The subject seems
to electrify the ground beneath his feet. His legs cannot stop jiggling, his
hand keeps shooting out to ground him on the arm of his visitor. He laughs
while speaking very painful words.
realize that no one—no one—ever gave me a gift in my life?" he says
quietly. "If they did, I'd probably cry.
understands me. If I had had a chance to study, I could be something different.
But I didn't."
He will live in
New Hampshire, near lakes and trees instead of people, a man cut off from his
country and now even from his fellow expatriates. "I cannot live in
Miami," he says. "Too many temptations. I don't trust myself. I have
accepted I am a weak person. When I am boxing, I have no right to screw
He began working
out in June, but for nearly two months he still agonized, he still threw
himself on the ground some nights and cried. Boxing made him feel strong, but
the need to depend on anything outside himself for strength made him feel weak.
He had seen through the paradox, and now he had to make himself pretend he had
To return meant
reentering the world, making money, risking more betrayal. To return to make
history meant swimming against it. Joe Louis could not regain a title after
coming back from retirement, nor Willie Pep, Jim Jeffries, Muhammad Ali, Joe
Frazier, Benny Leonard or Sugar Ray Leonard. Only three men in recent boxing
history, featherweights Vicente Saldivar in 1970 and Eder Jofre in 1973 and
middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson in 1955, ever won championships after voluntary
retirements of more than a year.
One loss, even
one awkward win, will terminate his comeback. Arguello will be close to 34 by
the time he is able to maneuver past four or five warmup bouts and earn a title
shot—next spring, say. A half hour each evening, he performs mental training,
visualizing peak performances of the past and ones to come, and before each
fight he will work with a hypnotist. But no matter how careful the preparation,
this comeback pains many people in boxing.
seen a boxer take shots like he took against Pryor and hold up against big-time
fighters," warns Emanuel Steward, Tommy Hearns's trainer. "I thought
he'd lost his legs two years ago [after the first Pryor fight]—that ability to
regain his balance quickly after throwing a punch. I'd like to see him with the
class and dignity I remember. I'm afraid he could get hurt."
exploited," says Roman. "I would never expose him to this
"I don't see
anyone in the junior welterweight division who can beat him," contends Bill
Miller, the agent who has replaced Roman as Arguello's manager. "I think he
burned out from so much boxing before, but since the layoff he looks to me like
a better fighter."