By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"All right!" someone in the crowd yells, and Martin gets a good round of applause. Motherhood is always popular.
"I accept the offer," Lucia says, her voice as quiet as ever despite Martin's barrage. "We will have the fight within six months. That's a deal."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Larkin concludes, "Lucia Rijker!"
As a piece of verbal jousting, the bout is a draw. But as it turns out, the "conversation" isn't quite at an end. A few minutes later, when the fighters and their handlers have left the stage, Lucia goes up to Martin and taps her on the shoulder. "I just want to say hello and shake your hand," she tells her. "DON'T TOUCH ME!" Martin snaps. So of course Lucia taps her on the shoulder again. "TOUCH ME ONE MORE TIME AND WE'RE GOING TO FIGHT RIGHT NOW!" Martin says. Lucia touches her again. But before anything further can happen, a member of Martin's entourage steps between them. Within seconds, there's a crowd around Martin and she's whisked out of the building.
"God! I wanted to fight her so bad!" Lucia says to Johnny, throwing a pent-up flurry of mock-punches at his stomach as Johnny howls with laughter. Lucia laughs too, but her frustration is real. She knows this may be as close to fighting Martin as she'll ever come.
"Do you think she was ready to go for you, or was she just pretending?" I ask.
"I don't care!" Lucia replies, so excited she looks like she's ready to take on five boxers simultaneously. "If she's telling me that, I take it as real. When people talk I take it as real. So then I want to touch her again and see. 'Really? Really? Hey, I touched you again! You're going to hit me now? Hit me!' And then we'll see. And if a she hits me we'll have a problem, because then we'll fight. Or I might just take it and say: 'Is that all you have?'"
There are so many old people milling around the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, that at times you feel as if you're walking through cloud systems of gray hair. Vegas it isn't: no strip shows, no neon, no cane-toting gangsters strutting around in turquoise suits - just bingo and boxing, and no liquor after 1 a.m. Lucia, as expected, is shut away in her hotel room, meditating and chanting. I make the mistake of telephoning her, thinking she might feel like a walk or a chat. Nothing doing. Her voice sounds sleepy-gruff, as if she were in the midst of a hypnotherapy session. In the background I hear funereal chant music. I imagine it snaking up the walls of her hotel room, enveloping her in a deep, brooding trance. The vibes are so powerful I suddenly feel very sorry for Lisa Ested.
"Lucia's prepared," says Freddie Roach, sitting back in what he calls his "office" - the changing room at the Great Cedar Hotel spa. "You can't take anyone lightly in this sport. You never know. One punch can change things. You gotta be prepared, that's all - and she is."
Does Ested (recently touted in International Boxing Digest as one of 12 women who could beat Martin) pose any kind of threat?
"She's 6 and 1. She's here to win," Roach says, not looking very worried. Roach has seen plenty of boxers enter the ring with Lucia who were there to win. None has come close.
After talking to Roach, I make my way over to the Two Trees Hotel. Compared to the gargantuan structures elsewhere at Foxwoods, it's more like a rooming house than a hotel. This is where Ested is staying. Her trainer, Earl "Poncho" Melton, a black man with a rough country face and sour breath, meets me in the lobby. "Lisa be down in a minute," he tells me. While we're waiting, I ask him how the trip over from Richmond, Virginia, was. "Well," Melton says, looking at me significantly. "Our plane got delayed, so we had to sleep at the airport. Now I wonder why that was?"
"You think Lucia's team did something to make that happen?" I ask.
"Yes, I do," Melton replies.
"What about Lucia?" I ask. "How good do you think she is?"
"They say she's the best woman boxer in the world, but who's to say?" Melton answers, as if Lucia's reputation might also be part of a conspiracy.
Lisa Ested enters the lobby wearing a striped blue-and-white short-sleeved top, jeans, a crucifix, headphones and wraparound plastic shades. Her mood seems sullen, her face closed off. Though she's the same height as Lucia, and four pounds heavier, she's not as imposing. We talk for a few minutes on a sofa in the lobby, with Melton and two other members of her entourage standing by, listening to every word - whether for her protection or their own, however, I'm not sure. I sense a slight edginess in the Ested camp, a sliver of mutual distrust. In any case, nothing much is said. It turns out that Lisa is not a police officer, as her promotional literature has it. "I was a correctional officer," she informs me, her words clipped, almost angry. "I resigned from that particular line of work. That line of work was a bit rough for me. I'm not that kind of person. Now I work as an order selector at a warehouse in Virginia."