The WBA was satisfied, but then six days before the fight, Frias was cut on the bridge of his hawk nose while sparring. The cut was small, horizontal and below the eyeline.
"Art, it will open up and bleed," Dr. Donald Romeo, the Nevada State Athletic Commission physician, advised. "But it's below the eyes and I'm not alarmed. If you want to postpone the fight I'll back you 100 percent."
Frias elected to fight. He borrowed hockey-goalie-type headgear from Mancini for the remainder of his sparring. A few days later the two fighters met as they ran across a Las Vegas golf course. In passing, Frias shouted his gratitude for the loan. "My pleasure," Mancini yelled back. "Anytime."
Mancini smiled as he spoke of the encounter. "You know, he seems like a real nice guy," he said. "After the fight I'd like to sit down and talk to him. I'd like to meet his wife, Rose, and for him to meet my father and mother. I think we could be friends. Hey, if I wasn't fighting I'd be pulling for him. But I have to keep my perspective. I want to win this just as much for my father as he does for his wife and two kids, and it's not like I thought of winning it for my father yesterday. It's just a matter of forces, and only one of us will come out of it."
The plan devised by Murphy Griffith, Mancini's trainer, called for long-range sniping at Frias' wounded nose for the first four rounds. Murphy also suspected that the cut under Frias' left eye suffered in the Espa�a fight hadn't healed. "The longer it goes, the better chance he'll bust up," Murphy said. "And when things aren't going his way he gets wild. That's the way we want him."
The elder Mancini, a fearless 5'2" brawler who was The Ring magazine's No. 1 lightweight contender in April of 1941, had his own advice. "Hook him to the body," he told Ray. "When he throws that big overhand right, you hook him."
The champion's people were urging him to be cool, to keep Mancini in front of him, to pick his spots. "Don't get overanxious like you did against Espa�a," warned trainer Al Lira. "Don't lose your head. Take your time, pick him apart."
The advice was sound and useless. "Everybody knows how we both fight," Mancini said. "I won't have to look for him, and he won't have to look for me."
So much for the sweet part of the Sweet Science. Frias followed Lira's advice for just those 18 seconds. Keeping Mancini in front of him, he showed a nice jab and a short, crisp right hand, thrown straight and true. And then Mancini fired the hammer to the body.
"That's when he came unglued," Griffith would say later. "It turned him into a kamikaze."