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Though Giardello expressed doubts about Sugar Ray's worth as a challenger ("he's on a losing streak and is not rated among the contenders"), Gainford, like Robinson, still had hopes on this night. "Figure it out," he said. "Giardello fights anybody else, he's scuffling to pick up thirty, forty thousand dollars. He fights Ray, he's got to make a hundred thou—and don't expect to have a tough time of it." (Giardello figured it out a little differently later. He signed to fight Dick Tiger on October 21.)
Outside, in the muggy afternoon just turning to dusk, a ragged band of conventioneers stood on the sidewalk hoo-hawing. Somewhere inside Robinson slept. He had spent this day before the fight visiting television stations, hospitals and a children's home. Twice he had called New York to check on his mother. Assured she was doing fine, he had eaten a broiled steak, green salad and iced tea before retiring early. Robinson's telephone calls went to Gainford, a querulous sentry all evening turning away newsmen, strange voices who claimed old ties with Robinson and the frankly curious.
"Naw," he said into the telephone, "no way you can see him tonight. Her, either. Them people's asleep. Ray's tired. Maybe tomorrow...."
He hung up, shaking his head. "I spend half my time on that thing," he said. "But it proves people don't forget what Ray's been. They still want to see him, talk to him—just reach out and touch him.
"He's lost some leg—speed—stamina. Even some punch. No use kidding ourselves. He's lost some of all of it. But he won't get hurt in the ring, because I'm pretty choosy about who I put Ray in there with. I match him with what he's equal to today, not what he could have handled a few years ago. This boy Walcott—why, 10 years ago the commission wouldn't have permitted the match. Ray would have beat him on his lunch hour." Gainford grinned: "I don't know much about Kid Walcott. But I know he can't hurt Ray Robinson."
Rocky Randell couldn't hurt Ray Robinson either. A few months before, in Norfolk, Randell swooned quickly in Sugar's presence, so fast, in fact, that when Weaver, who made that match, offered to give Randell another shot at Robinson in Washington, D.C. the boxing commission refused to license the bout.
"We figure to fight the champ in September," Gainford went on. "Whether we get him or not—I'm gonna give you a little scoop—this is Ray's last year in the ring. He wins the title, fine—he goes out on top. He loses it, or don't get a shot at it—well, Ray's gonna put a show troupe together and tour the Orient and Europe. Those cats crazy about Ray. So, either way, we fight this kid tomorrow and then we tune up maybe three, four more times before Giardello. And that's all, brother. That's all."
The refrain was familiar: just one more, and then one too many and an obscure end. Would Ray Robinson spend his last days grubbing nickels?
"Shoot, man! You better wish you had some of what Ray's got. After we fight Basilio in '57 the government holds up $352,140 for back taxes. Two months ago we finally win a court decision. Ray's gonna get a lot of long green back with compounded interest and all that jazz. And he's got show-biz money coming down the road. He's also gonna invest in closed-circuit television fight promotions. Man, that's where the bread is today—capital gains and everything."
Fight day brought a slow, weeping rain. Robinson stayed in bed while Gainford battled with the telephone. One man invited the former champion to visit a nightclub in which he owned, expected to own or only dreamed of owning a minority interest.