What is more, the
heavyweight championship cannot be allowed to belong to one organization—good
or bad. In all the years of boxing the heavyweight championship belonged,
really, to a country. If you now give away the championship to an organization
that hardly recognizes your country, other countries and other people will look
down on you. Particularly people like the Muslims.
That is why I once
offered to fight Clay for nothing and to give the title—if I won it—to the No.
1 contender. Not just offer the contender a fight, but give him the title. Clay
turned the offer down because he had an agreement to give Liston a return
match. I was ranked No. 7 then. Now that I have fought my way back to the No. 1
contender's spot, I feel just as strongly as ever about taking the title away
from Clay and away from the Muslims.
Apart from these
considerations, how do I feel about the Clay fight, my comeback and what the
future holds for me?
Well, above all, I
am certain that I will become the first man in history ever to win the
heavyweight championship of the world for the third time. There are many
reasons for this. One is a new feeling of faith in myself. Let me explain.
One day last
January while I was training for the Chuvalo fight, Mickey Alan, the singer,
who is a good friend of mine, came up for a visit. He has been around with me
for a long time, has done road work with me and so forth. He knows me pretty
He told me he
thought I should keep away from Chuvalo. Not to fight my usual way but to move
in and out. He asked me how I felt about the fight, and I told him I was
confident I would win it.
You know what
happened. I won the decision over Chuvalo in a real tough fight. But I won much
more than that, too. I won back something that I secretly was not sure of up
there in camp—my self-confidence.
The Chuvalo fight
gave me more strength spiritually than I think I have ever had. For years the
press has been writing about my "china chin," saying I couldn't take a
punch and that's why I would not win this fight or that one. I guess when you
hear something over and over for a long period of time you can't help but begin
to believe it.
Though Chuvalo did
not rate as a puncher, many experts figured he would knock me out. One night
Mickey Alan thought I was joking when I told him I hoped it would be a hard
fight. But I did. I wanted to find out just how much truth there was in the
"china chin" talk. I was actually determined to test it.
If you remember
the fight, it was more than I'd hoped for. Because I had previously injured my
left hand, I could not fight in my usual style, even had I wanted to. I had to
move in, then away, just as Mickey had suggested. I took lots of punishment,
and don't let anyone tell you Chuvalo can't hurt you. That I could take that
kind of beating and some pretty good punches on the chin without going down did
something to me.