Boxer Pedro Quinn, an introverted loner, wins a surprise split-decision against the reigning middleweight champion, Mantequilla Decima. Used to winning, Mantequilla grows embittered by the loss of his title. Worse, he starts hearing one of the most common insults of the Latino community used against him for the first time: the implication that he's a "queer" and that's why he lost. These comments follow Mantequilla, even into the ring where in a match between him and a vicious fighter, Wilfred Vinal, Vinal accuses Mantequilla of being gay and also publicly scorns Pedro for the same thing. Mantequilla's infuriated, but in Pedro's case the accusation becomes increasingly relevant. Earlier, for example, Pedro sneaks out of his victory party and goes to the home of his best friend, Garnet, a small-time lounge singer who aspires to be the next James Brown. Comparing the art of boxing to that of putting on a great soul performance, Garnet can't help but express his admiration for Pedro's talent, but it's only later that we see the sensuality of their togetherness blossoming into a sexual tussle. Pedro stops when he realizes how disturbed he is by his own desires, and he runs out on Garnet. Later he returns to him, but Garnet won't be fooled twice and won't talk to Pedro. At the gym, Mantequilla's coach, Alacran, realizes Pedro is not like other boxers and is disgusted that the championship was given to a sexual "deviant." In fact, Alacran is going to make sure Mantequilla wins the belt back, even if it has to be a dirty fight. At last the big fight arrives, and all the brutality and prejudice that the play has explored comes together in a deadly boxing match where Pedro, close to death, it seems, defeats Mantequilla with a blow that kills him. In a haunting tableau, Pedro cradles the dead Mantequilla in his arms, erasing all the supposed differences between them.
A gritty, streetwise and action-packed look at the Latino boxing scene of 1959. "It begins with the growling of wild beasts and ends with a boxing match as brutal as you are likely to see on a stage. In between, the lights throb, the bloodthirsty crowds roar and two drummers, as if possessed, beat a mad tattoo on the congas. Flashbulbs rip holes in the darkness, already fouled by clouds of smoke. Even the scene changes are explosive." —NY Times.