Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no moreAlfred Tennyson, poet 1809-1892, The Princess (1847)
No hush fell within the domed ceiling of the Miami Coliseum, the crowd’s hub-bub continued. Neither interrupted nor escalated by the sight of one-time boxing superstar Jake LaMotta slumped to the canvas for the first time in his then 103-fight career. Referee Bill Regan, his once Welterweight frame thickened by twenty years of retirement, took up the count as LaMotta, 31 and fighting at a career high of 173 pounds, pawed for the bottom rope with his right hand.
Danny Nardico rushed to a corner, the adrenaline pumping through his body, the enormity of what he’d just done with a thunderous cross-cum-hook, the last of a flurry of clubbing shots, writ large before him. Whether he mouthed through his gum-shield; “stay-down” was never asked, all eyes were on LaMotta, the man who had once, if only once, beaten Sugar Ray Robinson, now desperately over-reaching for the second rope, his spatial awareness scrambled by fatigue and the weight of the shot that put him there.
Regan’s fingers splayed wide in front of the bruised fudge of his face, “FIVE, SIX!”. LaMotta’s right glove, short-cuffed and glistening like a ball of wet tar on a hot roof, found the rope. Regan whispered something unreported in LaMotta’s left ear between the metronome of his public voice; “SEVEN, EIGHT“. Nardico glanced to his corner for reassurance as his senses were assaulted. The laconic, darkened lids of trainer Bill Gore blinked back at him, no expression was offered. Gore’s experience with Willie Pep and Joe Brown, and a hundred other pugs, helping him resist the contagion of excitement that coursed through those at ringside.
Continue reading “The night the Raging Bull fell”