A lot of nothing
It ended last Friday night in Las Vegas' convention center. Until the final rounds, however, when he was all tuckered out, Dupas fought at the top of his unique abilities. Quick and flashing as a shadow, he darted in and out, switching often to a left-handed stance, feinting with head and shoulders like Bob Cousy hipping in for a lay-up. He ducked and slipped punches, too, catching them with his gloves and forearms, butting and holding—all the stunts and wise-guy moves he has amassed over the years. But alas, these were mostly defensive gestures. He gave Griffith, as they say, "a lot of nothing." For a time, Emile appeared bemused and frustrated, hesitating to throw a punch because the target was no longer there. But Griffith never really lost his composure. As he has said: "Never try to knock an old pro's head off." And Griffith did not. Although he has had only 32 fights, he possesses a veteran's cunning; he knows about the elbow in the face and the butting, and he has had his foot stepped on so he couldn't get away.
All told, Griffith got in the heavier blows and the more frequent, and made a smart fight of it. When Dupas tired, sapped by his own razzle-dazzle and the accumulative damage of Griffith's right, Emile showed his power. In the 15th round Griffith landed a hard right which collapsed Dupas back into the ropes. Griffith followed with a succession of rights and an occasional left, banging the fading Dupas about the ring. Although Ralph was literally hanging on, Emile could not put him down. Once he had his man in that dark familiar corner, but his attack hung fire. Referee Frankie Van got between them and the chance was gone. It was, despite all Dupas did, an easy win.
Although his voice sounded clear and steady, Griffith was in the grip of a complicated emotion after the fight. His right hand trembled independently. He tried to quiet it with his left, but the hand vibrated in his grasp and he looked fearfully at it. Once he struck it violently against the rubbing table and, overwhelmed with the mystery, ran bewildered into the lavatory.
"There were times tonight," he said later, "that I had a little doubt about myself. But then Gil [ Gil Clancy, Griffith's co-manager] would scold me and I'd wake up. But there were times when I was wondering." He winced and passionately seized his fretful hand. "I'm very nervous," he said with wonder and apology. Later still, when all but his managers, his doctor, his elderly second, his assistant trainer and one visitor had left the dressing room, he doubled up from the tension. They laid him out on the dressing table and one held his fluttering hand. Then Clancy began to patch two eye cuts. "Hey, Doc," he said. "I don't know how to sew up this kind of cut. Give me that needle with the hook in it. I've got to learn sometime." Emile cried out in feigned terror and then laughed for the first time, unburdened.
He summoned the visitor to bend an ear down to his mouth. "When I got such a reception from the crowd when I came in the ring," Griffith said (and it had been a great, resonant welcome), "I felt like crying, but I wouldn't let myself. I just felt like letting all the water come out. Yes, I thought about Benny, Benny, in sudden spots in there. In the 15th when I had Dupas in the corner I stopped and looked at him again and I stepped away. But instinct took over most of the time. This fight did a lot for me. The next fight will do a lot more. Time, they tell me, is a great healer. The more fights I have, I pray and I hope that I will forget."
"O.K., Griffith," Clancy said, "on your feet. Let's go out and get drunk."
"Now," said Emile in his high, peremptory voice, "will you all keep quiet a moment?" He went, in his underwear and the rubber sandals they call go-aheads, to a corner of the dressing room and, putting his forehead against the peach seat of a folding chair, knelt, praying, for a long time.
"All right, you can all start screaming again," he said, getting up.
"Now you can play the dice tables," said Co-manager Albert.