Friday, January 16, 2009


By Roger Esty

The first time he lost. The crowd knew it. The referee Berumen knew it. So did Sulieman. He gave the order to end it the way it did. And Mantequilla knew it. He was out of shape, but he was in there with a hungry kid by the name of Armando Muniz. 

Jose by that time did as little training as possible to get by. You'd see his genius. He'd win,but he wasn't pushin' it. Between the race track,his night club,his trumpet,and drinking late at night with Jose Alfredo,Jose Napoles had discarded the Spartan way of training. 

However that night in Acapulco, that Muniz kid was kicking the shit out of him. He couldn't keep him off him. It was getting late and the Butter Man was melting. So Jose started swinging low. Figure Muniz would retaliate hitting below the border too, but Mando kept his cool. Do that and you lose on a DQ. So Sulieman sees his meal ticket waning and tells the ref to award Jose the winner on a foul anyway. It stunk. Even the aficanados knew it stunk.

They have to fight again. It's only fair. Right? This time the old master trains. He'll be in shape to catch him with hooks and uppercuts. His skill will determine victory. He'll train for this one. And the kid? He knows only one way. Put pressure on those old legs. But Mantequilla was his old self. It was the last time we'd see it.

I saw the rematch on the big screen in Tijuana at the auditorium. Jose looked fit. The definition showed. Mando pressed. Mantequilla used his craft expertly. Yes ,he was against the ropes,but he countered everything. After a few rounds began the blood.

Muniz knew the old man had him figured out this time around. He pressed like before hoping Jose would tire. They both fought for their lives. Napoles's eyes started to tear apart worse than ever, but so did Mando's. No DQ's tonight. Both guys were crimson. They were wearing their red badges of courage. It was all over the ring,the ringsiders,and we were bleeding with them. They were rocking each other. The announcer, the crowd, everyone watching the big screen was enthralled.
"Que barbaro!"
That was every other word from the mouths of the witnesses to this carnage.
"Que barbaro!" we were gasping.
Incredible. You want it to stop because you think one of them might get hurt seriously. Maybe die. But let it act out. Don't stop it. The conclusion must be seen. Painfull,but it must be seen to its conclusion.

The final bell. Both men standing impassively in the ring. Eyes shredded. Purple lumps on their faces. Lips torn apart. Blood matted on their chests. Sweat and blood everywhere. To watch them after 15 rounds of attrition stand silently. The blood trickling down their faces. They seemed at peace. At peace after all they had given to each other.
"Que barbaro!"*

"que barbaro" means "wow" in Spaniosh.

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