Then Lark accepted Boyle's invitation. He came on with a killing overhand right 24 seconds into the ninth. It knocked Boyle out.
The crowd fell silent as the 29-year-old from Kensington dropped, unconscious, to the floor. Lark, the USBA's No. 1 contender, whooped and hollered and jumped onto the ropes. The No. 10 contender lay supine for a full four minutes before his attendants helped him, still woozy, to his stool.
Boyle didn't regret his taunt. He wanted Lark to come on, to waste energy.
"I was feeling good," Boyle said. "He wasn't landing cleanly."
Then came the final right.
That fist opened the forehead cut as a straight punch in the first round. It felled Boyle, albeit briefly, in the second. It staggered him as an uppercut at the end of the third, which drew a stream of blood. It sliced Boyle under the eye in the fourth and smashed his lips in the fifth.
It caused enough pain and fatigue that Boyle committed the boxing sin that always limits him: He dropped his hands.
"When I saw his hands drop," Lark said, "my eyes got this big." He spread his arms wide.
Still, Boyle took it all, and asked for more.
"When he said 'C,mon,' " Lark said, "I knew he was hurt. A hurt man is dangerous on the ropes. I wanted to wait."
He waited one round.
Lark's right hand gave him the vacant USBA lightweight title and improved his record to 21-4 with 10 knockouts. That right hand also gave Boyle a head full of bruises.
Boyle said he couldn't remember being beat up as badly in any of the 33 fights that compose his 26-6-1 record. And he's never been dumped the way Lark dumped him - though the final punch shared much in common with the dozens that preceded it.
Boyle's head was moving forward. It simply met Lark's fist going fast in the opposite direction.
"I don't remember exact punches," Boyle said, smiling and wincing. "I didn't see that (last) one coming."
He did, however, see himself coming back.
The nasty little body shots Boyle smacked Lark with, both during clinches and after Lark's flurries, began to tell in the seventh. Lark retreated as much as he charged.
The body shot that hurt Lark at the end of the fifth reappeared. The eighth was Boyle's best round. The judges saw him winning more than just that one. The scores at the end were 78-74 (the Daily News's score at the time), 78-73 and 77-75, all in Lark's favor.
So, Boyle had a chance to win. It would have been a charming tale of persistence rewarded.
Instead, Boyle has twice lost in USBA title shots. As the USBA belt finds a home in Gary, Ind., with the No. 5 contender of the International Boxing Council, Boyle's future is unclear at best.
He's 29. He's failed in four title tries, including a shot at the North American Boxing Federation lightweight title in 1992. He will not say whether his fighting days are over.
"I don't want to answer anything like that right now," Boyle said, his voice soft with disappointment.
Boyle wasn't the only Philadelphian to disappoint the hometown crowd. Featherweight Wilson Santos entered with an 11-0-1 record but lost a split decision to Joe LaFontant, a 31-year-old from Baltimore with a 2-5-1 prefight record. Santos is LaFontant's junior by nine years, and figures he learned a valuable lesson.
"This will encourage me to get back in the ring and work harder," Santos said in Spanish through an interpreter.
In the top undercard bout, heavyweight Ray Anis (19-1), from Brooklyn, N.Y., knocked out West Turner (17-7) with 58 seconds left in the 10th and final round.