Lee Groves

Travelin’ Man goes to Buenos Aires – Part II

Click here to read part one.

In terms of pageantry, drama, atmosphere and stagecraft, last Saturday’s middleweight championship fight between Sergio Martinez and Martin Murray had everything a fight fan could want – especially if he or she had an umbrella or some very resilient rain gear.

The fight itself was a tense and suspenseful affair that featured multiple plot twists. The consensus top three pound-for-pounder was pushed to the limit by British challenger Martin Murray but the Argentine idol escaped with a 115-112 decision on all cards to retain his RING championship belt.

Given the way the bout unfolded, however, a new question must be asked: Is Martinez, at age 38, still the world’s best middleweight? He has suffered knockdowns in his last three fights while the surging WBA king Gennady Golovkin continues to score knockdowns – and knockouts. IBF titlist Daniel Geale and WBO beltholder Peter Quillin keep adding to their resumes and “Kid Chocolate” helped his cause by impressively retaining his slice against Fernando Guerrero on the same night as Martinez-Murray. The perceived gap between Martinez and his peers closed considerably Saturday and a Martinez-Golovkin match, if it’s ever made, now must be considered a toss-up at best – and that might be generous to the man nicknamed “Maravilla.”

In all my travels, this journey to Buenos Aires will go down as one of the most fascinating, compelling and unforgettable assignments yet. The memories will live as long as I will and it is now my pleasure to recount what happened on Fight Day – and beyond.

Saturday, April 27: Unlike most days away from home, I slept extremely well. I suppose traveling 6,700 miles during an 11-hour plane ride would do that but once I had a chance to rest I was more than ready to begin this phase of a most fabulous adventure.

As I waited to leave the hotel for the stadium, I couldn’t help but think about Argentina’s rich boxing tradition. In all, this South American nation has produced 35 male fighters who held major titles and dozens of outstanding battlers who never owned belts, so choosing a top 10 amongst its talent pool is a fairly challenging task. But if I had my druthers, that list would be, in order, Carlos Monzon, Pascual Perez, Nicolino Locche, Victor Galindez, Sergio Martinez, Santos Laciar, Juan Coggi, Jorge Castro, Eduardo Lausse and Oscar Bonavena. While each has his own unique style and set of accomplishments, their conditioning and skill level was undeniable. Of this group only Martinez remains active and with a few more wins he might end up in the number three spot – but no higher.

Also, Argentina has the deepest and most accomplished field of female fighters, with names like Yesica Bopp, Yesica Marcos, Erica Farias, Alejandra Oliveras, Daniela Bermudez, Betina Garino , Carolina Duer and the woman who sparked it all, Marcela Acuna, amongst its ranks. The January fight between Marcos and Acuna drew more than 40,000 spectators, a most astonishing accomplishment. The bottom line is that boxing in Argentina is not only alive and well, but thriving.

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While I was doing some busy work, the phone in my hotel room rang. It was my punch-counting partner and “lead dog” Dennis Allen, who said we needed to be in the lobby before 11:30 a.m. to catch one of the minivans that’ll take us to the stadium – and that once we’re there, we’re there for the duration. He also reported a rumor that the fight might be staged a few hours earlier than scheduled because of bad weather located to our west. In other words, the sunshine that bathed our surroundings at that moment literally was the calm before the storm.

We arrived at the stadium a little before noon and any thoughts of moving up the starting time disappeared as soon as we arrived at ringside. A lot of work still needed to be done and the clock was ticking. While several thousand chairs had already been placed on all sides of the infield, the makeshift canopy intended to cover the ring wasn’t yet erected, nor was any of the four large-screen monitors. The ringside area had incomplete electrical power sources and our assigned table had not arrived. Still, we managed to successfully complete the set-up procedures within a few minutes, and with confirmation that all was well electronically Dennis and I headed off to lunch.

For those who didn’t read Part One, I was advised by the Argentine airline agent in Pittsburgh that the one thing I should do in Buenos Aires is to have some steak, so Dennis and I chose to eat at a cafeteria located within the stadium and ordered steaks and French fries. I don’t know if the meal I had was typical but it certainly didn’t disappoint. Many restaurants I’ve visited cook their steaks rare when not given a preference, but here they were prepared in the medium range (I prefer mine medium well). No steak sauce was needed to fortify the flavor and I enjoyed it very much.

When Dennis and I returned to ringside at 4 p.m. much progress had been made. The table that was intended to be our work station was placed directly behind the HBO broadcast position and the giant screens and canopy had been elevated to their proper positions. Amazingly, everything looked back on track for the original starting time.

