To make things even more chaotic, while this was happening Meneses charged from his neutral corner and went after Jones, who was still standing in dream city. "Meneses came out prematurely," Basilico said. "He's not supposed to come out until I wave him back and say, 'Box.' So I took him back to his corner. Actually I pushed him back. With the time he lost there, I think he could have taken Jones out. He lost precious seconds."
Basilico then wiped Jones' gloves—a standard procedure after a knockdown, because the gloves pick up resin that can burn an opponent's eyes—and waved Meneses back into the fight. TV reruns of the knockdown showed that the whole episode—from the initial knockdown to the resumption of fighting—consumed from 24 to 27 seconds, more than enough time, as it turned out, for Jones' cobwebs to vanish. He survived the rest of the round.
Basilico said he didn't disqualify either fighter because both sides circumvented the rules—Meneses by hitting Jones when he was down, Griffith by hopping up on the apron and trying to treat his fighter in the course of the bout. Basilico could not very well punish one side without punishing the other. And it all happened so fast. "They nullified each other," Basilico said.
The crowd, which had cheered roundly every time Meneses landed a blow, was enraged when the decision was announced—two officials narrowly favored Jones, the referee had it a draw—sailing balled-up programs into the ring and sending up choruses of boos.
Thus was Jones, formerly a member of perhaps the most organized football team in the most organized of national sports, initiated into the disorder that so often visits boxing. The last round, for all its confusion, actually provided a fitting climax to the events and circumstances leading up to the fight.
Three days before, on Wednesday, Too Tall was sparring at a Las Cruces recreation center when the plywood floor of the ring began crunching and buckling under his feet. "Stop the sparring," cried Griffith. "We're getting the hell out of here." Jones' manager, David Wolf, shifted the training site to a gym on the White Sands missile range, about 25 miles away and less than 100 miles from where the United States exploded the first atomic bomb. Too Tall posed for photographers among the display rockets, folding his arms and looking like one of them himself.
On Friday, the Jones-Meneses fight appeared to be in jeopardy when Wolf and Jimmy Montoya, Meneses' manager, almost engaged in an unscheduled bout in a motel lobby. Montoya had been aware that Jones was getting $45,000 from the local promoter, Frank Mirabal, a Christmas tree salesman in real life, but claimed he hadn't known about the $27,500 CBS was kicking in to Jones' kitty—making his purse $72,500—and he wanted a piece of the TV money. Meneses was getting $3,000 from Mirabal period. Montoya told reporters he would pull out if Wolf didn't share his share. Wolf was incensed, thinking that Montoya was trying to shake him down, and furious that Montoya had protested to reporters, making a public issue of it. "Had he come to me, I think we could have worked out an accommodation," Wolf said. "But I'm not going to be shaken down in public." The two met in the lobby, belly to belly, while about 50 people gathered in a semicircle listening to their fruitless exchange.
Montoya didn't get the extra dough but, for Mirabal's sake, said the fight could go on. Even so, it was nip and tuck. On Saturday morning, hours before the bout, they were still setting up the ring. Within an hour of the start of the main event, after a kick-boxer fell out of the ring on his head, workmen hastily labored to tie the loose ropes together with lengths of clothesline. Unexplained was what a blindfolded swordsman, imitating a samurai, was doing in the ring before the fight, cutting in half a watermelon placed on the stomach of a supine man. The workmen then had to spend several minutes on their hands and knees swabbing up the juice and seeds from the mat. The man survived.
Jones, meanwhile, waited out the last couple of hours in his dressing room, more anxious than he had ever been before a football game. He had planned and trained methodically and carefully for this day, ever since he had decided two years ago to leave the Cowboys for the ring. It was something he had always wanted to do. As a kid, he had hung around gyms and followed the fight game. "I couldn't have done it out of college," he said. "Too many things I wanted to do. I wanted to travel a lot. You can't do that with boxing. It requires too much work. You don't have time for nothing else if you want to be any good. If you make it as far as I did in football—three Super Bowls in five years—you've got to love it. I loved it. I enjoyed playing while I played. But football was not number one. Boxing was. In the back of my mind, I knew one day I'd be boxing. And I decided two years ago I was ready to pay the price, make the sacrifice. I'm like a child again, finally doing something I always wanted to do."
Jones played out the last year of his contract and then in June formally quit football. He hired Wolf, who had handled Duane Bobick, and Griffith, the uncle of former welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith. Wolf is a semiretired sports journalist who got into managing because he thought, like many journalists, that he could do better than the people he was writing about. Murphy Griffith served in the Navy for 31 years and spent much of his service time as a boxing instructor. "He's a beautifully patient man," Wolf said.