"What, when and how bleeping much?" DePiano shouted across 1,197 miles of telephone line. "When you've got those bleeping answers, call me back." And with that, he hung up. Crashingly.
"Can you believe that bleep?" said Jimmy DePiano, more amused now than angry. "He wanted Mike Rossman to tell lies to sell some product. Mike Rossman is the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Mike Rossman don't tell lies for nobody."
Mike Rossman, n� Michael DePiano, is the All-American boy. He is half Jewish and half Italian, and handsome. He has a warm smile that begins in his eyes and seems to light a room. He is the kind of kid you'd like your daughter to grow up next door to, go to the senior prom with and, one day, to marry. (Except that Rossman is already married, and recently, at that.) Mike Rossman is only 22, but he wears his crown with casual grace, almost as if, like Prince Charles, he had been born to it.
Recently, Rossman reflected on his new role. It was during a break in training for last Tuesday's title defense, his first, against European champ Aldo Traversaro. "When you think of a champion, you think of a man fighting in the ring," he said. "But there is more. A whole lot more."
Rossman was stretched out on a rumpled bed in an unpretentious Philadelphia hotel room he shared with his younger brother Andy. Jimmy DePiano was hovering nearby. The new champion recalled a conversation with a friend last Sept. 15 in New Orleans. It had occurred a few hours after Rossman had stopped Victor Galindez in the 13th round to win the title. The friend was Dr. Leonard Stan of Miami.
They had met after the fight, and Stan had given Rossman a long, thoughtful look. Then he had said, "You're no longer Mike Rossman."
Startled, Rossman asked him what he meant by that.
"Yesterday you were Mike Rossman," Stan said. "Today and every day after, you belong to the people."
Rossman admitted it had taken him a few days before he was able to understand what it was that Stan had meant.
"I was in a bar somewhere," he said. "I just wanted a few beers. That's all I drink. But I like one or two sometimes. The people in the bar knew who I was. They were giving me funny looks. I could almost hear the rumor spreading. Well, he's the champion and there he is, juicing it up. I got out of there in a hurry and I haven't been in a bar since.