At 4:30, four hours before Dennis and I were to start counting the Luis Carlos Abregu-Antonin Decarie bout, I felt the first sprinkle on my forearm and it wasn’t long before that sprinkle became plural – very plural. For the next several hours, the worsening weather sparked rumors – and rumors of rumors – regarding what fight was to be aired when as well as where Dennis and I would be stationed. At one point the rain was so severe that for a short time we believed we were going to count off a monitor inside the production truck. That plan was scuttled a short time later in favor of having us work at our usual ringside position. The catch – our work station was no longer there.

Luckily for Dennis and me, we had ridden this train before. Nearly five years ago at the first Wladimir Klitschko-Tony Thompson match in Hamburg, seating conflicts between HBO and the German organizers resulted in our being placed directly behind the HBO broadcast team without a table. Back then, Dennis steadied his laptop on his lap while I used mine to control my clipboard and rest my external keypad. While cramped, this arrangement worked out well and we were able to count our fighters accurately. Thus, we decided to repeat that blueprint here.

The ever intensifying rain exponentially increased our degree of difficulty. While we technically were seated at the edge of the canopy’s protection, swirling winds caused precipitation to blow in on us during all the 22 rounds we counted. Whenever it grew heavier, we leaned our torsos to cover Dennis’ laptop as best we could. During time-outs and the between-round intervals Dennis wiped off his keyboard with his shirt while I used the sleeve of my windbreaker. I also dabbed my wet external keypad on the front of my shirt so as to not hit any keys accidentally. Maintaining our concentration was a formidable challenge but I’m happy to say we both rose to the occasion.

Before we reached ringside, Dennis, HBO interpreter Jerry Olaya and I decided to purchase souvenir T-shirts at a stand located in the tunnel. Because I’ve lost 24 pounds since the beginning of the year I credibly downgraded to a large when I was told they were out of the XL shirts I originally requested. Each of our shirts was placed inside small tan shopping bags which we carried to ringside.

Once we approached the ring, the scope of our challenges regarding cramped quarters was instantly brought into focus: Because three networks were broadcasting the fight – HBO, TyC Sports and TV Publica – and because personnel from at least two of those networks as well as a host of special VIP seats had to be placed on a single side of the ring, working room was at a severe premium. I’d like to think this was the reason why our work station was removed but one can also believe that those in control of ringside simply ditched our table for convenience’s sake. No matter the cause, this was our situation and there was no way it was going to change at this point. Our job now was to make the best of it.

While Dennis was preoccupied with maneuvering himself into proper position to hook up his laptop, someone apparently stole his T-shirt. I was more fortunate because I made sure to affix an iron grip on my shopping bag while making every move. Dennis rightfully was miffed about it but he refused my multiple offers to give him mine.

Dennis and I successfully completed our dress rehearsal fight – Abregu’s unanimous decision over Decarie. It was supposed to be part of the live triple-header but the bad weather forced the network to relegate it to highlight status. No matter, Abregu-Decarie was a rather unspectacular encounter because both while fighters tried their best, they struggled to find their range. In the end, Abregu’s forward movement, eighth-round knockdown and spurious flurries were enough to secure the deserved nod.

Abregu threw nearly twice as many punches (627-316) and out-landed the French-Canadian in every category (130-72 total, 47-28 jabs, 83-44 power) but their accuracy was sub-par at best (Decarie led 23 percent to 21 percent in overall punches, 17 percent to 15 percent in jabs and 29 percent to 26 percent in power shots). Abregu’s more powerful punches generated loud chants and cheers yet Decarie occasionally made things interesting when he landed strong but singular counters. Unfortunately for him, they didn’t land often enough to affect the final result.

The already festive atmosphere kicked up several notches once it became clear the main event was on the immediate horizon. I had time to scan the immediate vicinity and while doing so I spotted several luminaries. Onetime WBA super bantamweight champion Sergio Palma, now walking with the assistance of a cane, was two seats to my right while Laciar was at his broadcast position for TyC. Carlos Baldomir was located directly behind me in the first row beyond the ringside area and he gave me a smile and a thumbs-up after letting him know I recognized him. Castro was located approximately 40 feet to Baldomir’s left posing for pictures and signing autographs and I wished I were there, at least long enough to have him sign some photos I brought with me as well as my copy of Harry Mullan’s “The Big Book of Boxing.” It wasn’t to be, for space and circumstances demanded that I focus on the tasks at hand.

