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If you had asked Little Ray before the official announcement if I was going to fight, he'd have told you no. But if you had then given him a piece of candy and asked him again, he'd have said, "Yeah." He's a born politician. But he knew I wasn't going to fight because I had time to take him to football practice and see him play in a game. He sees I'm beginning to become his father full time. Watching him brings tears to my eyes because I'm seeing someone who is me.
After the operation I had a lot of fun. I had made my decision, but I was given six months, the time Dr. Michels said it would take before we'd know about the eye, to announce it. And so I had a chance to tease the press. I never thought I'd say this but I'm going to miss those guys. Boxing writers are a special breed, and I was just getting to a point where I really enjoyed talking with them. I'd talk to them for about 30 minutes about nothing and they'd take notes, and then when it was all over they'd walk away and say, "What the hell did he say?" And then the next day I'd read 40 different interpretations of what I'd said.
Over the last few months I did road-work in public so people could see me working out. I sparred in Detroit purposely to make people believe I'd fight again. I did it because I didn't want my announcement to be anticlimactic. I didn't want anyone to know what I was going to say. I would say something like, "One more fight with Hagler." And I looked in shape. I was in shape.
And then during the summer I went on a cruise aboard the QE2 to make a documentary film for a Canadian company. And I sparred on the ship. It was dumb. I sparred with this big kid—a member of the ship's crew—who had fought as an amateur and as a pro. He weighed about 185 pounds and was about 6'1". I mean big. I had eight-ounce gloves and he had 12s. It was crazy. I still don't know why I did it.
It was supposed to be just body shots, but with all the people on the ship watching it got to be like a major fight. It got a little physical. With my experience I know I can tap your nose without really hurting you. But him being so heavy-handed, he'd tap me and knock me halfway across the ring. The next thing you know we were in a great exchange, and all of a sudden I got the old instinct and I wanted to go for him. I did, and I dropped him with a kidney shot.
I went back to my corner, and James Anderson, one of my security men who was acting as my trainer, said, "Champ, what are you doing?"
I said, "I got to have it. I just got to have it."
But when it was over I said to myself, "Damn, I just sparred and I just got out of the hospital. I got to be out of my mind." I can only thank God nothing happened. But it also awoke interest. Now everyone was saying, "He's going to fight again for sure." And people kept on me: How's the eye? What are you going to do? It got so bad I'd rehearse what I was going to say because I knew I'd be confronted at least once the next day. So I'd think, I'll say this, or I'll say that.
Finally I just couldn't stand it any longer. I found myself becoming more and more offended when people would ask about the eye. I went from saying, "It's 30-20 and improving," to, "It's the same way. Ditto." I felt like telling them to take my eye home with them and then to call me the next day to let me know if it had shown any improvement. Finally I went to Mike Trainer and said, "Hey, let's end this. I got to end it. I'm tired of answering those damn questions."
I want everyone to know that I fully understood the public's concern, and I was very grateful for it. And I understood the press's need to know. But six months of acting drained me. You'll never believe how much I looked forward to making my announcement. I just couldn't wait.