And, by God, he did — Sugar Ray stole the round again.
I began to feel a little better about my bet. So I said to my savvy neighbor to the left, whom I realized, with a jolt, was Don Rickles. I turned to him and said, "You’re Don Rickles."
He flashed that lopsided grin. "Yes, I am."
"Boy," I said, "you really know your boxing."
"I’ve been picking winners for 40 years, but I’ve never had the guts to put money down," he said. "I’m guessing, though, that you have a sizable bet on this one."
"I don’t know what I’m going to do if Leonard doesn’t win this," I respond. "I’ll have to call my wife back in Brooklyn and get her to wire me car fare to the airport."
"Don’t worry," he assured me with a pat on my arm. "Sugar Ray is tying Hagler up in knots." This fight, he told me, reminded him of Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta: The stronger fighter kept plodding forward trying to corner the faster one. The faster fighter kept moving in and out and counterpunching.
"Watch," he said, "Sugar Ray’s moving counterclockwise. Not many fighters can do that. Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, but not many others. That way, when Hagler throws a right hook" — Hagler was ambidextrous but fought left-handed most of the time — "Leonard is already moving away from the punch."
As it turned out, Mr. Rickles — that’s what I called him even after he told me to call him Don — knew not only more than I knew, but at least as much as the officials did. After 12 fast rounds, I waited for the decision with my heart pounding as never before or since.
"Don’t worry," he told me, "Ray will get a split decision."
"Did you score it for Leonard?"