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But the bloody trade of blows continued into the seventh, eighth, ninth, a hand and orbital bone broken, his face transforming. After the final round, Perez raised his tattooed arms in victory, and Mago wandered off in a fog.
Meanwhile, in the family’s apartment in Miami, Baka forced herself to watch the broadcast. He had taken 312 punches in about 40 minutes, for a purse of ,000.
He opens his mouth to indicate more, the way a baby does. He was 23, she was 18 and their future hinged on boxing.
But his paralysis has made everything a choking hazard. Sometimes they would shadowbox in love, her David to his Goliath. His father once told him he could either be a bandit or an athlete, but if he chose banditry, “I will kill you.” This paternal advice, Mago later told , “made it a very easy decision for me”.
Then, with the help of a young caretaker, Baka has gotten two of their daughters off to elementary school and settled down the toddler.
His water needs a stirring of powdered food thickener, and still he chokes as he tries to cough up what will not go down. Mago won against mediocre competition, in Moscow and Hollywood, Florida, in Las Vegas and Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
He was knocked down only once, and even then, it surprised more than hurt. It all led up to this: the undercard at the Garden, Mike Perez v Magomed Abdusalamov, 10 rounds, on HBO.
But in the first round, a hard forearm to his left cheek rocked him.
At the bell, he returned to his corner, and this time, he sat down.