Branco Pavlovic was wearing a bright blue robe. It flashed under the lights of York Hall in Bethnal Green. The fans were mostly local, mostly male, and they greeted the light heavyweight with loud applause. Pavlovic shuffled around on his toes, working his shoulders back and forth under the robe. The cheering thickened, and he kissed his gloves; he had a clean-cut look that seemed devoid of all expression. Under the robe was a long flannel shirt with a hood at the back.

Denys Cronin approached the ring from the other side of the hall. He made no show of his arrival, but the crowd, at once alert to his presence, quickly took against him: he was a Welshman, while Pavlovic was a Bedford boy with a solid following in the East End. Cronin had on a pair of red shorts – no robe, no shirt – he looked solitary and businesslike. He stood in his corner, jabbing at the air. He was compact, shorter than Pavlovic and fifteen pounds lighter.

Pavlovic had shed the robe. Both men, bleached by the lights, had an unlikely pallor. The MC announced a £5 reward for a lost set of keys. The crowd was impatient. Cronin tried to loosen up his shoulders with brisk circular movements.

Emergency Room