Quodlibet, which is Latin for "as you please," was the term used by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages to designate the subtle questions of casuistry on which they flaunted their dialectical skill. "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" is a quodlibet. "Whether a chimera ruminating in a vacuum devoureth second intentions" is a quodlibet. And so, perhaps, is "How can Floyd Patterson defeat Cassius Clay on November 22 in the Las Vegas Convention Center without a baseball bat and two rolls of quarters?"
But if, coincidentally, Clay (see cover), that marvelous, whimsical, overweening and—when he turns the volume down—charming young man, takes Patterson too lightly, and Patterson, who often seems enfeebled by one obscure punch or another, can again fight at the top of his memorable form, then Floyd could win it. It says here. Indeed. The first possibility is what has Angelo Dundee, who serves as Clay's manager, despairing in the long corridors of the El Morocco Motel, where, appropriately, Mohammad Ali, as Clay publicly insists on being called, and his largely Black Muslim retinue are encamped. "I can't dissect my guy's mind," Angelo says. "He may be taking the other guy cheap. The champ keeps asking me, 'You think I'm the greatest?' I tell him, 'Yes, only one guy can lick you—you.' Great fighters have a tendency to do it—to lick themselves. I've briefed and baptized him and rebaptized him and rebriefed him. Don't low-rate Mr. Patterson."
What's bugging Angelo is Clay's possibly frivolous assertion that the fight is going to go six or seven rounds, so that l) there will be enough time to properly humiliate Patterson, 2) he can show the people how beautifully he can fight and 3) he can enjoy the movie. "I never look at the second Liston fight," Clay says. "It's only half a reel. There's nothing to see. I want something to holler and rejoice over."
These niceties are lost on Angelo. "Look, friend," he says, "if it goes 11 seconds, let it go 11 seconds. Liston's given me the key—a strong left hand. Left jab, hook off it, left uppercut. Right uppercut when Mr. Patterson lunges. My guy's going to surround him. Listen, my guy's got an uppercut, if he hit Mr. Patterson on the chinski with it, it's all cheroot. It's all over, Daddy."
The other morning Clay expounded on these and related subjects dear to him. He was lounging in bed at the El Morocco, braying into a pair of microphones that rested on his bare chest. His personal photographer, Howard Bingham, was asleep in the other bed. The man they call Cap'n Sam, who is the secular head of the Miami mosque and makes like Clay's bodyguard, sat attentively in a chair, as though he might be called upon to recite. "Witness this annihilation in your local theater," Clay was saying. "I'm the fastest in the torritory. In the torritery. In the territory.." He then bum-bummed a few bars of the Dead March from Saul. He was cutting a tape for a radio spot on his stereo recorder. He played it back, and the voice faithfully issuing from the twin speakers must have made him feel warm all over. He smiled broadly and winked.
"I don't want the rabbit to make a quick million dollars," Clay said, commencing his exordium. Clay rarely converses. He communicates with his entourage in kind of click language. The rest of the time he harangues—great, fantastic, inflective, nonstop orations, on the order of Dr. Castro's. "I want to punish him. To cause him pain," Clay said. "You find out what a person don't like, then you give it to him. He don't like to be embarrassed, because he has so much pride, so I'm going to make him ashamed. He is going to suffer serious chastisement. The man picked the wrong time to start talking to the wrong man. When Floyd talks about me he puts himself on a universal spot. We don't consider the Muslims [Clay pronounces it Mooslims] have the title any more than the Baptists thought they had it when Joe Louis was champ. Does he think I'm going to be ignorant enough to attack his religion? I got so many Catholic friends of all races. And who's me to be an authority on the Catholic religion? Why should I act like a fool? He says he's going to bring the title back to America. I act like I belong to America more than he do. I represented it beautiful in Scotland. I never wink at a woman or go out of a hotel after dark. See, I'm no bogeyman, like they say. Why should I let one old Negro make a fool of me? Floyd would be smart to come out and make a national apology. I've got an unseen power going for me. There'll be almost 4 billion Muslims praying for their brother in Islam. We've got sympathizers in his own camp. How is he going to buck all this? This little, old, dumb pork chop eater don't have a chance. From eating pork he's got trillions of maggots and worms settling in his joints. He may even eat slime of the sea.
"Every stone is a boost. Elijah Mohammad, who speaks directly to God, tells a parable from the Bible or someplace about a donkey lying in a ditch, and all the people who pass throw stones at it. Well, pretty soon the ditch is filled with stones, and the donkey walks out. Floyd's making me double strong. I can fight under pressure, too. When I've been knocked down, something makes me get up and fight. I'm not going to rush myself. This is going to be a beautiful fight. The people are going to see more of me. I'm going to show off, look pretty. I'm so elusive they ain't seen nothing yet. The ring's going to look like it got a gate on each corner. I got some new footwork called the chicken scratch."
Clay sprang, naked, out of bed and demonstrated the chicken scratch, which is a nifty, rapid, back-and-forth shuffle performed in place. Clay also claims he has a new weapon called the linger-on punch, the invention of which he attributes to Stepin Fetchit, a perplexing member of his retinue. Step allegedly dreamed up the anchor punch, too, which dropped on Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Me. Says Clay: "The linger-on punch is fired like the anchor punch, but it is a little slower. It don't knock him out. It dazes him. It keeps him numb. It's a push right hand. It's fast, but it's more of a push, and it has more twist. Before the first round is over, people will say, 'Forget it.' It's going to look like a father beating up on his son. I got superior height, weight, balance, reach, speed, strength and youth. I'm going to keep my distance, keep off him. Then bounce in on him. Two jabs. Bip, bip. Circle over here. Jab four times, hit him with a hook, back off. Walk in on him and grab him. Grab his little self and walk with him."
Clay told Cap'n Sam, who goes about 205, to stand up. Clay then clinched with him and manhandled him about the motel room. "You strong," said Cap'n Sam. "It takes a lot out of a man, straining like that," Clay said. "When he lets go, he's winded. You don't get that tired leaning on him. 'Oh, Rabbit, I just hit you seven times. Watch this jab, Rabbit. Bip, bip, bip. Don't get tired, Rabbit. If you fall down, I'm going to pick you up.' I'm going to make him punch, make him wrassle. A lot of times I'm going to let him punch me in the body. I can afford to let him tire himself out beating on my body. I'd be a fool to try to knock him out in one round. I might wear myself out. But Archie Moore told me, 'Don't go out and dance around.' Soon as the bell rings.... "Here, Sam, you be the Rabbit. Turn your back and bob up and down like he does. Bing. I'm in his corner before he's hardly off the stool, like I was in Lewiston, Me." Clay stalked across the carpet and, as Cap'n Sam turned, uncorked a right. "Wouldn't it crack the people up if I did the chicken scratch before I dropped him with a right lead?" Clay said. "Wouldn't that be pretty? Me in my white shoes. I'm going to point before I do it. Point at the spot where he's going to fall. That would be history, wouldn't it? But wouldn't it be hell if he read this and left town before the fight?
"When he's lying there, I'm going to stick a carrot in his mouth, a carrot with some green on it. 'Nibble on it, Rabbit,' I'll tell him. Don't you think that'll make him leave the country? I'm going to hit him so hard it'll jar his kin-' folk in Africa. Before he fights me again, he'd rather run through hell in a gasoline sport coat. He'd rather shave a lion with a dull blade. He will be beat so bad, he will need a shoe horn to put his hat on. How many days did it take God to make the world? Six. He had his pleasures and his work for six days. Since Patterson loves boxing so, I'm going to give him pleasure for six rounds, which symbolizes six days. On the seventh, I'm going to give him his rest."