Taylor, who has remained Manfredy's trainer even as Manfredy has become a million-dollar fighter, remembers that the kid, good as he was, could never quite reach the top. When marijuana and drink became a part of Manfredy's life, boxing no longer seemed as important as it might have.
Manfredy's humiliation in 1992 at having to admit his drug use to his father, who confronted him after noticing Angel's suspicious behavior, was profound. Angel was nearly paralyzed by the disappointment he caused in the one man he wanted to impress. Perhaps he would have come out of this without the accident, but he wouldn't have come out of it as quickly as he did.
The accident, and his religious revelation, also caused him to put the rest of his life and even his boxing into spiritual terms. Nowadays he walks through what he calls "dream doors" toward "spirit fights"—bouts that involve the winning and losing of souls as well as titles. After the Gatti fight, which he says he dreamed beforehand in every particular, he whispered into the beaten boxer's ear, "I've just taken your soul."
"And you know what," he says, " Gatti hasn't been the same since. Gatti is no longer Gatti."
For a fellow who was tagged dumb and stupid in school, Manfredy is capable of directing complicated morality plays in the ring. Though he calls himself El Diablo and still wears that cheap mask, what he really means to tell is the story of the good fight. He is, after all, a married man (he exchanged vows inside a ring on Thanksgiving with his high school sweetheart, Yvette Rivera, the mother of his children, Celeste, 5; Marina, 3; and Angel II, 2) and is as settled as most. (He owns a 4,000-square-foot triplex in East Chicago.) He visits high schools to tell his heroic tale and, training to the point where he needs to be kicked out of the gym, uses his boxing as a kind of mission as "the Lord's foot soldier."
For the Mayweather fight he promises additional advancement of good, as the tattoos wage their war back and forth across his chest. Look for it, he says. "You'll see, I'm just an angel in disguise."