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The scene was set for the final bout. Travel arrangements were made, contracts arrived for the ten round title fight, and we were set to face Danny Rios, from San Antonio, Texas. The bout took place in San Antonio (Rios’s hometown), on November 17, 1998. It was the fight of the night and probably the best fight of the entire tournament. The trouble is they needed to have a Texas fighter win the Texas Tournament. The bout was shortened to eight rounds to protect the local fighter, who had never fought ten rounds before, (Armstrong had been scheduled twelve rounds five times previously). Armstrong normally gets stronger the longer a bout goes. When we threatened to pull out, after smelling the hometown cooking, we were firmly reprimanded. They were also planning on having all hometown officials but Dickie Cole, the Texas Commissioner, did put in out of town judges after our protests. The referee was from San Antonio and did a horrendous job. Rios started quickly with several low blows, holding tactics, and using his head and elbows on the inside. There were no cautions or warnings. When we protested to the referee between rounds he told us, “don’t worry…I see them…I’ll take care of it.” As the fight progressed, Rios was busier but paid a terrific price, as Armstrong landed big shots continuously. Rios was cut, bruised, battered, and bleeding and though showed tremendous heart was unable to damage or hurt Armstrong. Rios was busy but many punches missed or were blocked. In round six, after an accidental clash of heads (one of many initiated by Rios), Armstrong was penalized a point for butting, even though he was cut severly, and there had never been a caution for head butts at all. In truth, Armstrong won six of eight rounds, in a great action fight. When the split decision was announced we knew. Armstrong won six of eight rounds on one judges’ scorecard, with the point reflected in his total (77-74), and lost by one point on the other two scorecards. After the bout ended most of the people in the arena were shocked at the outcome. Rios was totally spent and barely able to make it back to his dressing room. Had it been a ten round bout he probably would not have made it to the final bell.
Miller Lite got what they wanted: a Texas Champion, the fans got what they deserved: a great fight, and David Armstrong got what we expected: “Hometown Cooking.” We only hope that we get a rematch, in a ten round or twelve round title fight, with neutral officials, something we should have had in the first place. Rios showed great heart in going the eight rounds, will he show the courage to do it again over the championship distance? We certainly hope so.