The pre-fight presentation was outstanding and, at times, moving. A jazzed-up version of the Argentine national anthem played over the loudspeaker and if volume were an accurate measure it seemed as if every person was singing it at top volume. Some in the crowd bounced rhythmically in time to the music, something you’d never see in America. The nationalistic fervor was phenomenal and despite having no ties to Argentina, I couldn’t help but be moved by it all.

Murray’s entrance and introduction was greeted by ear-piercing whistles of derision while deafening cheers heralded Martinez’s ring walk. As a pumped-up Martinez wended his way to ringside, a wondrous array of fireworks exploded over the nighttime sky and several columns of flames rocketed upward. Thousands of camera phones recording the event made it appear as if the very stars the clouds obscured had descended to ringside. If there were any questions about whether the horrid weather would affect attendance or if it would dampen the crowd’s excitement, they were answered beyond doubt. Every seat was filled and each patron was ready to sacrifice body and voice to propel their man toward victory. Martinez, in turn, dearly wanted to return their passion with a fitting performance.

The partisanship couldn’t have been more obvious during the first three rounds as Martinez cautiously built an early cushion amidst loud singing and other vocal eruptions. Martinez clearly was the faster and more mobile fighter and from ringside I could see why opponents might be hypnotized by the Argentine’s hands-down, snake-charmer style. Looking at Martinez in three dimensions, I saw his amazing athleticism and speed while I perceived Murray’s size, strength and technique. Murray afforded himself the chance to acclimate by adopting a high peek-a-boo guard and gauging the champion’s speed and rhythm.

The first quarter of the fight saw Martinez out-land Murray 27-15 overall and 18-10 in power connects and both men fought at pace that would please a 38-year-old homegrown champion. The average middleweight throws 56.9 punches per round but champion and challenger threw just 33 per round to that point. But as time went on Murray adjusted to his environment and he soon began to execute a meticulously conceived game plan that emphasized body work and timely counterpunching.

Meanwhile, the rain fell more intensely and made everyone’s work much more difficult. From our standpoint, the canopy did nothing to protect us from the elements and Dennis had a tough time ripping individual sheets from his notepad to give to blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley. But we managed to complete our assigned tasks round by round, and everyone else associated with the telecast continued to perform far above and beyond the call of duty.  

The fight began to turn in round four as Murray out-landed Martinez for the first time (12-9 overall and 9-4 in power shots) and Martinez registered his frustration by turning away and yelling out in pain to indicate a low blow that my eyes saw – and instant replay confirmed — actually landed on his black beltline. With every passing round, the Briton landed straight rights to the face with startling regularity because he forced the southpaw champion to move to his left more often than he should.

Statistically speaking, Murray really turned on the juice in rounds five through 10 as he out-landed Martinez 106-65 in total punches and 87-50 in power shots. Murray was particularly effective hammering the champion’s body and in that department he logged a 55-29 bulge over the entire fight.

As Murray seemingly put rounds in the bank, the hometown crowd was eerily subdued. The chanting and cheers of the early rounds was replaced with low-key buzzing that had an air of tense yearning about it. At one point in round six, the crowd even whistled, if briefly.

For all their robust support, Argentine boxing fans are knowledgeable, fair-minded and sportsmanlike (the John Riel Casimero-Luiz Lazarte incident notwithstanding) and because of that they knew what they were seeing – their champion was having a tougher than expected homecoming.

The sight of Martinez hitting the canvas in round eight was stunning, and the crowd groaned as their hero tumbled to the floor. A second knockdown should have been officially recognized in round 10 as Murray landed a grazing but legal right above Martinez’s ear but the WBC officials, even after consulting instant replay, somehow confirmed referee Massimo Barrovecchio’s ruling of a slip. In light of this, one question must be posed: If officials are going to botch a call even after watching instant replay, what good is having it? Replay is only as useful as those who are applying it and if those in charge are unable to make the correct call, as was the case here, then it shouldn’t be there at all. As for me, instant replay should be utilized, but measures to ensure the competency of replay officials must be put in place as well.

As the bout swung into the final two rounds Murray appeared in control, just as he had been against Sturm 17 months earlier. But Sturm and Martinez kept their belts because they behaved like champions in the championship rounds while Murray was unable to raise his game enough to stop it. Consider:

In rounds 11 and 12 Sturm went 50 of 131 overall after going 36 of 108 in the previous two rounds, which meant that in the final six minutes Sturm landed 14 more punches and threw 23 more than in the previous six. Conversely, Murray was 46 of 193 overall in rounds 11 and 12 after going 51 of 194 in rounds nine and 10, which meant that Murray landed five fewer punches while throwing one punch less.

