The weigh-in ceremonies for the first Clay-Liston heavyweight championship fight were a mess from the beginning. Clay, then a 22-year-old with the emotional maturity of a Baby LeRoy, had a long record of disturbing the peace at such events. For weeks before the weigh-in he had conducted a loud, tasteless "psychological campaign" against Liston, whom he called the Big Bear, and as the fight approached his tone had grown more and more hysterical, aggravated by predictions that Cassius would be lucky to get off with his life. Anyone with half a brain knew that he would stage some sort of extravagant production at the weigh-in. This, of course, did not include the Miami Beach Boxing Commission, which arranged a setting that was an absolute guarantee of disaster.
As William Faversham observed later: "All they should have done was weigh the fighters in and get them out of there. But they made a great event out of it. They had the scales up on a platform and a chair for each fighter, and the doctor was going to make his medical examination right up there on the platform. This was ridiculous, because it just kept the two of them together longer."
Said Gordon Davidson: "It was so badly handled by the commission. They must have had 500 people crowded into this one room, like a Roman carnival, women and men and sightseers and hangers-on, King Levinsky selling ties—the whole bit. A bad setup."
Both Faversham and Davidson, in their roles as boxing figures, are reminiscent of the cartoon showing the Martian asking a juke box, "What's a pretty girl like you doing in a joint like this?" Faversham, who was then functioning as Clay's "manager" in behalf of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, is a distinguished-looking man of 60, a Harvard alumnus, the son of a legitimate actor and a onetime actor himself. He is now a vice-president of Brown-Forman Distillers (Old Forester, Early Times, among others). Davidson, attorney for the Clay sponsors, is a Yale Law School graduate who worked as Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed's law clerk and is now a tax lawyer and a respected member of Wilson Wyatt's law firm, Wyatt, Grafton & Sloss. As time goes by, Faversham and Davidson find themselves looking back with more and more wonderment on those years when they were escorting the brash young Cassius Clay from fight to fight around the country.
"What we were doing at the Miami Beach weigh-in was mostly worrying," says the big, jovial Faversham in his gravelly voice. "It has its elements of humor now, but I can tell you at the time it was no laughing matter."
Indeed, the arrival at the weigh-in of Clay and his court jester pro tem, Drew (Bundini) Brown, was the beginning of a 12-hour time of trial for the two Louisville men. "Clay walked in wearing his blue denim bear-hunting outfit," Davidson recalls, "and he was hollering, 'I'm ready to rumble!' The two of them, Clay and Bundini, kept walking around the weigh-in room till somebody shooed them to the dressing room. Faversham called me to the platform and he said, 'Gordon, go back to the dressing room and tell Clay that if he causes a scene they're gonna fine him, and it's gonna be his money, not ours. Tell him to behave himself.'
"So I go to the dressing room and there's Bundini, Rudy Clay, two or three other yucks and Angelo Dundee. Clay's lying down on a rubdown table, perfectly relaxed. I said, 'I got a message for you from the corner.' I said, 'If you go in and cut up they're gonna fine you, and it's gonna be your dough and they're gonna hit you pretty good.'
"He says, 'Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it.' So then Bundini starts, 'Well, they can't fine him! They can't fine the greatest!' I said, 'Yes, they can, and he can pay!' "
Out on the weigh-in stage, Faversham fretted. "I was wringing wet waiting for them to come out," he says. "And then we found out that both fighters were dressed, but each was refusing to leave his dressing room until the other did. So I went back to Clay's room and I said, 'Look, Cassius, you're not the champ yet. When you're the champ you can come out last.'
"He said, 'I won't go in there unless he follows me right away. If he keeps me waiting I'm not gonna put up with it.'