There is something I would like to tell you before I go into the reason for this letter (the first I have written to a magazine editor in my three-year professional career). Every time I climb into the ring I think of the 20 million Argentines who believe in me, and so far I have not let them down—either by winning or losing—because I have always behaved correctly with my opponents and the public.
I must admit that it is true that I am flat-footed, though it seems that it is not my fault that this seems grotesque to Mark Kram, the author of the most offensive, inhuman and unfeeling report I have ever read about myself (A Bean-can Bout in Frankfurt, Sept. 25). There is a story about my feet that you should hear. These flat feet were what led me to boxing. When I was a child I was carried in my mother's arms to many different hospitals. Again and again the doctors told her they would try their best, but they could not guarantee results. For long months I lay in bed awaiting the results of different operations. As the other boys played soccer and ran on the sidewalk in front of my house I could only watch, hoping that someday I would be like them. Finally, I walked without apparent difficulty. That day I wanted to play soccer, but by then I had lost the chance to play like the others. The only alternative was to accept the fact of my lack of know-how. Many years later I found out that a doctor had told my mother that I had an inferiority complex, and it was necessary that I go to a gymnasium to try some other sport that a 15-year-old could learn. That is how I started boxing. I ask, is it fair to criticize me because of that physical defect? In any case, it is a fact that could have been used to praise my spirit.
Normally, I consider that the press is always fair. More so if it is SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, a serious and responsible magazine. But there have been several mistakes in my case. Not in the technical aspect, which I leave to the specialists, but in the personal facts that were mentioned. For instance, I never made fun of peaceful old people hearing a concert, from my window at the Kurhaus hotel in Bad Soden. I signed an agreement with Dr. Marvin Goldberg, which I respected faithfully. If there were disagreements, it was not because of unfulfillment but because of different points of view, to which I have every right. If I refused to work in Mr. Singer's restaurant kitchen, it is because I am a boxer and not a cook. Mr. Singer signed a contract with me to direct my boxing career and not a gastronomical future. It is also true that there were times when I returned home with an extra bag or a new pair of shoes, but that bag and those shoes were bought with the clean money I had earned in the ring. They were no present or gift from anybody.
Regarding the rest of that nasty report, I cannot add much more, because the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter has not given objective facts to discuss. I do not think that comparing me with Ellis or Spencer can be something obscene. I admit that Mr. Kram can believe that I am not as good as any of them. That is just his opinion. My presentation card shows a categorical victory over Mildenberger, one of Clay's best rivals according to the general opinion of the world's press, in which I include that of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. I would have thought it brave and opportune if Mr. Kram had stated before the fight that Mildenberger was mediocre, or if he had said the same after Cassius Clay's magnificent victory.
Finally, I object to the despicable insinuation about my personality. The report clearly leads one to think that I am a clown. I am a professional, and I do my job. Clay does the same, and nobody, not even you, dares to call him a clown. Do I harm somebody by saying that I will win against this or that rival? Whom do I offend when I state that I will be the next world champion? Nobody, I am sure.
OSCAR NATALIO BONAVENA
? Bonavena's doctor, Roberto Paladino, says that Oscar's feet were put in casts when he was 10 years old, but he has no record of any operations having been performed.—ED.
In Bob Ottum's recent article, Wee Jimmy's Big, Beautiful Win at the Glen (Oct. 9), he made an unfortunate and inaccurate reference to John Surtees' Honda being "serviced by a battalion of Japanese mechanics, one crew to each spark plug." Lest your readers get the idea that the Honda pit at the Glen was overrun with Japanese mechanics, we would like to point out that in reality there were only three working on the Honda Formula I racer. These were Yoshio Nakamura, director of Honda Research & Development Co., Ltd., and Teijiro Hagita and Haruo Kishi. In the future, if your writers need assistance in discerning the Japanese mechanics from the spectators we would be most happy to lend a slanted eye.
FRED K. SUZUKI
GEORGE M. WAKIJI