The bell has just ended round 14. The title holder and his challenger have gone to their corners to psych up for the final encounter.
In the Republican corner is the champ - Orrin Grant Hatch - who 12 years ago won the title by defeating none other than the father of the contender. Going for Hatch is a lot of money, a lot of support - in and out of Utah - and a whopping lead in the polls.In the Democratic corner is challenger Brian Moss, who's strong on energy, but whose lack of money, experience and support have him on the ropes. He trails Hatch in the polls by 42 percent, and the time for evening the odds is running out.
Although both contenders have been fighting hard to be maybe the highest U.S. government official from Utah, their bout hasn't mustered the attention of a heavyweight fight.
That's not to say there haven't been rounds that have had the fans out of their seats and cheering - or booing.
For example, Hatch's jabs at Democrats. The conservative dynamo, who's out to save the world from liberalism, kicked off his campaign with the controversial comment that the National Democratic Party is the "party of homosexuals, pro-abortion advocates. . . ." A national wire service reported Hatch's comments across the country.
Hatch, who was trying to alert people to what he believes is the real agenda of the national Democratic Party, initially sidestepped - denying he had intended to throw a punch. Later he amended his denial, saying he didn't remember using those exact words - which had been captured on tape by a St. George radio reporter.
Hatch eventually said he never intended to indict all Democrats as homosexuals and such a comment was a mistake.
Moss bounced back into the ring to take advantage of Hatch's lapse but ended up suffering from the same foot-in-mouth disease.
In a speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, the challenger expressed gratitude to Hatch "because he started my mind thinking. He started a list of what Democrats are.
"Yes, the Democrats have had a tent that has been large enough to listen to the concerns of people who are homosexual - to listen to both sides of the blacks, the browns, of the Asian-Americans, of the young, of the old, of the poor. We're the party of the immigrants.
"You may call us the party of the polacks, the party of spics, the party of wops, the party of the Irish . . . any of those names, because the Democratic Party has always had a tent large enough to welcome all of those groups who are seeking their civil rights and their concerns."
Moss staggered when students and others took offense at his language. The apologies went out immediately.
"It wasn't so much a joke as an illustration of the harshness" of Hatch's "inflammatory language," Moss said. "It was rash. And for that I have apologized, will apologize and will continue to apologize."
That's more than Hatch ever did.
Many, including Hatch, have said Moss' campaign is a grudge match against the incumbent, who upset Moss's father, Frank E. Moss, in 1976.
Referring to Hatch as "an embarrassment," Brian Moss has aggressively attacked the senator on a number of emotional issues. He has accused Hatch of not caring about hungry children because Hatch voted against a bill that would buy surplus food for the poor and elderly.
Throughout the campaign, Moss - sounding more like a school board candidate than senatorial candidate - also has kept punching on education issues. He alleges that Hatch "wastes tax dollars on ill-conceived projects while voting against improving Utah's education."
Moss has hammered on a detailed analysis of Hatch's votes on up-and-down bills to fund education. That analysis says "Orrin Hatch has sacrificed our children's interests in favor of his right-wing national agenda."
When Hatch, himself an amateur boxer, took three-time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali on the campaign trail, Moss levied another punch. In a telegram to Ali, Moss urged the champ to reconsider his support of Hatch who "tried to block reauthorization of civil rights legislation."
Hatch, who's tried to run on his record, has blocked Moss' punches by concentrating on how he has helped Utahns. The title holder has pointed to Utah's benefits from his stands on broad, national policies, such as health care. He's talked up his role in helping to save Geneva Steel and getting Kennecott Copper back on track.
For most of the campaign, he hasn't referred to Moss by name at all. On some occasions, he has used the velvet-glove-iron-fist approach of calling his challenger "a nice young man." The thick-skinned Hatch appeared unstaggered by Moss' blows - some of many continually hurled at him.
"My wife says I have a special knack for making enemies," said Hatch, who led the fight to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, praised Supreme Court Justice-nominee Robert Bork, defended Oliver North, fought the nuclear freeze, kept the MX missile and Strategic Defense Initiative alive.
He said he made other powerful enemies by pushing hard for a Right to Life Amendment, restricting abortions; working for voluntary school prayer and leading the effort to balance the budget by cutting spending, not raising taxes.
Hatch, in fact, has been "being held hostage by Congress," for most of the campaign, staying in Washington to vote on other controversial issues. So it was Hatch's campaign manager defending the title. With a war chest of about $3 million, Bud Scruggs has flooded television screens with Hatch campaign ads - some designed to combat Moss' "callous slurs."
"I have used the comparison before that I consider myself like a camper in the High Uintas," Scruggs said. "It doesn't cost much for Brian Moss to run around throwing mud at Orrin Hatch. It costs a lot to run around and clean up after him. That's what we spend more of our time doing."
On one occasion, Hatch's wife, Elaine, also jumped into the ring. She wrote a letter to thousands of their close friends bemoaning attacks made against her husband by his opponent.
"I have never seen Orrin so mad," she wrote. "The most recent attacks . . . have really hurt. He (Moss) has misrepresented Orrin's position on education, on domestic programs, even on jobs Orrin helped bring to Utah. And Mr. Moss shows no signs of abandoning his campaigning of attacks and distortions. Can he possibly think Utahns accept this kind of politics?"
Moss called the letter, which gave recipients an opportunity to contribute to Hatch's campaign, "just one more in a long series of cynical efforts to raise money by scaring people."
In August, Moss, who believes there must be a limit put on campaign contributions and spending to enable the "poor" to seek office, said it was appropriate that George Bush would select Sen. Dan Quayle for vice president. Moss said the decision "rounds out the Orrin Hatch-George Bush country club ticket."
"Compared to the money discrepancy, I am a gnat out there," Moss said. "How could they possibly take me seriously in terms of a challenge when they have got that kind of money?" Despite his less-than-successful fund-raising efforts, Moss has refused to accept contributions from tobacco, beer or alcohol political action committees.
But, the champ insists, he has taken Brian Moss seriously. "Besides, I can only run one way, and that's all out. I like to win."