The boxing world scoffs. Big Roy flares: "Boys don't win world championships. Men do.... He's not ready. You don't give a kid $2 million and the prestige of a world title. Otherwise you end up with a Mike Tyson.... If I'm gonna be blackballed for lookin' after my son, well then, go ahead. Call me Tar Baby!" And gradually the boxing world loses interest. "An invisible fighter," ABC boxing commentator Alex Wallau calls Little Roy.
Little Roy's scared. His career is three years old and already fading. He calls Merkerson and repeats what he says every four or five months: "Remember, Coach Merk, don't tie yourself up. I might need you." Finally he gets a fight with a name fighter in a name city: Jorge Vaca in January 1992 in New York. He annihilates Vaca in the first round. He watches his father rubbing elbows with the half-dozen Pensacola buddies whose airfares he has paid with Little Roy's earnings and doling out $500 to each of them to enjoy the Big Apple for an extra day. Who knows, maybe Big Roy's taking less of a cut than other managers—but if he would just explain the decisions to Little Roy, just give his son some voice....
The tension grows. One night a dog attacks a couple of Little Roy's gamecocks outside his trailer. He and friends fire shots to scare off the dog, and Big Roy, uneasy with the gunshots, shouts over that if there's any more shooting, shots will be coming back. Suddenly the son and the father are screaming, threatening to turn their guns on each other, and Carol's begging Little Roy to go back to his trailer and stop this madness.
During training, the air between the two men sizzles, two decades coming to the skin and lying there like sweat. It's hot that day in June 1992. The Rottweiler, the one that Little Roy has borrowed from a friend for breeding, ducks under Roy's trailer and stares out, panting. Big Roy has never seen the Rottweiler before, and what he doesn't know makes him uneasy. "If he growls at me," he has warned Corey, "I'll kill him."
Little Roy's out in his Jeep with friends. Here comes his sister, eight-year-old Catandrea, running toward his door. The flapping legs and arms startle the dog. He bolts from under the trailer and leaps at the little girl. His teeth rip into her arm. Big Roy hears her scream, grabs his shotgun and comes out on the run.
There's Corey, tearing the dog away, lashing it to a tree. There's Carol, scooping Catandrea into a car, rushing off to a hospital. Big Roy looks at the dog on the leash and lifts the shotgun. He squeezes the trigger three times, then walks away. He returns a few minutes later with a Glock 9-mm pistol. Two more bullets go into the dog's head.
It doesn't take long for the news to find Little Roy: that his sister's safe, with a dozen stitches. That his friend's Rottweiler has been killed—not in the act of attacking Catandrea, when Little Roy, too, might have shot it, but afterward, on a leash. And it runs through him: This is it. This stands for everything. This is it.
He's in the passenger seat of his Jeep, a friend driving, as they roll up in front of the trailer. They stare at the dead dog. A 9-mm Beretta lies in Little Roy's lap. Two sentences lie in his head: I'd rather be dead than take this anymore. I'd rather be in prison.
His father, in his own car, rolls up alongside the Jeep. He says nothing about Catandrea. "I killed your dog," he says. It hangs there in the air, so matter-of-fact, so loaded with challenge. Little Roy cradles the gun. A moment passes. "Let's go," he finally tells his friend.
Distance is seldom the bent of the great knockout punchers. Their nature draws them nearer and nearer to that which prickles their fear and temper, their confusion and lust, as if sensing that they cannot wreak havoc without ingesting it first. So they keep wading in—outside the ring as surely as inside it—sacrificing perspective for destruction until the price grows too steep. You could look that up.