His fingers tapped against a tall fruit drink and with his other hand he guided a long cigar, making you think of Alec Guinness relaxing in Rio de Janeiro after a deftly engineered London bank heist. Evening rolled across the Atlantic and then fell softly on the terrace. All the old fight managers are gone, the man was saying, the ones who swung in a world of whispers and back-door deals. Their names tumbled out like remembered songs:
Al Weill, the most disliked manager in the history of boxing, is busted and in an institution. Blinky Palermo, who had pieces of fighters he did not even know, is athletic director at another kind of institution. They call this one Lewisburg, and he has his position for the long haul. Jack Hurley, with two-thirds of his stomach gone, is trying to make it one more time with a young heavyweight with a forgettable name and talent.
"And, of course," said Bill Daly, the second most disliked manager in boxing, "the Doctor [Doc Kearns] is dead, and so are his times. I'll tell you, if I can get past this fight I think I'll defend the title in Ireland and back it up with a fight in Denmark. Take a nice ocean voyage. Parties every night, pretty music. The way it used to be. After all, you got to enjoy life. How many times you think he's gonna make it to the post? One day it'll be over."
The end, despite Daly's somber mood, does not appear to be near. Carlos Ortiz, lightweight champion of the world since 1962, except for a brief time in 1965 when he loaned the title to Ismael Laguna, is undoubtedly the most complete champion in boxing today. True, age (Ortiz is 30) has slightly tempered his great talent, but it was hardly evident last Saturday night against Sugar Ramos in steaming Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With both hands chopping until they were just a blur, Ortiz left Ramos sagging in a corner at 1:18 of the fourth round. It was a technical knockout and Ortiz' fourth straight successful title defense.
The evening began typically enough for a fight at a Latin location: before the fight some gentleman cracked another over the head with a chair. This incident was not comforting to anyone who remembered the carnage of the first Ortiz-Ramos fight in Mexico City where the ring was torn down, guns were fired and Ortiz had to leave the ring with a bucket over his head. By contrast, the Puerto Ricans comported themselves admirably. Except for a brief eruption, which came when a Negro tried to butt a Puerto Rican in a preliminary bout, the scene was that of a happy mob of picnickers drenched with beer. Indeed, the crowd of 13,592, which paid $121,439, was almost passive at times.
Ortiz, who weighed in at 135, an easy 135 for him this time, took command immediately. His jab, which sort of shoots up after landing, was sharp and punishing, and he caught Ramos, a former featherweight who has become a small lightweight, with solid right hands. Ortiz won both the first and second rounds, and it was obvious that Ramos, a good puncher who is not timid, was perfect for the champion. Ramos had trouble connecting with his right hand, which can be quick and deadly. Every time Ortiz jabbed, Ramos tried to wheel the right in, but the champion would follow his jab with a short step to the right side and then—wham—he would club Sugar with a downsweeping right.
Ramos did find Ortiz with his right midway in the third round. Ortiz caught it solidly and his knees buckled, but he was out of danger quickly. In the fourth and final round Ortiz set Ramos up with a left hook, and seconds later sent him groping toward the ropes with a right cross. Ramos, dazed, managed to free his head from the ropes only to sink into a right uppercut from Ortiz that jacked him back up. He was then battered into a corner where Referee Zack Clayton, embracing Ramos, stopped the fight.
Not since his early fights with Kenny Lane and Doug Vaillant has Ortiz been so strong and fierce. A natural welterweight from the waist up, Ortiz has had an endless, lonely battle with weight since he first won the title. When he signed to fight Johnny Bizzarro he was 160 pounds. The night before the fight he was still 139, four pounds over and just an hour before the weigh-in he had to endure the punishment of Turkish baths in order to get down. It was the same situation when he fought Flash Elorde in November. He was so weak for that fight he did not think he could go the distance, but Elorde, his skills considerably diminished, had nothing with which to hurt him.
There was no weight problem for the Ramos fight. Ortiz had watched himself carefully for this one, and his body showed it. His skin had a pink glow to it, not the usual sallow color, and his face was not sunken. He was also quite garrulous. Usually, when he is in the midst of a weight problem, he is sullen, and naturally so. Ortiz, you see, has always moved to the sound of trumpets. He likes to be around people who like to live and know how to live, and when he is pulled away from this atmosphere he finds it unbearable. Yet now there seems to be direction to his life, a reason for all the deprivation and pain. His domestic life is once again solid, and he has learned how to invest his money wisely. His name is attached to a one-hour dry-cleaning service in San Juan that he hopes will become a chain, the beginning of a small business empire on the island.
"Make sure," he said, "when the truck comes it is nice and clean and my name is up there nice and big."
Bill Daly has a large part of the action, of course, and he seemed more interested in the business than in the Ramos fight.
"What about the fight, Bill?" he was asked.
"Well, we have a problem with shirts," he said. "We have to solve the shirt problem."
"No, Bill, the fight. You know you're supposed to be a fight manager."
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Well, Carlos is all right. I just hope the business is."
Somehow, it all seemed like a sad corruption of the last of boxing's great rogues, and you knew that, despite what he said, Bill Daly would never again dance to sweet music on an ocean liner bound for Ireland.