To the horror of some Nigerian intellectuals, who complained that the country was already behind one year in the second year of a six-year development program, the government guaranteed Solomons and the fighters $280,000. Solomons had all the official cooperation he wanted. He could not find enough chairs for the stadium infield, so, on the afternoon before the fight, the moment school was out in Lagos, the seaport capital 90 miles away from Ibadan, 3,500 chairs were loaded on 10 trucks and rushed to the stadium. There, Nigerian troops set them up and numbered them. Right after the fight they were folded up and shipped back to Lagos. "On Monday morning," Solomons said, "the kids will be sitting in them and never know I made money on them."
Despite the government's largess, money was a sore point with Solomons and other foreigners who had come to Nigeria for the fight. Nigerians are extraordinarily sweet, jolly, friendly and sporting, but no report would be accurate unless it pointed out that they have quickly learned as much about money as the sharpest pawnbroker. Citing street peddlers as a case in point. Chief Johnson said, "You go up to them to say good morning, and before you are finished they have sold you a piece of string, an empty bottle and a dead body." At times Solomons seemed to think he was buying all the dead bodies. He picked up the check at his hotel for a reception for Fullmer. The total amount was $600, reasonable enough for 110 guests, but he exploded when he noted that the tab included 14� for two boxes of matches. Solomons' sidekick, Bobby Diamond, Tiger's rotund European manager, asked for matches at the hotel desk. "That will be sixpence, sar," said the clerk. "Well, then," said the astute Diamond, "do you have a light?"
A veteran correspondent warned, " Solomons thinks he has a $280,000 guarantee. He's so bloody smart. He'd better watch out or they'll take him." Taxicabs have meters, but the meter is always broken so the driver can charge a passenger extra. A high point of sorts was reached by one Ibadan cabbie who drove a visitor one block and demanded $1.50. The visitor gave 20�, and the driver was overjoyed.
Another burden for visitors was the threat of disease. Many streets have open sewage, and malaria is not uncommon. Sprayers stalk about Ibadan hosing every ditch in sight and, although Ibadan is not New York, the sanitary measures are fairly effective. Still, the fear of disease remains with an unacclimated foreigner. Bobby Diamond drank a bottle of whisky and a bottle of wine at a reception and woke up in the middle of the night feeling frightful. "I've got malaria!" he screamed as he leaped from bed. He ran to the mirror, peered at himself and then exclaimed joyously, "Thank God, I'm drunk!"
Diamond got a lot of attention because of an unseemly quarrel with Marv Jenson, Fullmer's manager. This was not the usual prefight baloney—Chief Johnson was taking care of that—but a genuine feud. It started when Diamond charged that Fullmer, who had been granted one postponement only to ask for another, had turned yellow. At the hotel reception for Fullmer, Jenson demanded a retraction, whereupon Diamond said, "He's still yellow!" Then, when Jenson seemed to be hinting that Solomons and Diamond were up to hanky-panky, Solomons replied he would sue for libel. The quarrel was finally settled on the telephone, but Diamond fired the parting shot. "They shouldn't readmit Jenson to the States," he said. "He does more harm than anybody."
In another setting, the spat and Chief Johnson's high jinks might have tended to obscure the training activities of Tiger and Fullmer; not here. Both fighters were very much on the public mind. Nigerians jammed in line to buy tickets to workouts, looking for all the world like famine sufferers with hands upraised in old-time newsreel shots.
"Look at them," said Solomons happily. "Trying to give us their shillings."
One day so many Nigerians packed Tiger's camp, an army barracks, that Diamond called for troops to keep order. The soldiers came with sticks, and the crowd chased them away. The next day the soldiers came with blackjacks and kept the crowd at bay. The crowd kept screaming, "Tiger! Tiger!" So Tiger, who is not without a sense of humor, appeared holding his hands above his head and saying, "Vote for me, and I will promise you everything!"
For this occasion Tiger wore tribal robes, but he refused to allow himself to be photographed against a tree trunk because, he explained, "It would look like Nigeria is a jungle." Instead, to show progress, he posed in the middle of a paved road. Tiger liked to tease reporters by telling them he ate white men for breakfast, adding he preferred whites medium rare. Chief Johnson, still insistent that he would fight on the undercard, went into training himself and even sparred a few rounds with the champ. "I did not hit him hard," said the chief upon emerging. "Would it not have been a terrible thing if I had harmed him before the big fight? So I only played with him."
The Nigerians were just as happy watching Fullmer train at Ibadan's University College gymnasium. Indeed, in the last few days before the fight, it was impossible for Fullmer to get out of his car for fear that the pressing crowd of admirers might accidentally injure him. The moment his car appeared on the street, crowds closed off both ends of the block screaming, "Foolmarrrr! Foolmarrrr!" The day before the fight, a 6-year-old boy stuck his head in the car and shouted, "Foolmarrrr! Hold that Tiger!" Then he ran off cackling at his own wit.