A similar pattern emerged against Martinez. In rounds 11 and 12 Martinez went 33 of 125 overall after going 22 of 108 in rounds nine and 10, an increase of 13 punches and 11 connects in the “championship rounds.” As for Murray, he was 27 of 103 in rounds 11 and 12 after going 43 of 118 in rounds nine and 10 – a drop-off of 15 punches, and, more importantly, 16 connects over the previous six minutes. The shift in momentum was palpable – and ultimately decisive.

While Sturm and Martinez lifted their games during the most important stretch of the fight, Murray failed to lift his baseline in the same way. That combined dynamic gave the judges the justification to vote the way they did and that’s why Murray remains beltless despite out-landing both champions by a combined 102 punches (76 vs. Sturm, 26 vs. Martinez).

Will Murray, who out-landed Martinez 160-134 overall and 128-87 in power shots, end up as a frustrated “nearly man” or will he get another chance to reverse his fortunes? He proved beyond doubt that he has the goods to push the division’s best for 10 rounds, but if he is to earn the ultimate prize he’ll have to find a way to sustain that good work all the way to the finish line — or knock them out. Murray has already beaten his most difficult opponent — substance abuse — so he has already established the foundation he’ll need to do what he must to maximize his boxing career.

Thanks to some excellent hustling by the HBO crew, we ringsiders learned of Martinez’s winning margin a couple of minutes before Michael Buffer announced it to the world. Although I thought Murray deserved the decision, it was just as well that Martinez prevailed. After all, because Argentina is a soccer-oriented nation, I had no reason to trust the accuracy of their throwing arms had they been given a reason to riot. On the back of my rain-soaked round-by-round sheet, I jokingly wrote down these words: “We get to live!”

Then again, I probably shouldn’t have been so jocular. The joyful Argentines surged toward the ring and proceeded to create a dangerous crowd control issue. TV crew members were knocked down and jostled and so many people rushed into the ring that the floorboards bowed under their weight. I had hoped to get my desired signatures once the other TV crews signed off but it quickly became obvious that remaining at ringside would be too risky. As soon as Dennis and I packed our belongings we got out of Dodge as fast as possible.

Although I failed to fulfill several of my intended side missions I did achieve one – meeting the on-air boxing broadcast crew for TyC Sports. In terms of U.S. access, the network’s “Boxeo de Primera” series airs weekly (and sometimes twice per week) on DirecTV’s Channel 427 and over the past 10 years on-air personalities such as Osvaldo Principi, Walter Nelson, Martin Perazzo, Sergio Charito and Silvana Carsetti became extremely familiar to me (Santos Laciar, an occasional contributor, already was well known to me). Although my Spanish comprehension is spotty, the Boxeo de Primera series is one of my favorite TV shows because not only are the broadcasters knowledgeable and the fights compelling, their camera work is superb.

The moment I heard I was coming to Argentina one of the first things I thought about was finally meeting the Boxeo de Primera team face to face, and, conveniently, HBO’s truck was situated next to TyC’s.

As I waited to board the first shuttle back to the hotel, I spotted Carsetti – who was wearing blue-and-black evening gown – walking up the truck’s steel steps. I waited for her to exit so I could introduce myself but I was drawn away from the area because I still had one eye on our group waiting to return to the hotel.

A few minutes later Carsetti exited the truck and walked toward several crew members to talk with them. As a stranger, I didn’t want to interrupt them so I waited for an appropriate pause. Meanwhile, Charito arrived on the scene, so I caught his attention and introduced myself.

Even though I felt a pressure to perform, my Spanish must have been passable because he understood everything I tried to say – that I was from the United States, that I had been a loyal viewer for a decade, that I enjoyed their show very much and that I was extremely thrilled to meet them. After I finished, Charito got Carsetti’s attention and repeated what I said.

They seemed genuinely happy to hear it, and I took the opportunity to ask them to pose for this picture taken by one of the show’s producers.

I didn’t care that I missed the first ride back to the hotel nor was I concerned that I was a rain-soaked mess. From this day forward I can say I met the TyC boxing team face-to-face on their native soil. From this point forward I’ll watch Boxeo de Primera from a different and far more personal perspective.

Because thousands of vehicles were exiting the stadium area via limited routes, the ride back to the hotel took nearly an hour. The wait, it turned out, was well worth it.

