Sean would seem to be the pawn in his father's grand, defiant game, but he says, "I would gladly sacrifice my title to have a world organization based in this country. We have the best fighters, the biggest purses, and I'm kind of glad it happened to me. I was depressed for about two weeks after they took my title away, but then I decided I'd rather be the people's champion than any organization's."
O'Grady and Masters are on their fourth lap, still enshrouded in fog. Masters runs up, grabs the back of O'Grady's arm and then easily pushes it across the front of O'Grady's body. O'Grady stumbles.
"Leverage," Masters says with a smile. He's referring to a boxing lesson that Pat gave the night before at a birthday party for Grandma O'Grady Harms, Pat's mother. Grandma lives with Sean. She cooks and cleans for him, reminds him to take his vitamins and, when 10 o'clock rolls around, tells him it's time for bed. "You know, Sean won't ever leave the house until he kisses me goodby," Grandma says. "He's just a peach of a kid. They don't make them any better."
Boxing is a family affair with the O'Gradys. Rosie O'Grady Masters, the sister of Sean and wife of Monte, works in the boxing office with her parents. Another half brother, Pat Fitzpatrick (Pat O'Grady has been married five times: "I used to change wives like other men changed shirts."), helps out around the gym. Gass is the promoter. To a large degree, they all depend on the income from Sean's boxing career. That's another type of leverage.
Sean rolls his eyes at Masters and says, "There's nothing like teaching boxing at a party."
"It's never out of your mind," Masters reminds him.
A Mexican heavyweight named Tony (Kid) Longoria lived with the O'Gradys when Sean was around 5 years old. Longoria was a teen-ager, full of hostility, and he was trained and managed by Pat O'Grady. "He was a street kid," says Pat, "very mean, a vicious type. A big, tough macho man. More than anything, he was the one who made Sean want to be a fighter."
"We lived like gypsies," Sean recalls. "We went from Beaumont to L.A. to Austin to Vegas to Houston to San Antonio—wherever Dad could get Tony fights. Longoria was 17 or 18 and could drive a car. I wanted to be like him. He was mean, and he made me mean. I got in a lot of fights at school when I was younger; I had a lot of snarls at society. But you can't fight mad. When Dad took over, he taught me to be controlled."
It was that meanness that convinced Pat that one day Sean would be a world champion. "My goal in life is to take hostile children and turn them into champions," Pat says. "If they don't have that hostility, I can't give it to them." That, obviously, is the trainer speaking, not the father. There's no father now. It's a role he has had to give up. "I'm against the father-son relationship in boxing," he says. "It's too brutal a sport, too vicious. You need total objectivity. Sean O'Grady's the enemy when he's in the ring. I want him to hate me and take it out on the other guy. If he don't knock his opponent out, I'm mad."
That apparently is the way it has to be. Historically, fathers haven't had a great measure of success working in their sons' corners. Mike Rossman, for example.