"I cannot believe how much it still affects Julio," says Perla. "He still cries about it all the time. He still feels so responsible, I don't know why—maybe for not being there at that moment or for not having more money, so Omar could have gone to a better hospital."
Every June 24, the anniversary of Omar's death, the Ch�vez family goes to the cemetery. They made Julio promise last summer not to break down at the grave, to let Omar rest, but he wept anyway. "Now I am rich and famous and I have everything," he said, sobbing, "but I still don't have you."
But for just a few seconds, for just a few times in his life, he did. Omar, that's whom he conjured when he was in trouble in the ring, he confided once to Perla. That's who was in his head as he sat on the stool, exhausted and trailing on two judges' cards, just before the last round against Meldrick Taylor in 1990. The one brother whom the brother's keeper hadn't kept, the one family member he could never help. "Suddenly I felt this incredible force come into me, this power," he told Perla. He rose and came at Taylor. With 25 seconds left in the fight, he buckled Taylor with an overhand right, then collapsed him 10 seconds later with another short, terrible right, convincing the referee to stop the fight with two seconds left. No fighter has been good enough to make Ch�vez need Omar since.
And yet, every night that he's not home, whether it's at training camp or a New York City hotel, when it's time to say good night, he makes sure someone from his infantry is in the bed beside his.
"What I see is an idol coming forth. An idol that the public has not had for a long time. This is how idols come forth, suddenly, spontaneously, when they, the people, decide it." Two days had passed since Ch�vez's demolition of Camacho. Rafael Herrera, Mexico's former world bantamweight champion, spoke as he stood amid several million people who had thronged the streets of Mexico City to receive Ch�vez. Fame in his homeland had come to Ch�vez years earlier, but it was only now, after he had destroyed Camacho on the weekend when Mexico celebrated its independence and on the heels of the country's humiliating one-medal showing in the Summer Olympics, that he had truly become an idol. His reluctance to fight in Mexico City—only once before 1989 had he risked it, after being fleeced by local judges there in his final amateur fight—had limited his media exposure. But now he inched through the masses toward the embrace of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari at the Presidential Palace.
First a family, then an infantry. Now the circle for which Ch�vez was responsible had once more enlarged. Now it was a nation. Dutifully the boy from Culiac�n lowered his shoulders—more burden, more comfort. "All of Mexico trusts me now," he says. "All of Mexico is depending on me. It's a big responsibility. I cannot fail them. All the money from my lesser fights, I am giving to disaster victims, to hospitals, to orphans, to the elderly."
With Tyson in prison, and with the pay-per-view telecast of Ch�vez-Camacho surprising everyone by attracting 750,000 customers, perhaps Ch�vez is finally on the threshold of an even larger acclaim, a larger yoke. "I know that I am not a Tyson, an Ali or a Leonard," he says. "But I have beaten all of their records. I am satisfied with what God gives me. I do not have big endorsements. I understand that much of it is because I am Mexican, but I am happy that way. Don King did not promote me well, he was not fair to me. But now...." His eyes dance. "Now he loves me. I finally have him by the hairs. He docs what I want."
He climbs back into his Stealth and leads his infantry back through the city, taking the same route by which he returned to his home from the conquest of Camacho, shouting out to the 2�-mile-long parade of humanity that surrounded him that day, "I invite everyone to my house!" Back to 1181 R�o Churubusco, where tables and a tent covering the entire block were erected, where people drank and sang Chalino S�nchez songs until morning, and then the news vendor came, crunching over the glass and debris and speed bumps, hollering headlines of Julio C�sar Ch�vez's triumph between bursts of machine-gun fire.