You look at what Albert Davila has going for him in the dog-beat-dog world of prize fighting and you want to say, "You call yourself a boxer?"
He doesn't have a nickname, for starters. His name is actually Alberto, so Albert is sort of a nickname, but that will never do in a sport where everyone is named Bazooka or Boom Boom or Manos de Piedra. What can you call a guy like Davila, whose ring trademark is style rather than explosive power? Manos de Quiche?
You could call him Fat Albert, but he never is. He has no problem maintaining his weight at about 115 pounds, thanks to a (yawn) sensible diet and (yawwwn) dedicated conditioning.
For a big-time fighter, a former and maybe future world champion, Davila's record is terrible. No arrests, no convictions, no hard time in stir. He probably doesn't even get parking tickets, and if he did, he would pay 'em. I doubt if Albert even has a tattoo. And at 32, he's probably too old to start getting into trouble.
He has no drug or alcohol horror stories to sell to magazines or to make him more glamorous to promoters and fans.
"I've always been clean," Davila says, almost sheepishly. "I get such a natural high when I work out, I feel so good, I don't need drugs. I've never had any problems. I go to schools and speak to the kids, tell them to work hard and don't do drugs."
Davila is probably the only athlete who goes to schools and the kids tell him about drugs. He didn't fight his way out of the gutter, or party his way into it. He wasn't rescued from an orphanage or a reform school or street gang, and he's not headed for the poorhouse.
He doesn't beat up his wife or his mother. The only place he fights is--get this--in the ring.
He's not a wild partier or a good-timer, like Tex Cobb, who will greet you with a back slap that will send your bridgework sailing into the soup tureen. A crazy time for Davila is popcorn and TV with the wife and two kids.
Davila doesn't have an earring, entourage or fleet of cars. The most expensive vehicle he's ever driven is a beer truck. He owns a nice home, but it's in Pomona, so you know it's no Pickfair.
Some fighters these days are going the other way for their gimmicks. But Davila has no Olympic gold medal or college degree.
In other words, Albert Davila is one ongoing identity crisis. There's nothing marketable about him, except for one thing. He can fight. A former manager once said Davila was the best pure boxer he had ever seen.
Davila was good enough to win the WBC bantamweight championship in 1983, and to defend the title once. Now he's trying to get it back. And trying to shake the one colorful aspect of his career--a penchant for bad luck.
His greatest moment in boxing was also his worst. After losing three title shots, Davila took on WBC champion Kiko Bejines in 1983. It was the 12th round and Bejines was ahead on points when Davila landed two nice lefts, then a solid right to the jaw. Bejines went down, and never got up. He died on the canvas, although technically he was kept alive three more days.
Davila, the new champion, celebrated by hanging around the hospital until 3 in the morning. Davila's luck was better than Bejines', of course, but as moments of glory go, this one was fairly quiet.
"It's a sad memory," Davila says. "But life goes on. You gotta keep striving."
Davila defended his title once, knocking out Enrique Sanchez in a rainstorm in Miami Beach. Then Albert blew out a disk in his back.
How's this for luck? Davila had loaded and unloaded tons of beer cases, he had trained and battled through 57 brutal fights, and then, just when he was about to cash in as a champion, he tore up his back plucking a stubborn weed out of his yard.
That cost him a year, and the title, which was stripped while he rehabilitated. In his comeback fight, Davila lost a unanimous decision to Happy Lora before 50,000 fans in Colombia, and got his nose flattened in the process.
He has won a couple of tune-up bouts since, and Monday night will fight Edel Geronimo at the top of the card at the Irvine Marriott Hotel, home of so-called Yuppie boxing.
"I'm hoping to get a title fight, win the title this year, and go from there," Davila says. "This might be my last year, I think."
Right. I looked up the notes from an interview with Davila in '83, just after he won the title.
"Another year, that's it," he said then.
He keeps on. Boxing is his job. In fact, Albert quit the beer business a few years ago and became a full-time boxer. He earned $75,000 for getting his nose squashed in Colombia, and there could be more paydays like that ahead if he can get another title shot.
If not, Alberto (Albert) Davila will have to go back to working instead of bleeding for a living. It's not likely he'll sell the movie rights to his life story, because who wants to see a movie about a boxer who didn't do anything in his boxing career except box?