Alex Mit-teff vs. Cassius Clay," announced Cassius Clay, child of scorn, and took a stance reminiscent of Frank Sinatra defending himself against a photographer. "Biff, biff, bam, biff, biff!" he said, intently punching the air, then flopped on his bed, eyes preposterously rolling. "Clay is down," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, what is the matter?" Then, imploringly, "Clay, Clay!" He lay still. Presently he sat up and put out his hand, silencing a vast, murmurous and imaginary crowd.
"Quiet, everybody," said his trainer, Angelo Dundee. "Cautious is going to make a speech."
"Mit-teff must fall!" Cassius said, a dark Isaiah, and doubled up laughing. He picked up the phone and called his brother Rudy. "Hello," he said, " Cassius Clay in? No? Well, you tell him: he must throw the fight." He hung up. "Did you ever meet anyone like me? All Dundee's fighters are sad. I'm the onliest one that cheers him up."
"There's only one Cassius Clay," said Dundee. "Thank God."
Thus, in his Louisville hotel room last week, the day before he knocked out Alex Miteff, Cassius Clay, 19, undefeated in eight professional heavyweight fights, noisily hammered his armor.
"I am not talking this fight," he said severely. "No comment. I'm mature. I'm growing a mustache, I shaved yesterday for the first time in my life. Things are getting so rough for me around here I'm losing all my girl friends. I don't feel like talking. I don't feel rowdy. But the trouble is boxing's dying because everybody's so quiet. Patterson's quiet. Harold Johnson's quiet. What boxing needs is more Moores and Robinsons and Clays. I'm an unpredictable young man with a raggedy pink Cadillac. This is my town. When you walk down the street with old Cass you're liable to get a free bottle of champagne. Where do I find all the things I say? I'm an educated boy. I sit down and think them up.
"No comment," said Cassius. "I'm not talking this fight because I don't have to. Everyone knows Mit-teff. His greatest element will be the element of surprise; my surprise. I expect Mit-teff to be strong, to hit hard, but hitting hard don't mean a thing if you can't find nothing to hit. Mit-teff has a big head. I'll find it. Did I ever show you my scrapbook? I carry it with me."
Two floors above the onliest fighter, Alex Miteff brooded on a bed in his dim hotel room: his scrapbook is his worn and moody face. Once, too, like all of us, Alex had been young and undefeated. Now he is 26. "All my life was very tough," he said, with a little smile. "When I was 7 years old I worked in Buenos Aires for a year making 25� a month cleaning out market. I never remember in my life I wear short pants. When I was 14 I make shoes, have my own store. At 14 I am foreman over 50 guys in a place where you make the fantasy with wood. Then I box, and Per�n get me job in post office, supreme court, and I don't do nothing. When amateur, so friendly with Peron. He was so big he made me feel so big. I go to New York. I won 12 straight fights as professional. I figure I will be champion in 15th fight. But I have the bad luck. All time I dream some day I will be champion. My manager said he is my father but a father that robs me I don't want. He cut me 50-50. Even after he is not my manager he cut me 50-50 for 2� years. What do I know? I can't even say good morning in English. He rob me. We Argentines, we don't mind being robbed, but we like you tell us that you are robbing us.
"Then I lose and he don't care about my career. He care about money. He get all the time tough fights; they go with the money. Six years, I don't try. I don't train right, I don't do nothing. Now it's different. I have new managers. Gil Clancy and Howard Albert. It's like old times in Argentina. I want to prove myself. Money comes second. I feel all the time in better shape I am in now I can beat them easy. I feel like a millionaire even though I got no money. If I only get a little luck."
But luck, unfortunately, no more decides prizefights than it does the destiny of nations or dice games. Miteff lost $7 the day before the fight, shooting craps against a bathroom door. When you look for luck you have already joined the great, intolerable march of losers. Of course, it was not inevitable that Miteff would fall, although it was a gloomy symbol that he wore a pair of trunks he borrowed from Clay. He is a very strong, willful and resourceful fighter, if deficient defensively. In the first few rounds with Clay, however, he showed considerable, though sporadic, improvement on defense, shielding his face with his arms and bobbing and weaving with success. But Clay's hands are so fast and well aimed that it is impossible, ultimately, to avoid them.