disqualified.' " The WBC had appointed a Nicaraguan judge, an American judge and a Puerto Rican judge. Tony Perez, the referee, is also Puerto Rican. "Three Latins out of four officials—what more do I have to say?" Wolf said, suggesting he might not let Mancini fight. He apologized after the fight. The judging and refereeing were faultless.
Arguello is a notoriously slow starter, and Mancini, who gave away 7� inches in reach, was able to move in close early in the fight. Working hooks and uppercuts to the taller—5'9" to 5'4�"—Arguello, Mancini led after five rounds on two of the three judges' cards. Arguello kept jabbing, with little effect. Then Futch suggested right uppercuts to the body, and Arguello was able to keep Mancini at bay, winning rounds 7 through 9. Both Futch and Arguello would say later that the body blows were the turning point, although Mancini claimed that none was damaging. "A fighter doesn't feel the pain," Futch says, "but he becomes slower and drops his gloves just enough to open up the head."
After Round 10 one judge had Mancini ahead, one had Arguello and the third had the bout even. Then, at the start of those critical rounds, 11 to 15, Arguello rose to the occasion. "I tried everything I knew to get inside," Mancini said. "He just wouldn't let me."
In Round 12 Arguello went over Mancini's lowered guard with several straight right-hand shots—the last of which Mancini seemed to walk into—and Boom Boom went down, a few seconds before the bell, for the first time in his pro career. Mancini was in trouble throughout the 13th, and his corner nearly threw in the towel. He survived, however, and Wolf asked him between rounds how he felt. "I want to finish," Mancini said. He rushed out gamely for Round 14 and tried again to get inside, but Arguello finally caught him with two left hooks and, as Perez rushed to stop it, that final, devastating right to end the fight.
Afterward, Mancini's mother, Ellen, recalled the scene in the locker room when Boom Boom laid his head on his father's shoulder and cried in disappointment. "He told him, 'Daddy, I didn't bring it to you like I wanted to,' " she said. "Lenny was very calm and comforting. He told him, 'That's O.K., you're still our champ.' " Then she remembered what Arguello had said about how the loss would make Mancini a better fighter. It was small comfort. "You know?" she said, "I wish Alexis would move up to that other division now."
She speaks for a lot of lightweights.