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The hat says
“Matador,” and so do the introductions.

The fact is, Ricardo
Mayorga fights more like a raging bull and it is only when someone points out
that “matador” comes from the Spanish verb “matar,” or
“to kill,” that the nickname can be understood.

The welterweight
champion fights like a “Killer,” a crazed one at that. A young Richard
Widmark should play him in the movie of the unlikely life of a Nicaraguan
ditch-digger who, as a 6-1 underdog, buried the 2002 “fighter of the
year” in January, and is still a 5-2 dog in the rematch July 12.

I’d bet the odds will
be lower than that by the time Vernon (The Viper) Forrest gets in the ring again
with Mayorga at the spanking new 10,000-seat Orleans Arena in Vegas.

As good as Forrest was
last year in twice beating Sugar Shane Mosley, the man who beat the Golden Boy,
he was unable to hold off the cigarette-smoking, beer-guzzling Mayorga.

Yes, Forrest ””
angered that a first-round push was ruled a knockdown ”” fought the wrong
fight, electing to trade with Mayorga. Yes, he did not go to the body the way he
was supposed to test the Nicaraguan’s training methods.

But, he did hit Mayorga
with his best shots and all the Nicaraguan did was laugh in his face.

Mayorga has the
wild-eyed appearance of another Central American, the great Roberto Duran. He is
nowhere near Duran as a boxer ”” Roberto was much underappreciated for his
technical skills ”” but is not merely a slugger.

The third-round
knockout of Forrest was preceded by Mayorga neatly slipping a punch and coming
up with the right hand that started the Viper down.

Now it would be foolish
to think that Forrest has little chance of reversing fortunes. This is one hell
of a fighter, a 6-1 underdog himself when he shocked the world ”” well, maybe
not Chris Byrd, who called it ”” by beating up Mosley the first time.

A tall, elegant boxer
with a fine jab and a terrific right hand, Forrest has superior foot movement. I
find it difficult to grade him, though, because he is so likeable as a human
being. He has long been involved in helping the mentally challenged. No other
boxer, save for Roy Jones Jr., seems as committed to doing the right things.

He could win and I hope
so, but there is a sneaky feeling here that Mayorga, despite three early-career
losses, is someone special. Remember, he easily knocked out another undefeated
welterweight champion, Andrew (Six Heads) Lewis, to win his first title.
Knocking out two undefeated welterweight champions in a row is quite a feat for
a guy who was stopped in his pro debut 10 years ago.

But Henry Armstrong
lost two of his first three and Mayorga was hardly a full-time boxer early on.
He took fights in the middle of his work week just to make a few extra bucks.
One 10-round decision loss, he said, came at the end of a week digging ditches
in Managua. It was only after he moved to Costa Rica, where the purses were
bigger and the gyms better, that he started taking this stuff seriously.

Mayorga is so serious
now that he believes everyone else in the world is a “maricon.” He
calls Oscar de la Hoya a great fighter in one breath, “faggot” in the
next. Forrest, he said, was his “son,” and this time he wouldn’t
wait until the third round to spank him. He said Forrest “is going down in
2” and would be useless as a fighter ever after ”” the same way Six Heads
has been after Mayorga finished with him.

The brash confidence of
Mayorga reminds one of Duran. At the press conference to announce the fight, he
said, “all Hispanics and all Americans should come and see two rounds of

“I’m a super
champion and I’m super crazy,” he said.

But before you bet the
house on what seems inflated odds, two things should be considered. First, The
Viper can fight. He was a terrific amateur and, until Mayorga, was an undefeated
pro. Second, the story I hear, from a guy who supplies sparring partners to
fighters around the world, is that a week before the Jan. 25 meeting, Mayorga
was starched in the gym.

There didn’t seem to
be anything wrong with his chin when Forrest hit him there, but one never knows.


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