"I gotta get him," said Vinnie seriously.
"I seldom call for a war," said Ed, wagging a finger. "But with him, we gotta war."
After a nap Ed and Vinnie took a cab to the fieldhouse. "Remember the change of strategy," Ed warned before Vinnie left for the dressing room. "And good luck."
The double-decked fieldhouse was beginning to fill up. "We got less to wait tonight. He's fighting in the seventh bout," said Ed, smoking a cigaret beneath the stands. "We've been sweating through 52 fights now. This is it, or no Olympics." The Wisconsin band played a march, and the crowd of 14,000, almost double that of any Madison Square Garden crowd in the last two and a half years, began to warm up for the NCAA finals. Ed paced back and forth beneath the stands. The lights dimmed, and the band played The Star-Spangled Banner, and the crowd actually sang the words. "First time I ever heard that," Ed said with a smile.
After Dick Bartman won the 139-pound championship to clinch the team title for Wisconsin, Ed remarked: "The team pressure's off Vince." When Vinnie came out of the dressing room, Ed wished him luck, then sprinted for his seat. "Well, here's Pa," the man behind him remarked. Ed smiled.
The introductions were made, and Wall came out of his corner with a smile on his face. Vinnie looked serious. Wall waited for Vinnie to lead, but Vinnie didn't. Vinnie lashed out with a left jab, catching Wall on the nose. Wall fired back, but Vinnie slipped away. "Feint, Vin, feint!" Ed shouted, jumping up. "There goes Pa again," the man behind him chuckled. "Feint, Vin, feint. Attaboy! Attaboy!" The crowd roared as Vinnie caught Wall against the ropes. "Don't race him in there. Back out! Back out!" Ed yelled. Wall slipped away from Vinnie, and the bell rang. Vinnie walked back to his corner with his chest out. Ed smiled and turned to the man behind him. "Well," he said, "we got Mr. Wall now."
The second round began, and Vinnie came out, boxing. A minute passed with not much action, then Vinnie broke loose. He put his head down and rushed Wall against the ropes. Wall was taken by surprise. Vinnie landed a right to the jaw, and Wall's knees wobbled. The crowd screamed for the knockout. "This is it. Take him! Take him!" Ed screamed. But Vinnie forgot to follow with the left hook that would have ended the fight. Wall, in desperation, reached up with a right hand and drove Vinnie back away from the ropes. Vinnie landed a left, a right to the chin, a left hook to the body. Wall came back with a right on the headguard that shook Vinnie. Vinnie moved in under the right and banged away to the body. Wall was beginning to tire as the bell ended the round.
The fight was just as savage in the third. Vinnie did the leading, Wall the countering, but Vinnie took most of the exchanges. As the bell rang, both boys were still fighting in the center of the ring. "I think you got it, Pa," the man behind Ed shouted. "I think so too!" Ed shouted back. And they were both right. Vinnie was announced as the winner and NCAA 156-pound champion. Wisconsin supporters grabbed him as he stepped through the ropes and carried him on their shoulders to the dressing room. The band blared On Wisconsin
, and Ed ran back to the dressing room with tears in his eyes. After embracing Vinnie, he ran out to phone his wife and daughter in New York. While he was gone, Wall came into the dressing room. He stuck out his hand, still taped, and shook with Vinnie. Both boys smiled. "Dang, boy, but it was a good fight," said Wall. "Thanks," said Vinnie. "Gee, thanks."
It was a memorable evening. Vinnie, along with Bartman, Dean Plemmons, Orville Pitts and Truman Sturdevant, the other Wisconsin champions, made a victory appearance on television. Ed, in turn, made a victory appearance at a party given by the Downtown Seconds at the Madison Club, and when he returned to the room at the Park he had just enough time and wind left for a few observations. He talked about Ivy Williamson, the Wisconsin athletic director, and Coach Walsh and his assistant, Vern Woodward. "These kind of people," said Ed, "they can make anything decent." He talked about the great interest in boxing at Madison and about Dr. Anthony Curreri, professor of surgery at Wisconsin, a former boxer who has done so much to make college boxing the safe, clean sport it is. And lastly, Ed touched upon Vinnie.
"Actually," said Ed, sitting back with a cigaret, "what all this amounts to is that we've been scheming and planning just to get the kid up there in the Olympics. It looks as though he'll make it. But another thing to me, something that's really important, is that sheepskin for the kid. I want him to get that degree so bad. Partly because I missed it myself, and then because the aim of any father is for the son to become a better man than he ever was. That's what this all really means to me. This school is great, and I hope that Vinnie appreciates that. They've done a lot for him."