When members of the technical crew arrived in the hotel lobby, Lampley rose to his feet to lead a standing ovation. “Fantastic job,” he said with genuine admiration. “This was your greatest night, bar none. I’m proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves.” Because I felt I wasn’t a target for Lampley’s accolades, I immediately stepped out of line, put down my laptop bag and joined in the applause. It was a classy gesture by Lampley, but then again, I wasn’t surprised; it’s typical of the man I’ve seen over the years.

After going upstairs and taking care of some pressing details, I returned to the lobby and chatted with the guys until the group broke up about an hour later.

Sunday, April 28: For me this day began at 7:30 a.m., just four hours after the previous one ended. Because my flight to Houston wouldn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., I had the whole day to get in some sightseeing.

I met Dennis, Jerry and Harold in the lobby with the intent of touring the historic San Telmo shopping district together. When we couldn’t find a cab that would accommodate all of us we decided to split into two groups – Dennis and Jerry, Harold and me. Dennis and Jerry’s cab driver failed to follow the one carrying Harold and me and as a result we didn’t see each other again until we all were back at the hotel. Meanwhile, our cabbie dropped Harold and I off on a bustling cobblestone street with sales stands bordering both sides as far as the eye could see.

I didn’t plan on buying anything unless something really caught my fancy, so I decided to become a spectator. Although every item has a posted price, haggling is encouraged and Harold showed himself to be an apt negotiator.

Harold’s first purchase was a representative episode: He spotted a leather handbag that he felt his wife Eileen would like but when the female merchant said it sold for 500 pesos ($100), Harold shook his head and countered with an offer of 300 pesos ($60). After a few more bids Harold thanked the woman and walked away. Less than a minute later the lady caught up with us and produced a final offer of $75. Harold found that acceptable and the deal was done.

William Shatner, eat your heart out.

“The walk-away move works every time,” he said with pride.

After Harold purchased several more items, we bought a couple of Diet Cokes (Coca-Cola Light in Argentina) from a street vendor and sipped on them for a while before Harold suggested we have lunch. Seeing a chalkboard advertising “hamburguesas” in front of the Akwaba Club, a diner that features live music, we decided to stop there. Our server was a woman from the Cameroon, apparently the only employee who understood some English.

“Come on Lee, tell her about a fighter from the Cameroon,” Harold challenged.

In my best Spanish – which had been getting somewhat better the more I used it, I told her about Jean-Marie Emebe’s fantastic challenge of WBA light heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson in September 1986, which ended in failure following 13 rounds of classic action. She didn’t seem to know who Emebe was – ironically she recognized Johnson’s name – but at least I was able to pass the “Unofficial Official’s” pop quiz.

Once we finished our meal we headed toward the end of the block, where we saw a parked taxi.

“That’s amazing,” Harold said. “It’s usually impossible to get a taxi in this part of town but here’s one sitting there waiting for us.” Chalk one up to good fortune.

However, our driver didn’t know exactly where our hotel was located, even after we showed him our key. But when he saw the building off to his right about five minutes later – and once we confirmed he was right – he let out a cheer for himself as loud as the ones we heard at ringside the previous night.

When we exited the taxi, I had one more item on my “to do” list – visit Luna Park. I knew it was located nearby and I had the perfect person from which to ask directions because Harold had judged Santos Laciar’s ninth round TKO win over Ramon Nery in March 1983. Many world title fights had been staged at Luna Park, Argentina’s equivalent of Madison Square Garden, and though I wouldn’t get to see its interior I wanted to be in its presence.

The building was just like I had pictured it and I whipped out my camera to take a few shots from several angles. But the picture I wanted most was one of me standing in front. I had originally planned to wait until Dennis returned to the hotel before venturing out so I’d have someone to snap the photo but I simply didn’t want to wait. So, I took a few test portraits to confirm I had the right angle and after five tries I had the shot I wanted. Yes, my tinted lenses remained dark (by this time the overcast morning had turned into a sensationally sunny afternoon), my hair was somewhat mussed (it was windy too) and my smile crooked and unsure (I had never taken a picture of myself until now), but I couldn’t argue with the big picture (no pun intended) – I have proof that I actually visited the exterior of Luna Park. And now, thanks to RingTV.com, you have that proof too.

