The Fight Of Your Life

November 22, 2016
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The footage is nearly 40 years old but you can see him clearly: pasty, red-haired, more Irish-looking than Italian.

“Some of you may have observed the knee brace on the left knee of Johnny Lira,” says the announcer, Howard Cosell. “That is occasioned by the fact that there are pellets in that knee. Remember I told you Lira had a troubled youth? The pellets the result of being a participant in a gang war.” He pauses. “Just recording the fact.”

Lira, a fierce, determined fighter who has previously served prison time, darts round the ring as he and the Venezuelan Ernesto Espana exchange blows. Espana’s using dark brown Mexican gloves, with stitches sewn in where the leather connects with the skin. In round nine, they will rip into Lira’s cheek and tear a gash above his right eye so bad that his face is doused in blood. But he doesn’t know this yet. It’s only round six.

An evenly fought match up to this point, things start to change in the seventh round. “And in a round like this, it seems to me, the more polished style of Espana becomes more visible,” says Cosell.

“Oh! That counter-right by Lira! Knocked Espana down!”

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