"Benvenuti had the glamour," Monzon said. "His picture was everywhere. But I knew from the minute we signed the contract I would beat him. I have no fear in the ring. For me, getting into the ring is like coming home and drinking my yerba mate [a South American tea of greenish tint that is drunk through a silver pipe from a decorated gourd]."
Mercedes Garcia and Silvia brought in the beer and sat down primly and silently while Monzon poured. Monzon's wife once caused a lot of talk by being seen on television in hot pants after one of her husband's fights. Monzon waited for the visitors to agree that the Santa Fe beer was excellent, and someone asked if he would be nervous about working in front of movie cameras for an Italian director next spring. "Those lights won't hurt my eyes anymore," he said.
Monzon said he remembers Briscoe very well. "Briscoe is tough," he said. "He makes you work. Fighters in the United States like to get in close. I'd rather stay off and punch because I have long arms. The toughest man I ever fought was Emile Griffith [he knocked out Griffith in his second title defense]. He knows all the tricks and can make you do things you don't want to do."
Abel was riding his father's knee. Monzon almost canceled his last fight, against Tom Bogs in Copenhagen in August, and came home because Mercedes Garc�a had phoned and said Abel had a sore throat and fever. Brusa got a doctor to persuade Monzon that Abel was not dying. Monzon waited long enough to knock out Bogs before hurrying back to Santa Fe. The punch that did it was not a trademark Brusa right because, according to Monzon, there is no such thing. "It is the way I hit naturally," Monzon said.
He looked across the coffee table at his visitors. "They tell me Cassius Clay hates white people. Is that true?" The visitors said they didn't think so. "Well, that's what they tell me," said Monzon.
Are seven championship fights in two years too many? "No," Monzon said. "I think I'll have two or three more, and then maybe that will be enough and I'll give my title away. But while you're the champion, you've got to make the juice." He smiled and lifted his beer glass. He was wearing two gold rings, a gold bracelet and a gold watch.
If you can imagine New York City with no traffic laws and everybody half an hour late to get to the reading of his rich uncle's will, you can begin to picture Buenos Aires traffic. Argentina, which won Olympic medals in the event, should have produced all the world's triple-jump champions of the past century. An Argentine pedestrian can leap eight feet sideways in an instant without even looking around. It appears to be considered unmanly for a driver to slow down. Some say it is the influence of Juan Fangio, the former world champion race driver from Argentina. But put one of Fangio's big machines in the control of a Buenos Aires cabdriver and you would scare half the Grand Prix drivers right off the track.
Argentina has at least a dozen different identifiable groups of rebels. Some of them practice bombing, shooting, bank robbery and kidnapping, and there may be 14 or more candidates for president in March if the country holds its first election since 1963, three years before the army took over the country again. In the last 30 years Argentina has had 12 presidents, and eight of them were generals. Argentina's most famous citizen has long been rumored to be Hitler, but a cabdriver recently said this story is untrue—Hitler went to Paraguay. The Buenos Aires police can make a person disappear into a dungeon without food, water or access to a telephone anytime they wish and for about as long as they care. There is a joke that a man was passing in front of a police station and got splattered with mud from a pothole. "What a lousy country," he said, and was arrested by a cop in the doorway. In the commissioner's office the man identified himself as a general and was released with apologies. He asked to speak to the cop who had grabbed him. They took the general to the cell where the cop had been looked up for his error. The general looked into the peephole and said, "See?"
"The country doesn't work, but the people do," said an Argentine businessman at lunch one Sunday at a yacht club on the River Plate. There are dozens of parks and sporting clubs in Buenos Aires and many soccer stadiums and polo fields. The people in the streets look prosperous, but prices have doubled in a year and the peso is so weak foreign banks won't touch it ( Monzon has a bank account in New York). The country is allowed to eat beef only every other week. Yet there is hardly a good fish restaurant in Buenos Aires. "An Argentine isn't interested in fish, he wants to eat meat." said the businessman.
Buenos Aires is bigger than Paris or Berlin, both of which it somewhat resembles. Playboy magazine is banned. When a dress-shop owner recently celebrated the arrival of spring—which comes to Argentina in September—by decorating an otherwise nude mannequin with nothing but flowers, government officials pasted paper strips labeled CENSORED over the dummy. If an Argentine from the provinces achieves some sort of fame, it is usually followed by a move to Buenos Aires. Not Monzon. "They rush around too much there. I prefer the country life," he said.