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The world championships were scheduled for November. A few months earlier, Pacifico had won the U.S. 198-pound title and his friend Vince Anello had taken the 220-pound division, a class in which Anello had been beaten for the world title in 1976 by Paul Jordan, an English-born Australian. Sitting around a big pile of chicken after the 1977 nationals, the 5'5" Anello had shaken his head and said to Pacifico, "I'm afraid Jordan might beat me again. All that shouting he does gets to me, that 'Jordan the king' business, and, besides, at my height it's hard for me to keep my weight up."
"I wish keeping my weight up were my problem," Pacifico managed to say, between mouthfuls of chicken. "I've got to starve to stay within sight of 198 pounds."
"Well, the only reason I jumped to the 220s was to get out of your way after you decided to reduce down to 198," Anello said. "Nobody's fool enough to go against you if he can help it."
Pacifico stopped eating for a moment and began to laugh. "I wonder what 'the king' would do," he said to Anello, "if you and I switched classes for the world's, and kept it quiet till we got to Australia. Can you imagine the look on his face?"
They saw the look a few months later, in the seaside city of Perth, where Jordan's rosy tan paled by at least five shades at the sight of the newly svelte Anello preceding the now-thickset Pacifico down the stairway from the plane.
The two larger men resembled each other only in that each was of less than average height, and each was muscled like a rhino on steroids. There the resemblance ended. Jordan was blond, with the hair and hawklike features of a Viking, Pacifico dark, bespectacled, his hair close-cropped, altogether less evocative of a warrior than of Mole, the character in Walt Disney's adaptation of The Wind in the Willows.
Jordan and several of his mates were wearing T shirts that said: JORDAN'S THE KING. WORLD CHAMP AGAIN IN 1977. Finally the king walked over to the travel-weary Americans. He held out a tentative hand to Pacifico and said, "Well, then, Larry. You look a bit heavier this year."
"Yeah, Paul. Thought I'd see how I could do at 220. Nice T shirt. But don't worry. Maybe you can be queen."
Worry, however, was all Jordan did. During the week before the meet, it was clear that the switch had had its effect, causing him to overtrain, and he was talking too much. Things were worse by the time of the competition.
Jordan was full of bombast as he stormed out onto the stage, flaxen hair flying, for his first attempt in the squat. "I'm the king! I'm the king!" he shouted to his hundreds of home-country supporters. In contrast, Pacifico stepped quietly onto the platform, nodding slightly from time to time, a smile playing across his face.