That fight was
moved to Toronto because anti-Ali feeling in the United States was so high that
no promoter would touch it here. Although he never said much about it, that
feeling disturbed Ali, who isn't disturbed much by anything. He didn't talk
about it, but I could tell it worked on him. He wasn't as lighthearted and gay
as he had been before.
him—and for me, too—as his popularity fell off here it grew in Europe. The
quotes that made him the villain whenever he fought in the United States
actually made him a hero to the fight fans in foreign countries. We went back
to London to fight Cooper again, and every time Ali walked the streets he was
mobbed by fans wanting his autograph. He had decided to change his image by
then. He wasn't naming the round anymore and he wasn't making up verses so
second Cooper fight nor the fight he had with Brian London was very tough.
Actually, aside from Ernie Terrell and Karl Mildenberger, there weren't any
tough fighters left for Ali by then. He had fought himself out of
Ali cut down on
his food for the second Cooper fight. He wanted to be light to increase his
speed, but I think he cut down too much. He came in at 201�, instead of 210,
212, which was his natural fighting weight. It hurt his punching power, and
that showed in the Mildenberger fight, too. Cooper made a real good fight. He
took the fight to Ali. But Ali made him fall short with a lot of punches and
countering, and once Ali's jabs started finding the range, that was the
I was cautious
about Mildenberger. All you had to do was look at his record to know he was a
good fighter, and I knew that Ali always had trouble with left-handers anyway.
I told Ali he would have to be aware of the right hand, because Mildenberger
was a hell of a right-hand puncher. I worked with him in the gym to get him
moving away from the right. It wasn't natural for him to circle that way,
because he was used to circling just the opposite. But he seemed to pick it up
I brought over a
southpaw from England to work with him, a fellow named Jock Bedell, and Ali
made the adjustment pretty well. Then, at a press conference before the fight,
Mildenberger asked Ali for his autograph, and I figured, "We're home free.
This guy is too awed to fight a good fight."
That only shows
how wrong you can be. Mildenberger fought a great fight. He was appearing
before his home-town fans in Frankfurt and he gave it everything he had until
he got knocked out. I don't think Ali ever had a tougher fight. Of course, he
forgot all about circling away from Mildenberger's right hand and I had to
remind him of it between rounds. That didn't do much good, either. As it turned
out, he beat Mildenberger fighting him wrong, which I suppose is a mark of how
great Ali is. To whip a southpaw, you have to stick him with the left and hook
with the left and rush him, and Ali wasn't doing any of those things. Finally
he got tagged in the belly with a beauty of a right hand and it seemed to snap
him out of it. When he started getting to the German with the right hand, it
was all over.
By the time that
fight was finished, we could fight in the States again, because most of the
uproar over the draft deal had subsided. The fight with Cleveland Williams in
the Astrodome showed that although Ali would still be the villain in any fight
over here no one was going to boycott him just to prove a point.
The fight itself
wasn't much. One thing Ali showed a lot of doubters was that he can punch.
Against Williams he was able to plant himself to throw his punches, and he hit
Cleveland a series as hard as any heavyweight can hit today. When it was over,
a lot of writers who had been saying that Ali was not really a hitter changed
their tune. It seems strange it took them so long, because he has knocked out
all but six of the men he has fought.
Up until then Ali
always had to share the heavyweight championship with Ernie Terrell, at least
in Terrell's mind and in the books of the WBA. I don't think many people took
Terrell seriously as the real heavyweight champion, but it was a nagging sort
of thing. Ali was anxious to fight him, and when we made the fight for the
Astrodome in February of this year he worked hard. He always works hard, but he
put in a little extra for this one.