Prologue Mexico City April 20, 1998 In the lambent sprawl of Plaza Garibaldi mariachis stood about with slim hopes of anyone hiring them. It was a little after one a.m. But the roving beer hawkers were still busy yanking cans from ring-tops of six-packs and offering singles for a few pesos. Mike Hall noticed that we were the only gringos anywhere in sight. I was oblivious to that but I winced on seeing John Spong and David Courtney buy two more Modelos. I was ready to call it a night. I was fifty-three, the only one among us who was married. Mike, the next oldest at forty, was a thin, soft-spoken man who had tanked a small career as a rock songwriter and recording artist so he could make a better living as a magazine editor and journalist. His laugh was both soft and explosive, and during the long weekend we had gone from being colleagues to friends; with fine wit he had briefed me on the ups and downs of his life as a musician. The lark in Mexico City had been like that for all of us, except that John and David were already close friends, best friends it seemed. Their banter had that timing, the practiced knowing of what the other was about to say. The younger of the two, John was a dropout lawyer breaking into magazine work as a fact-checker. John was six feet and slender, with auburn hair and long sideburns. People noticed him; he had the air of a wiseacre, a funnyman. David, a freelance writer who specialized in music, was in the second hour of his thirty-second birthday. He wore a ridiculous straw bowler he had bought on the ZA?calo, the city's vast central square. David swigged from a fresh beer and pointed out a troupe of norte's--musicians from northern Mexico who were distinguished from the black-clad mariachis by their brown suits. He and John started to amble over and check them out. We had come to Mexico City to watch a prizefight. The night before, we had watched my young friend Jesus Chavez stop a Mexico City opponent. The arena where he made his Mexican debut was in a dark and dangerous barrio on the periphery of Plaza Garibaldi. I knew we were pushing our luck to come back here. But the others argued that one more night in the Tenampa Bar would give our trip a symmetry--where it began, where it ended. I kept silent, went along, relaxed after downing the first beer and shot of tequila, and soon held up my share of the talk and laughter. But the whole trip had been a bittersweet affair for me. Jesus had gained a number one world ranking the same month the U.S. government ordered him deported. In a few hours we were going home, and I had growing doubts that Jesus ever could. Watching John and David wander off toward the norte's, I said to Mike: "Let's get these guys out of here." He told me later it was the first time he had ever heard me sound impatient, and it was the only time this trip I invoked whatever authority that came with my years. In Austin I worked out in the boxing gym where Jesus emerged as a contender. These days I did it just for exercise, sparring rarely, but I had sweated and banged myself into the best condition of my life. Among the young fighters, I was respected as one of the old guys who could make the big bags pop. Jesus lived in a dusty little room at the gym for several months, and it quickly became apparent that we were in the company of a real talent. With undercards that showcased the novelty of skilled women boxing, Jesus's frenetic main events in a converted rock music hall breathed raw excitement into a town with little history in the sport, and for Jesus, with it came the regional titles, then the television, and the climb up the rankings. But Jesus was more than just a star athlete to me, and to him I was more than an aging hanger-on. When I walked in the gym he would call out "Zhannreeed," and at the end of the days we often sat on the ring apron talking about things far removed from boxing. Then, suddenlyReid, Jan is the author of 'Bullet Meant for Me A Memoir' with ISBN 9780767905954 and ISBN 0767905954.