Mountain Rivera, a punchy has-been managed by the unprincipled Maish, is mauled in a fight and forced to quit boxing. Can his devoted cutman and a sympathetic social worker help him find a life outside the ring, or will Maish find a way to exploit him one more time?
MOUNTAIN RIVERA, a prizefighter, has come to the end of his days. Never capturing the heavyweight title he dreamed of, he loses to young upstart, CASSIUS CLAY. After the fight, a DOCTOR tells Mountain's manager, MAISH RENNICK, that any further fights will lead to a detached retina and blindness. Montana is through.The news comes as a shock to Maish and to Mountain's trainer, ARMY, who adores the big fighter. The three men have always been a kind of team, drinking together, playing cards, getting by in the fight world. Maish and Army break the news to Mountain.But Maish is in a bind. Maish has dropped a huge bundle of cash in the fight and he owes big to MA GREENY, a vicious female gangster with a group of THUGS at her side. Maish had better pay up or else. Mountain must now look for work in order to support himself, but he lacks skills. Further, the years of fights have left him disfigured and addled. Army takes him around applying jobs. A movie usher job doesn't pan out because he's too big for the uniforms. Thus, they head for the unemployment office, where sensitive counselor GRACE MILLER feels empathy for the big, lumbering but sweet old fighter. She suggests that he apply for a job counseling boys at a summer camp, arranging an evening interview.In the meantime, Maish feels the heat concerning his debt to Ma Greeny. As a way out, he talks to sleazy wrestling promoter, PERELLI, who thinks Rivera would be great for exhibition wrestling. It's all fake, requiring little physical abuse, but it does require a huge loss of dignity. Perelli wants to create a "character" for Rivera – dressing him up like a stereotypical Indian. Rivera feels emboldened by his interview with Mrs. Miller. He believes he could be a camp counselor. Army's happy for him. When Maish brings up the wrestling idea, however, Rivera feels slighted. He worships Maish, feeling that he owes him a lot, but he doesn't want to be treated like a "stumblebum." Army also objects.Maish agrees to forget about the wrestling idea, sending Army out for sandwiches. While he's gone, Maish takes Rivera out drinking, getting him drunk so as to sabotage his evening appointment with Mr. Reardon, who's hiring for the camp. Army's angry with Maish when he finds him in the bar. Realizing he's late for the appointment, Rivera stumbles out of the bar.He reaches the ritzy hotel where Reardon is staying, but Rivera's so drunk he can barely walk. He goes up to Reardon's floor, but can't remember the room number. He shambles about, knocking on doors, calling out Reardon's name, finally knocking over a room service cart. Miss Miller comes out of Reardon's door, shocked and saddened by what she sees. Humiliated, Rivera runs out of the hotel.But Miss Miller comes to the ramshackle room where Rivera stays. She tries to get him to believe in himself, but Rivera knows he's only fooling himself. The two briefly become intimate with a kiss, but when Rivera begins to make love, she pulls away. Rivera thinks she should leave, and she does after each says a gentle farewell. She runs into Maish on the way down, confronting him for double-crossing Rivera and getting him drunk. Maish responds with a blast of cynicism.The first wrestling match goes on as planned. They dress Rivera up in his costume. But the big fighter still clings to what's left of his dignity, refusing to go on. Ma Greeny walks in with her THUGS. When it's clear to Rivera that they're going to kill Maish if Rivera walks, the big fighter agrees to go on. Maish thanks him, but it's clear that his association with Rivera and Army, also in attendance, has forever been corrupted. Outside, Maish runs into a YOUNG FIGHTER hopeful, but Maish blows up at him, his cynicism now at a boiling point. He tells the kid to go home and forget about it, as there are only eight champs in the world, the rest ending up lost and ruined, as Rivera. As a saddened Army watches, Rivera dons his humiliating outfit, then faces the crude, bloodthirsty CROWD