Angelo Dundee's Fifth Street Gym in Miami Beach is an inelegant establishment on the second floor of a two story building. It is small, hot and, these days, crowded with spectators who will endure almost any hardship to watch Cassius Marcellus Clay prepare himself, mentally as well as physically, for his February 25 challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world. It costs a dollar to get in. For the same price you can watch Sonny Liston preparing to defend his title at the Surf-side Civic Auditorium some 90 blocks north. The Civic Auditorium is air-conditioned, its decor is Miami modern and its seats are comfortable. But the better dollar's worth is at the Fifth Street Gym.
The real fight nuts hang out there and Clay, whatever his talents as a fighter, is clearly 10 times Liston's superior as a showman. Liston plods through his workouts at Surfside with all the sparkle of a piece of wet liver; Clay bubbles with the exuberance of a boy playing cops and robbers.
"You looking at the fastest heavyweight in the world," he informed the spectators the other day as he shadow-boxed. He moved quickly from side to side, feinted and sprayed the air with a flurry of blows. He is a big man—about 218 pounds at this stage in his training—with a magnificent build. Wide, thick shoulders taper to a small waist and his legs are long and thick. On top of the big man's body is set the handsome, guileless face of a child.
"Ain't no light heavyweight fast enough to catch me," he said, letting go another combination of punches, his hands open, looking more like a man grabbing at flies than a puncher. "The fastest heavyweight that ever lived," he said, so that no one would miss the point.
The bell rang, ending his shadowboxing, and he walked to the corner away from the spectators and glared at a tall, dark man with the face of a lynx and the soft brown eyes of a cocker spaniel.
"I am the greatest," he said and widened his eyes and pursed his lips the way a small boy does when he is defying his mother. "You are the best that ever lived," the man said. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," Clay and his friend sang out in unison. They paused a minute and stared into each other's eyes, then opened their mouths wide and roared inarticulate defiance at Sonny Liston. The spectators applauded.
Clay submitted to having his hands wrapped and gloves put on. Once he half turned to the spectators and yelled in a voice rich with contempt: "Six-to-one odds. I'm gonna get rich on them odds. I saved the fight game. I'd throw in the towel before I'd faint at the Liston scowl."
The bell rang again and Clay began working with Harvey Cody Jones, a massively muscled young heavyweight who weighs as much as Liston but resembles him in no other way. Clay's spaniel-eyed friend watched him closely, then came down from the side of the ring. His real name is Drew Brown, but everyone in the Clay camp calls him Budini.
"I got the name in India," he said softly. "I have traveled around the world maybe 20 times. Nothing fleshes a man out like traveling. A little girl in India, she was madly in love with me and she used to sit outside my door an' holler, "Budini, Budini.' Later I heard the word means lover in Hindu." (It does not, but the name still has a fine ring to it.)
He turned to watch intently as Clay, fighting flatfooted and not moving much, peppered Jones with punches.