England never did nor never shall lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, Shakespeare says, and, sure enough, she has endured plague, blitzkrieg, treacle pudding and Gauls. But then one day last week came the biggest gall of all. A TWA jet shrieked into London and discharged bumptious Cassius Clay. Instinctively, Britain braced.
Self-advertised as "the uncrowned world champion," Clay is indeed an extravagantly promising boxer and the next—if illogical—contender for Sonny Liston's heavyweight title. What brought him to London was a match with grizzled Henry Cooper, against whom Clay hoped to redress his sorry performance with Doug Jones last March. But the Clay-Cooper fight was still more than a fortnight away. In the meantime, Louisville's Lip decided to square off with Britain's Stiff Upper.
Cassius in England applied the economic theory he has found so workable in the U.S.: to sweeten the gate you must first sour the people. "I'm only here," he told the natives, "marking time before I annihilate that ugly bear, Liston." As for Henry Cooper, the British and Empire champion fondly known to fans as "Our 'Enery"—well, tut. He was a tramp, a bum and a cripple, Cassius allowed, not worth the sweat of the training ring. "After five rounds," said Clay, " Henry Cooper will think his name is Gordon Cooper: he'll be in orbit." Then Cassius set out to strut the town, offering his autograph for a �5 note, calling Buckingham Palace a "swell pad" and, while a cold shiver ran down the national spine, saying, "It's growing on me, England."
Gradually the press found its own voice; columnists gruffed about his rudeness, his immodesty and his big mouth. Did he really mind? Hardly. His critics had fallen into the baited trap, his philosophy of sweet-and-sour ham was working like a charm, and tickets were selling like fish and chips. Observed C. Marcellus Clay Esq., riffling through a sheaf of sterling: "I talk for these."
TALK OF TWO CITIES
Fearful of planes, Cassius drove on to New York with his brother Rudy, a friend named Tuddie King—introduced variously as his chauffeur or bodyguard—and a sparring partner, James Ellis. " Louisville is a sad town," he said on arrival. "It doesn't have enough to do." What Cassius found to do in New York was to carouse with girl friends until 6 in the morning, to pay a social call on Sugar Ray Robinson (who stood him up) and to talk with his theatrical agent about a recording of Clay's amateurish poetry, some of which will be professionally embellished. Consumed with greed, Cassius also announced he would allow the fight to be televised by Telstar "provided my cut is big enough." "That's the spirit, baby," said his agent.
Then, more afraid of seasickness than engine failure, Cassius flew off to London. There he gave his first autograph to a customs official and held a press conference to which one paper had gleefully assigned its drama critic. Next Clay Rolls-Royced to Nottingham and whipped a fight crowd there into a frenzy of good-natured catcalls and boos by holding aloft the signboard designating round five, a reference to the moment when he has predicted that he will dispatch Cooper. "A most inflammable person," breathed a girl, falling hard for his style.
WITH LONDON AT