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Santa Fe, with a population of 250,000, sits in a bowl between three rivers, including the huge Paran�, and it manages to be both dusty and humid at the same time. Across the river is the more elegant town of Paran�, which has white villas on hillsides and a gambling casino, but Santa Fe is old and flat and dirty. Monzon was born 30 years ago into a family of 12 in the village of San Javier, 85 miles away in the rice country, and he came to Santa Fe as a kid. From the age of six he sold papers, shined shoes, delivered milk and fought in the streets. If he went to school for more than three or four years, his friends don't seem to remember it. Monzon prefers not to talk about the old days, except to point out that he can write his name on a contract.
With his 25% of the roughly $800,000 Monzon has earned in the ring in the past two years, Brusa is putting up a building in Santa Fe that will have shops and offices on the lower floors and a health club and solarium on the top. No more of that mud in the basement of the Club Atl�tico Uni�n, where Brusa worked with hundreds of young boxers before Monzon came along. Now when he is in Santa Fe, Brusa goes every day to inspect his building. He wears a suit and tie, carries a briefcase, slicks back his hair, and he can't seem to keep from smiling as he looks at all that rising concrete and hears those hammers pounding.
It didn't bother Brusa that Monzon had been up all night. "We don't need to start training hard for a while yet," the manager said, sipping coffee in a cafe around the corner from his building. "I believe when he's not in hard training, let him do what he wants. A human being is not made to be in training all the time. I can't take him away from beer, Scotch and friends. In the United States they train harder. They hurt themselves more with sparring partners. I don't believe in that system where you can leave your light in the gym. The day Monzon fought Briscoe in Buenos Aires live years ago [it was a draw; under the new Argentine scoring system Monzon would have won, but barely], Briscoe was running on the day of the light. A human is destroyed by too much work."
What Brusa first saw in Monzon was a skinny kid with a great hunger. "He was blind, had no style, but his mind was at work all the time," Brusa said. "He knew exactly his next move, and he could hit with both hands, but he was too weak from malnutrition to knock people out the way he does today. I took him to a doctor. Now he has two doctors and a biochemist who check him all the time. You couldn't say he's not healthy now, huh?"
For the first few years Brusa was awakened by phone calls to get Monzon out of jail. There would have been a fight in a saloon, and some furniture smashed. "You know how it is," a friend of Monzon's said. "You go to a bar. Someone insults you. You have to defend your honor." Brusa wouldn't talk about it. "My pupils are my friends, even after they quit," he said.
Brusa worked out the Monzon style, which is that of a punching machine. "A manager must find a style for a boxer according to what the boxer can do best," he said. "Each man is an individual. You have to hide his bad points and bring out his good ones. Monzon should be a little faster, but his good point is he hits hard and doesn't gel hit hard. Watch the look on the face of his rival and you can tell how hard he hits. Another good point of Monzon's is that he listens to his corner. He hasn't been hurt, has never taken a bad beating. He can fight easily for five more years. Some people say I'm pushing him too hard, too many lights, but he's getting richer, isn't he?"
Monzon owns a ranch of 1,750 acres and a few cattle and sheep and some fine horses in San Javier. He calls the ranch La Esperanza (The Hope). He has bought houses in Santa Fe for his parents and the parents of his wife, Mercedes Garcia (when they were married as teen-agers, his father-in-law had given him a bed and it was their only furniture). Monzon owns eight apartments in Buenos Aires and four in Santa Fe. Besides the Fiat 128, he owns a yellow and black Lutterall, a custom-made Argentine car, with a klaxon horn. He is building a large house in Santa Fe with two garages and several more apartments, but now he lives in a four-room house with his wife, daughter Silvia, nine, son Abel, five, a newly adopted one-month-old baby boy, and a kitchen full of relatives.
Arriving home one day recently, Monzon parked the Fiat behind the Lutterall across the street from his house while the neighbors watched. He crossed the street with the graceful, slightly swaggering walk of a man who likes his body. In 1960 the famous Argentine heavyweight, Luis Angel Firpo, said, "Someday in my country a boy of dark skin and jet-black hair will appear with an inexpressive face and a complete lack of emotion in the ring. His fists will remind the world where the Argentine Republic is located." Firpo died before he could see Monzon, but it is not all that bad a description. Monzon has high cheekbones and light copper skin, and he wears his black hair long in a sort of Italian movie-star cut that many of the young men of Santa Fe are copying. He has a brooding, sensual, vaguely dangerous look that will arouse rape fantasies all over the world when he begins appearing in movies next year. He says the only emotion he shows in the ring is hate. As he sat in his living room, his expression seldom changed, except when he threw a quick smile at Abel. " Monzon loves movies, hunting, fishing and Abel more than anything else," a friend had said.
Abel is a bright little boy who should never have to shine a shoe in his life. He invents broadcasts of Monzon fights on his tape recorder. When he is mad at his father, he makes up new endings in which Monzon is knocked out. Sometimes he goes to the gym with Monzon and cuts up with the fighters. Abel is the kind of kid who talks to waiters and will always have more girl friends than he needs.
Santa Fe is famous for its beer. From his couch, Monzon dispatched his wife and daughter to bring in a few bottles from the kitchen where the relatives were talking, and Abel climbed into his lap. On the walls and shelves were trophies Monzon has won in the ring. The one he got for knocking out Benvenuti has ribbons on it.