"Maybe he oughta."
"Daddy, the man wants to know when you retired."
"I never retired."
"Daddy, the man wants to thank you."
Daughter and father laugh heartily, because they know the earth has already been turned for this year's garden and that the old man is planting white potatoes and greens. He will sniff the air and feel the earth and watch the insects, and if all this tells him to plant something else next season, he will. Some things are not to be retired from.
Hearns appears to be in good shape as he descends into the Kronk Gym, where the temperature is always 100�, and the emperor is always Hearns. He is already truly fit, and the rugged training and the serious sparring haven't even begun.
The younger Kronk fighters watch him with a mixture of envy and awe. They pick up the pace of their own workouts, displaying their techniques. In a sparring session in the ring, somebody gets knocked down. Hearns goes over to the Cybex Fitron bicycle. His legs, suspect in the past few years, have never looked so good, but he has no backside to speak of, and nothing can be done about that. His jaw hasn't changed either. Still, as Albert (Pepper) White walks behind Hearns with the fighter's equipment bag, Prentiss Byrd, a longtime Kronk aide, says, "I've seen a lot of guys carry that bag."
Hearns has outlasted a thousand boxers and hangers-on at Kronk. He has never gone away. "You know what's always been wrong with Tommy is that he loses concentration," suggests White. "It's so easy for him. Man, Kinchen the first two rounds, Barkley the first three rounds. Those guys were getting hit."
"He's still got the quickness of hand," says Walter Smith, an older Kronk trainer. "Tommy's always been a gambling fighter. He trained three, four weeks for those other guys. This time he'll have trained three months. Both of them know—Ray, Tommy. They know they've got to be right."