Alfredo Evangelista danced to a Latin beat yesterday as he engaged in a form of contact shadow-boxing at the Sheraton Lanham Motor Inn in preparation for Monday night's heavyweight championship fight against Muhammad Ali at Capital Centre.
A member of his entourage, nickname Buffalo Bill, faced the Spanish heavyweight wearing punching-bag gloves. Evangelista taped his hands and showed impressive hand speed as he skipped to the music and punched the palms of his sparring mate.
Eddie Mafuz, Evangelista's U.S. representative who used to handle Isaac Logart, explained that the drill develops shorter and the therefore sharper punches, speed of hand and a rhythm for four and five-punch combinations.
Evangelista is a full-fledged heavyweight, a bit thick around the middle but not all flab. He wears his hair long, in the manner of an unreconstructed Beattle, and seemed so eager to spar that he punched at the upright paddings in the corners of the rings before Buffalo Bill became his foil.
While Evangelista was whaling away at his opponents' gloves, Ali pretended to slip into the training quarters unobtrusively, as if to spy covertly, mugging as if it were a B picture.
Eager for a confrontation, someone shouted out in Spanish, "Alfredo, aqui! "(meaning "Alfredo, here!) and the Spaniard ran over to the ropes and reached down with a playful punch at the champion. After Ali grimmaced threateningly, Evangelista grinned and shook hands with him.
Then, instead of his usual fake clash, Ali played it straight, staring at Evangelista's moves and making remarks to trainer Angelo Dundee and reporters.
"His arms are short, "Ali observed. "His shoulders are small; he does not have the build for power punching. He's easy to hit, a target.
"All I want to know is, can I reach him with a jab? I see I can."
Evangelista ignored Ali thereafter, as few challengers have been able to do when the champion sets out to "psych" them.
Interpreter Mafuz was asked to relay Ali's comment to Evangelista about his 'small shoulders," which do not seem at all slight.
Evangelista scowled darkly before answering Mafuz in a curt tone, "Let Ali think that away."
He gave the same brusque reply to the comment about being easy to hit and then gathered his gear and ducked out a rear entrance.
Mafuz, and old hand in boxing in this country, resented the line of questioning himself. He cited others with having what he called "sloping shoulders" and havng been hard punchers: Turnney, Bob Foster, Saney Sadler, Lew. He mentioned Rocky Marciano, Gene Jenkins and Honeyboy Finnegan.
Ali should have seen them carry Ducien Rodiguez away after Alfredo knocked him out in three rounds," Mafuz said. "And Rodriguez just won the European championship Saturday by beating Jean-Pierre Coopman (who also was stopped by Ali).