"He's just 24," said Angelo, sighing. "Press the right button and Jones will be ready for anybody. I'm still looking for the right button."
"Look at Al," says Pappy Alexander. "He's a monster. Every time he walks into the ring he's supposed to kill somebody. If he doesn't, people say he's dogging it. What do they want from him?"
Al Jones knows, and in his own way he feels he is giving it to the Dundees and to the fans.
"They say I do nothing but run around with girls," he says. "I don't argue. Like just the other day. A neighbor woman asked me to drive her to Miami. I said sure, but she'd have to come with me to the gym while I trained. She said she would. When we got there you could see the guys looking and grinning. 'Al's got another girl.' I didn't say nothing. If they want to believe that, let them. I know what Al Jones is doing, and I know—if I goof up—what I've got to go back to. I quit school, and it was the dumbest, stupidest thing I could have done, but that don't make me stupid. I'm not going back to that jungle, not for just a few laughs."
Except when he is training or fighting, Al Jones shuns the magic of Miami Beach. Big cities—and people—scare him. He is a familiar figure in Goulds but mostly he travels alone. When you are alone, no one can hurt you. When night falls, he goes home, turns on all the lights in the house. And they stay on until the sun returns.
"I've been afraid of things ever since I can remember," he says. "The dark, strangers, crowds. Counting my doctors and things, I've got maybe just 15 people I associate with. I mean I don't associate with anybody else, period. When people say something, it gotta be something to hurt your feelings, you know. I don't dig people, see. I stay away from them. I guess I'm just sensitive. They may make jokes about me, but I don't care—as long as I don't hear them. You know, when I go out I don't tell people who I am, that I'm a fighter. Lots of people look at me and think I'm a football player. I say, 'That's right.' If people don't know you, they can't hurt you."
It is evident, now, that if Jones is to grow as a fighter—had you heard of him before?—he must leave Miami Beach, leave the familiar wails of "house decisions," leave the concrete hideaway in Goulds where the lights burn all night.
"I'm ready," he says grimly. "I've been telling the Dundees that for a year. I'll go anyplace and fight anybody. I'm ready for top money just like I'm ready for top fighters. I've had enough fighting in my lifetime, more than most champions. Now I want some money. I let Chris know where I'm at. He's a bright man. I told him to make the right appointments for the right money. Even if I have to fight Sonny Liston."
"Hello, this is Angelo Dundee. Is Sonny around?"