The Hawk said he'd leave it up to the judge. So did the pizza man.
In his room at Great Gorge, Pryor thought about that and managed a smile. "What chance do you think the villain has in court?" he said. "It's like my fight with Arguello. I know he's going for his fourth title, but, remember, I'm defending my title. Still, they're making me the villain. They don't have to do that. I've been the villain all of my life.
"Look around you, you can see what they're doing. It's nice here, but it's cold. They have Alexis training out in Palm Springs. They got me in a little room where you can hardly fit in a ring. I'm training for the biggest fight of my career, and I'm surrounded by Ping-Pong players."
On a table in front of Pryor lay a copy of the September issue of Cincinnati magazine, the cover of which proclaimed in large yellow letters, AARON PRYOR DON'T GET NO RESPECT. The picture was of a group of fight fans laughing at a black fighter who had been cut off above the waist. No one had to guess that the fighter was intended to be Pryor.
"My hometown," Pryor said, smiling again, his new smile. One of Pryor's trademarks was a gold tooth. Recently he had it replaced by a white porcelain cap. His flashy wardrobe has been replaced by conservative suits, white shirts and striped ties. He carries a briefcase.
"It happens to everybody; you grow up," he said. "I can't be 17 forever. I'm 27. But people still look at me like I was a teen-ager. Recently I went to a press conference in New York with Alexis. I had on a nice suit, a white shirt and a tie. I looked nice. Sure! But some guy says to me, 'Where's your big hat?' I said, 'You want me to buy one to make you feel better?' I guess he thought all blacks wore big hats. Or maybe that I was one of the Spinks brothers.
"Look, I've got three sons, one by my first wife, one my second wife had before we were married and the one I just got in the paternity suit. I don't want them to go through what I did. I want them to have the love and compassion of a father. That's the important thing I missed. When I go home and shut the door they don't see me as a world champion. They recognize me as their father.
"I just wish the rest of the world would recognize me as a human being, too."