The absurd seriesof fights between Paul Pender of Brookline, Mass. and Terry Downes of London,England finally was concluded in Boston last week when Pender regained theversion of the world middleweight title recognized in Massachusetts, New Yorkand Europe. Their first fight, in January 1961, should by natural law have beentheir last. On that occasion Pender felled Downes in the first round and sorelybeat him until the fight was stopped in the seventh, with Downes freelybleeding from a nasty cut on his nose, or, as he calls it with an affectionnormally reserved for small animals, his ' "hooter." There was somewishful thinking among the British boxing writers, who have had a bleakgeneration of fallen heroes, that Downes was just beginning to "comeon" when the fight was terminated. This optimism was not shared by Downes.He admitted that, panicky from the knockdown and the cut on his hooter, he notonly neglected to use his brains but was getting them beaten in.
On July 11 oflast year, however, the two men fought again, this time in London. The onlyreason for the rematch was that Pender was guaranteed $84,000 (the law ofsupply and demand overriding any other consideration), an amount that wouldkeep one, as Terry put it, in plenty of "bread and jam." The fightfigured to be easy pickings for Paul, but this time Downes won, although underbaffling circumstances. Pender was leading by a narrow margin when he abruptlyretired on his stool (a respected British custom) before the 10th round,crying, mystifyingly, "He can't do that to me! He can't do that to me!"Downes said that Pender quit, adding heatedly, "He didn't quit because Iwas quoted as saying he quit. He quit because he quit." After alarums ofbetting coups and disasters (and after Sam Silverman, the Boston promoter, wasgiven a kick in the shins by an inflamed London bookmaker), Pender explainedhis withdrawal: he had caught cold when a parishioner sneezed behind him inchurch several days before the fight, and he was beginning to feel fragile.This explanation was received skeptically. As Aristotle says, "A convincingimpossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility."
Of course, therewas a return-bout clause and an opportunity for still more bread and jam allaround. This led to the fight in the Boston Garden last Saturday night, wherethe action was generally of a piece. It was an unruly, hard-fought contest,largely artless. Downes was cut once again; Pender was cut; even Referee JimmyMcCarron, a serene, slow-moving gentleman, seemed to come up with a nick nearhis left eye. Pender, whose nose increasingly resembles a cheerless mountainrange but who otherwise is a wan, clerkly-looking fellow, was unsettled at thestart, ill-coordinated, even drowsy. Downes consequently won the first tworounds. From that point on, though many of the rounds were close, Pender was incommand. Downes would stalk mulishly forward, intent on either hitting Pender"downstairs," which was supposed to sap his energies, or throwing aright-hand lead to the chops—but too few of these, too few. If eventuallyanyone was fatigued, it was Downes, and this in spite of the fact that he dranka mysterious potion after the weigh-in. "A secret preparation," Terryexplained. "I got it from the aborigines in Paddington."
Pender, for hispart, moved lightly about, jabbing famously, as is his custom, hooking deftlywith the same hand and throwing some noteworthy rights. "He's a strong,tough kid," Paul said later, "and he keeps coming, but you can read himpretty well." Indeed, Pender noticed that whenever Downes was going to tosshis right, he sympathetically lowered his left, enabling Pender to cross overwith his own right. More important, Pender often threw punches in sequence,which Downes never did, and was able to contain Downes's rushes either bysidestepping or by some judicious holding. The latter so enraged Downes that heretaliated by butting and heeling in the clinches—for which he was reprimandedseveral times.
April 16, 1962
Pender clearlywas the sharper and more accurate hitter, and from the 10th round on, sinceDownes hasn't the punch to knock down a moving target like Pender, the outcomewas foreordained, at least to everyone but Terry; at the final bell he paradedabout the ring alternately blowing kisses to the crowd, which included 137gloomy compatriots who had flown over on a chartered plane, and extravagantlyshaking hands with himself above his head. He was dumb struck and smote histemples when Pender received the decision on all of the cards. Judge HarryFrench was most competent, scoring it 146-141. The referee and the other judgehad it far too close: 144-143 and 145-143 respectively. Said Pender wryly:"And these fighters worry about coming here and getting a BostonDecision!"
Downes was,admittedly, a somewhat better fighter than he had been the first go-round. Thelesson he said he had learned from that fight was "not to lead with myface." Indeed, he protected it from time to time by holding his armsvertically in front of it like prison bars. He remains, however, just a clubfighter, lacking Pender's ability to adapt, his resourcefulness, his variety.Sam Burns, Terry's manager, said that Downes had come to America on a boatinstead of flying "because he can swim a few strokes but can't fly aninch." He can't box a lick either. Or, as Al Lacy, Pender's trainer, said,"If Downes would only concentrate on trying to improve instead of trying todestroy everybody who gets in his way...."
Downes, balancingan ice pack like a tam-o'-shanter on his head, was bitter at his fate. "I'mnot complaining," he prefaced his postfight complaint. "Pender is abrilliant fighter, but he fought in flashes. Pender's the same, only he holds alittle better now, like Ozzie the bear. [In Boston, Downes trained in awrestlers' gym—retouched photographs of bearded giants and grinning dwarfs onthe walls—where he said he had watched a wrestling bear named Ozzie work out.]They don't want a fight here. They want a wrestling match. Fight a little, holda lot. Then they mix it up. Hold a lot, fight a little. Unfortunately, neitherI nor the referee could stop him holding—but I was trying harder than he was.Well, maybe I'm biased." In Downes's favor, he has a point about holding.Although illegal under U.S. rules as well as English, the ban against it ismore rigorously enforced in Great Britain. In fact, unless absolutely flagrant,a bit of holding is just part of the game hereabouts.
Pender wasbitter, too, though for more involved reasons. He is a strangely introspective,brooding and disappointed man. "I'm not satisfied with myself," he saidon becoming champion again. "Still fighting, a man my age." He is 31,Downes 25. "A man my age, with a family, should do something else. I shouldthink by now I should have done something far more constructive in life. Ah,but you go along with the trend, the drift; you drift. What's everyone'sambition in life? To do things the easy way rather than the hard."
Still, theevening ended on an unexpectedly jolly note. Downes jauntily came to Pender'sdressing room to pay the customary respects. Then he proceeded to undress."We've been together all evening," he said good-humoredly, steppinginto the shower with Pender. "We might as well stay together."
Where do we gofrom here? Pender will most likely settle the middleweight championship—andeliminate the confusion and controversy surrounding it—by taking on GeneFullmer, who is the National Boxing Association champion, acclaimed in allstates save Pender's, as well as Asia and South America. Cus D'Amato, FloydPatterson's manager, offered Pender $100,000 to fight his middleweight, JoséTorres. But Torres, like Dick Tiger, an even worthier opponent, will have toget in line.