Not surprisingly, Jorge Paez still clowning
The pink shirt and plaid pink shorts, bald head and curly-Q lock of hair above his forehead. The ever-present missing-tooth grin.
Jorge Paez was easy to spot, still making fashion statements long after his career in the boxing ring has ended.
"El Maromero" was every bit the gregarious, personable guy boxing fans knew for so long when he was in Phoenix last week, in town to watch his son Azriel headline a fight card packed with local hopefuls.
Under a canopy at a grocery chain, with Mexican music blasting in the background and parents bending over to tell their kids who the short guy signing the free soccer balls was, Paez held court just as he did in the ring as boxing's "Clown Prince" for almost 20 years.
"I love Phoenix because a lot of people here are Mexican," Paez said, trying to shout over a cumbia.
"They like boxing here. I've had fights here (four, according to BoxRec.com). I have cousins here."
Asked what his secret was to such a long career, Paez offered a joke.
"My face," he said, laughing. "But seriously, thank God for everything. Besides that, hard work."
He switched to English. "No pain, no gain, homeboy. Wake up!"
The interview was quite an experience. At one point, Paez interrupted a question, shouting "Ayyyy!!!"
An inflatable something or other was falling over because of the wind.
Paez recalled his most memorable fight, a 15-round majority decision victory over Calvin Grove on Aug. 4, 1988 in a bullring in Mexicali, Mexico. The win earned Paez, then 22 years old, the IBF featherweight title.
"That was the last one (at 15 rounds)," Paez said. From that point, fights didn't go more than 12 rounds. "It was 110 degrees in Mexicali, in open-air. But no pain, no gain."
Paez beat Grove again in the same venue the following year, and defended that belt nine times in all.
And the personality? The costumes and hair and elaborate trunks and overall wacky character?
"My family was in the circus," he said in English.
Paez got the nickname "Maromero" from his days growing up in San Luis Rio Colorado, near the U.S. border in the Mexican state of Sonora.
"People thought I was an acrobat in the circus," Paez explained. The Spanish word "maroma" means acrobat in English; "maromero" is one who walks a tightrope.
Paez has never had a problem being called "The Clown Prince of Boxing." He likes it.
Today, he has two sons in boxing - Azriel fought last Saturday in Phoenix and won, and the other, Jorge Paez Jr., faces Omar Chavez, son of another Mexican boxing legend, Julio Cesar Chavez, in a rematch on July 14 in Culiacan, Mexico.
A welterweight, Paez Jr. already defeated Chavez in a majority decision last December.
It's a much quieter life for the elder Paez these days. He's not involved in his sons' careers other than offering words of encouragement and being in their corners, and he's living in Las Vegas.
Near Floyd Mayweather?
"He lives with the rich people, I live with the poor," Paez said, laughing and smiling as always.
By Jose M. Romero /@RomeroJoseM