"Lay down so
I can recognize you," he'll tell a former pug whose name he can't remember.
Or, introducing someone, he'll say, "He woulda been champion if it wasn't
for his bad hands—referee kept stepping on 'em." At some point he always
works in his absolute favorite: "Went to the doctor for a physical before I
got married last time. 'Aren't you worried about marrying a younger woman?' he
asked me. I told him, 'Doc, if she dies, she dies.' "
Pep laughs and
then hacks. "Damn cold," he says. He rubs a hand over his face and
thinks about what he would do differently if he could live his life again.
the same way," he says. "I wouldn't change my style. But, hey, maybe
there are better fighters now, I don't know. The money would be great. Cripes,
a .200 hitter in baseball makes a million a year. I made $1.3 million in my
career, and my purses were cut 50 percent. One thing I'd do is get a financial
adviser. Of course, who knows if I'd listen to him. But I got no regrets.
"And hey, I
was champion of the world, and that still has its good days."