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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Large remarks passed on historic occasions are always carefully noted, but the small talk is rarely recorded. The other day at a boxing festival in Buenos Aires, Jack Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo met for the first time since Luis knocked Jack out of the ring and Jack responded by knocking Luis down three times and out in the second round. Brought together 31 years later, both Dempsey and Firpo had glowing compliments for each other in their public appearances. But what did the great men have to say to each other privately when they met for the first time since 1923? The SI man at the scene jotted it down and here, for the record, is the complete transcript:
FIRPO (after a loud silence): Do you like the climate?
FIRPO (after a minute): What about those reporters who nicknamed me "The Wild Bull of the Pampas"? How are they?
DEMPSEY (promptly): They're dead.
Somewhere East of Suez
It would be hard to find a more Oriental city than Bangkok, which is called Bangkok, old boy, because of all the Kok trees. It is to the deep East what Charleston, S.C. is to the deep South. Golden-robed priests? Check. Tinkling bells? Check. Temples? E-e-e-e-yah! Elephants? Sure nuff! And damned good eastern cooking. It is the last place in the world you might expect to find armies of fight fans, but when France's Algerian-born Robert Cohen and Thailand's Chamroen Song-kitrat fought there a few days ago for the world's bantamweight championship, little old Bangkok yielded up a crowd calculated to make the International Boxing Club turn treasury-green with covetousness.
Thailand has actually been cauliflower crazy for centuries. In Thai-style boxing?a type of mayhem supposedly developed by early warriors who fought on the ground after being toppled from their elephants?the fighters kick as well as punch and use their elbows and heads at will, although a quaint Thai custom of dipping the fists in glue and ground glass has lately been abolished. The true Bangkok fight fan, as a result, finds international-style boxing a bit tame. Nevertheless, when Songkitrat and Cohen were matched for the title (abandoned five months ago by Jimmy Carruthers of Australia) tickets sold like hot rice cakes.
Rain fell in sheets on the day of the fight and the police, in the interests of guaranteeing visibility for all, banned umbrellas. But long before noon bedraggled thousands began surging into Bangkok's huge, concrete National Stadium to crouch under ponchos and long strips of white cloth. The crowd grew steadily all afternoon, although there was nothing to do but get wetter?and to stare at a gigantic, brooding billboard, which had been erected atop the stadium to advertise a U.S. movie, The Egyptian. By 5 o'clock 70,000 people were jammed into seats, aisles and every cranny of space around the ring.