As I waited for the van to take us to the airport, Jerry approached me to apologize for not being with Harold and me in San Telmo. It wasn’t Jerry’s fault, I replied, it was the cabbie’s for going his own way. Jerry also said he talked with several locals about Martinez-Murray and he said they thought Martinez had been given a gift, that Murray deserved to win and that the decision was a “travesty.” If those comments represented conventional wisdom, perhaps I shouldn’t have been concerned about what might have happened if the fight had been, in my view, properly judged.

Dennis and I were scheduled to leave for the airport on the 6 p.m. van but my punch-counting partner unselfishly informed me that there might be one more space available on the 5 p.m. shuttle. Sure enough there was, and I didn’t know at the time just how fortunate I was that this slot was open.

That’s because once I arrived at the airport I was told my 9:30 p.m. flight to Houston had been canceled. However, the gate agent rebooked me on the 8 p.m. bird bound for Newark with a connection to Pittsburgh that would get me home earlier than originally scheduled. While I was relieved that I had a flight out, I faced a new crisis: The new itinerary narrowed my boarding window by 90 minutes and to that point I had yet to go through any of the multi-layered security checkpoints for international flights. This is why passengers are told to get to the airport at least three hours ahead of time in such situations.

My concerns were balanced by the fact that I was the beneficiary of several enormous strokes of good fortune. Had Dennis not informed me of the extra seat on the earlier van, I wouldn’t have realized my intended flight was canceled and I wouldn’t have been there to secure the necessary seats for my new itinerary. Since Dennis was on the same flight to Houston as I had been, I hoped his generosity would be rewarded with his own way home.

(Epilogue: According to Dennis the flight had notbeen canceled; it was billed as being two hours late but they actually departed one hour late. As of this writing he is safe and sound in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas).

I cleared the final security hurdle – a hands-on luggage inspection on a small conveyer belt at the gate – as the final stages of boarding were taking place. I drew an aisle seat in row 30, which afforded me the chance to stretch my legs if need be. And believe me, they needed be.

The Buenos Aires to Newark flight broke my two-day old record for longest flight in terms of miles (7,200) and time flown (11½ hours). Much of that time was spent experiencing the consequences of a familiar circumstance.

For the second consecutive international trip, I had to endure soda-soaked pants. Nearly five years ago during my homebound flight from Germany, the passenger seated directly in front of me suddenly hit the recline button and caused my drink to spill all over me. This time, a flight attendant with a magnificently curvaceous posterior suddenly backed up and accidentally bumped my right elbow the moment I was pouring my can of soda into a plastic cup. The can slipped from my hand, tumbled forward toward my lap and emptied its contents all over my right leg. The stain looked as if I had wet myself after finishing a case of beer.

Upon seeing the damage she wrought, the flight attendant apologized profusely, gave me several dozen napkins as well as a towel and a can of club soda. Within three hours the stain was virtually gone and by the time I landed in Newark one couldn’t tell anything had ever happened. Thank goodness, because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to explain the stain to customs.

Monday, April 29: As tired as I was I still couldn’t fall asleep. Because I sleep on my stomach, trying to do so while seated on an airplane is something that’s beyond my capabilities. Thus, I was pretty groggy by the time we hit the homestretch but the breakfast service at 4:30 a.m. did a lot to help me regain my alertness.

After slogging through the slow-moving customs line in Newark, I noticed there was still time to catch an 8:02 a.m. flight to Pittsburgh, which would get me home two-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule. The gate agent got me on the standby list but the effort proved futile as there weren’t enough no-shows to get me in.

I passed the time by catching up on my writing responsibilities and once I boarded I proceeded to endure, at times, a choppy flight. I landed in Pittsburgh one hour after leaving Newark and when I gassed up my car 30 minutes after leaving the airport, one of the people at the counter recognized my Martinez-Murray T-shirt and peppered me with questions. Not only was I able to fuel up my car, the chance to tell my story fueled me up too. By the time the dust cleared I stayed awake for 42 consecutive hours.

I pulled into the driveway around at approximately 2:45 p.m., bringing the curtain down on an extraordinarily memorable four-day odyssey. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to visit Argentina a second time, but if that’s the case the sights, sounds and experiences of this trip will stay with me as long as I am in this realm.

As of this writing, my next trip will begin May 9 when I travel to Miami, Oklahoma to work a “ShoBox: The New Generation” card topped by junior welterweights Dierry Jean and Cleotis Pendarvis.

Until then, happy trails.

*

Photos / Lee Groves, RING, Juan Mabromata-AFP

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 10 writing awards, including seven in the last two years. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author at l.groves@frontier.comto arrange for autographed copies.

 

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