Keeper of Champions
The spurs and plumes of bred-to-win fighting cocks were Manuel DeJesus Molina's weakness. He kept 50 of them with his brother Ramon in the Dominican Republic, and managed to always have two or three champions in his coop. One of them once brought in more than 5,000 Dominican pesos in a triumphantly bloody match.
The heroics of the cockfight ring were far removed from Mr. Molina's quotidian life in New York. He lived in an apartment in the Bronx and worked as a maintenance man at the World Trade Center, shoveling snow off the south tower's 110th floor observation deck in the winter, cleaning up before the tourists arrived in the summer.
Mr. Molina was a hard worker, said Judy Micheels, who worked with him on the observation deck. "He never ever complained," she said.
Mr. Molina liked to watch baseball and play dominoes with friends in Washington Heights on Friday nights. He regularly sent part of his paycheck home to buy feed for his cocks. His wife, Mercedes, said they dreamed of someday returning to the Dominican Republic with enough money to buy Mr. Molina, 31, his own cockfighting ring.
Knowing that could take a while, he tried keeping a cock named Solí in their apartment in the Bronx. When it started crowing at sunrise, he would push it into a closet and yell, "Quiet, before the police come." But Solí heeded the rising of the sun more than the glint of a badge. Mrs. Molina said that a few weeks before last Sept. 11, her husband sadly put an end to Solí and the cock's career before he ever had a chance to win.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on August 11, 2002.