TOHONO O”ODHAM NATION – Emanuel Augustus sat alone at a makeshift press table and stared blankly at the handful of tape recorders placed before him. The long and winding road of his slap time sojourn had taken another disappointing detour Friday night at Desert Diamond Casino, with a surprising, questionable unanimous decision loss to Arturo Morua.

Now Augustus gazed at his hands as if there might be some basic boxing truth they had failed to grasp. His previously troubled left fist was still completely wrapped while his right was bare. His eyes moved sadly from one set of contrasted fingers to the other as he pondered the symbolic separation.

“I just don’t believe he beat me,” said Augustus. “I’m always fighting underdog type fights in people’s backyard. A fighter can only take much. It’s been an uphill battle all the time. I get to square A but I can’t get past B. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity for a while. I get it in my hands and it passes me by. Whatever it is, it’s made out of butter, so I can’t hold on to it. Sympathy is not what I expect or what I want. I’ve just got all these demons on my back.”

To this observer, Augustus deserved an honorable mention for 2005 Fighter of the Year based solely on his show of integrity and compassion against a helpless Ray Olivera. It was one of the most inspiring scenes of the season.

Over the years, Augustus may have come to embody the honest journeyman. He endeared himself to the Desert Diamond regulars with a stirring stoppage of Alex Trujillo in 2004 and looked to update his progress.

Morua showed up with other ideas, carrying the resolve and conditioning he needed.

It was a fast paced fight from the beginning, with few rest intervals. Shorter Augustus charged in well and got off to a good start. Some of Morua’s counters echoed to the ohhs of the crowd, but they landed against the protective shell of Augustus’s arms.

Morua did come over the top with enough solid rights to get many in the crowd on his side. Augustus smiled when he got slugged, but it didn’t change the fact that Morua was scoring plenty of points. Morua wasn’t going to be put off by theatrics.

Augustus consistently drove Morua to the ropes, but Morua stayed on his toes well and avoided any real danger. There were no punch stats taken, but each man threw and landed dozens of hard punches. It became a game of high stakes tag, and the action went back and forth every frame.

Morua suffered a cut left eye in the sixth, but it was never a factor. Augustus smiled through a bloody lip.

Morua was more effective in the later rounds, but Augustus gained control in round ten with a series of sweet lefts. It was anybody’s fight going into the stretch, and fair to call many rounds even.

When the official scoring (Gerald Maltz and Joe Garcia 116-112, Chris Wilson 117-111, all for Morua) was announced many were shocked, but it sounded like just as many or more agreed. An informal exit poll gave a slight but definite edge to Morua. This card had Augustus up 116-112. Ref was Bobby Ferrara.

Augustus was shattered but he maintained his dignity and offered nothing but praise for Morua, who’s lumpy, discolored facial features indicated a far closer fight than the scorecards indicated.

“He was laughing, but he wasn’t moving,” said Morua. “He tried to break me down physically, but nothing hurt me. His smiles kind of made me relax. He was pressuring me but he wasn’t connecting hard.”

Augustus had red spots on his mug too, but most had nothing to do with a leather facial.

“Chickenpox, can you believe that? How does a 31-year-old man get chickenpox?” asked Augustus. “I won’t disrespect Morua’s talent. He’s an OK fighter. I can’t talk about the scoring because I didn’t score it. I’m not the type to come up with excuses. He got the decision and was the better man today. I was unsure of my left hand which hurt in sparring, but I can’t say it affected tonight.”

With or without a Golden Boy Star on hand to pump up the promotion, Desert Diamond has an established fight crowd. There was no TV broadcast, but a bunch of local boys stepped up for a debutante’s ball and proved they could entertain as well as more heralded stars in a cable show package. The crowd of over 1,600 cheered most of the way.

Ivan Valle, 134½, 24-5-1 (20), Los Moches, MX, and William Morelos, 137, 16-4 (11), Columbia, were the best performing pair of the evening. Each man had strong moments and each man came back after absorbing huge shots. Valle was troubled, but roared back to drop Morelos. Ref Nico Perez waved it off without protest from Morelos or his corner for a stoppage at 2:38 of round four. It looked like they could fight a hundred rounds and any one could go either way. Valle looks like a tough test for anyone in his division. 

Lonnie Smith, Jr, 131½, 1-0, direct from Vegas, showed more skill than most first time pros as he dismantled game but outgunned Javier Flores, 131, 1-2, Nogales. Smith deflated Flores with gutshots for two knockdowns, and referee Ray Scott counted him out at 35 seconds of the third frame. 

Ramiro Rivera, 153½, 1-1(1), gained some area bragging rights over fellow Phoenician Tomas Padron, 152, 2-3-2, with a TKO at 2:15 of the second in a set four rounds. Padron was down three times, the last while a woman with a crying baby screamed for Padron to get up. Fighter and Baby were reunited on the way back to the dressing room, and both looked better. The sweet science, indeed.

Juan Garcia, 128, 7-0 (2), took a unanimous decision over optimistic Raul Montes, 129, 3-8 (2). The useful Montes made it a tough tutorial, but Garcia had far more obvious ability. All judges (Francisco Baez, Craig Harmon, Gerald Maltz) saw it 40-35 (Montes lost a point for holding and hitting). Referee was Bobby Ferrara.

It’s almost a Diamond tradition that the walkout bout steals the show and tonight was no exception as Tucson’s Rudy Gamez, a popular high school student, 140, took a wild, split, four round nod over Jose Valdez, 142½, Phoenix, 0-1. Referee was Nico Perez.

Birthday boy ref Ray Scott got a ringside chorus that was nowhere near the range of his Arizona fight film collection. Many more, amigo.

It’s a stroll of roughly 55 meters along light-adorned, thorny southwestern shrubs, from the Diamond Center arena to the casino complex. Once again, a herd of satisfied customers passed along, thoughts shifting to the weekend’s next diversion or bargain burrito.

For Augustus, it was time to head home again. Get fresh bruises, get a paycheck, and get back on the road.

“I’ve always accepted whatever it is I got,” said the wayfaring artist, with resolve. “I’m almost depressed. You can only deal with disappointment for so long. As far as I’m concerned, my career is a question mark, but I’ll keep going as long as I can to reach my goals. I work hard and stay in shape and do the best I can. I don’t know if I’ll get there, but I want to put my hands on Floyd Mayweather Jr or Ricky Hatton.”

A chilling, pre-storm wind had subsided. The moon grew full with light, with dreams.