- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Before this fight there were a lot of Muslim hangers-on around the camp. Some of them tried to tell Herbert Muhammad that Ali wasn't in shape and should box more, but I said that he had boxed all he needed to. I said, if you want him to box, he can, but he's in shape. Herbert did not interfere with his training in any way, either then or since then. He's a good business manager, and he leaves the training to me.
I didn't have any doubt that Ali could whip Terrell. He had used Ernie as a sparring partner before he fought Duke Sabedong, back in 1961, and he had trouble coping with Ernie's height and experience, but that was before Ali's seventh professional bout and he had learned a lot since then. I knew if Ernie would fight his usual open style, Ali would knock him out. He could let the left go over his shoulder and counter with the right, and he does that as well as any fighter I ever had, so I wasn't worried at all.
As it turned out, Ali never could open Terrell up. Ernie fought a smart fight but he never had Ali in any kind of trouble. There was a lot of criticism after the fight because Ali talked to him and asked him, "What's my name?" and taunted him, but that was a part of the battle plan. He was trying to get Ernie mad and make him open up, but Terrell was too smart for that. He stayed in his shell and lasted the route, which was all he wanted to do anyway, I would guess.
The last fight we had was in New York, against Zora Folley. In some ways it was the best fight Ali made, because Folley was a smart man and a thoughtful one in the ring. He was the only fighter we ever met who managed to cut the ring in half on Ali. He'd shuffle from one side to the other when Ali circled and he'd be there, right in front of Ali. A lot of fighters tried that, but they weren't smart or quick enough to do it.
Then Folley surprised us by using a left jab to the belly. This was a tactic that quite a few fighters threatened to use, but no one else ever did. It looks as if it should be effective, because when Ali leans back from a left jab to the head, his belly comes forward. So if you fake the jab to the head and then come in to the stomach you should be able to reach him. Folley did reach him a few times, but after a while it was because Ali wanted him to. Ali was waiting to set him up for a right over that low left hand, and finally he hit Folley with a shot and down he went. When he knocked Folley out he hit him real quick with two right hands—the first one stopped Folley in mid-air and the second one hit him on the way down. They were thrown that fast.
Well, the way it looks right now, that was the last fight anyone will see Ali in for a long time. I'm not in any position to say what was right and what was wrong about his stand on the draft. All I know is that he was sincere about it and that it cost him a heck of a lot more to stick with what he believes than it will ever cost most men. When he refused to take that step forward, everybody rushed in to say he wasn't the heavyweight champion of the world anymore. I don't see what his stand on the draft has to do with how he fights.
But he won't change. I'll say this: if you took two to five years out of the middle of the fighting life of most men, it would finish them as serious fighters. You could see that in the champions who went into service and then came back to the ring. Joe Louis was never the same after World War II as he was before, and Georgie Abrams, who was a great fighter before the war, lost his edge completely.
But I think Ali, if he does have to go to jail, may be the exception to the rule. He's still maybe a year away from physical maturity, even though he's 25 now. He's grown taller every year I have known him, and heavier. I think he'll be 6-4 and 220 in fighting shape when he's grown up.
He's egotistical about his physique. Fat is a dirty word to Ali. He would work out in a telephone booth if he had to, so I guess he would manage to stay in shape in jail if he were given any opportunity at all. He's capable of fighting well until he's 35 years old, anyway. That would give him a good five years, under the worst circumstances, and maybe eight or more if he doesn't get too bad a rap. He would come out of jail still the best fighter in the world, because he's too young to lose the speed and reflexes that make him one of a kind.
Of course, some fighters would be destroyed psychologically by the trials he's going through, but I don't think he will be. I said before that nothing really disturbs him. He's faced so many roadblocks in his life that this will be just another episode to him and he'll overcome it just the way he did all the rest. If he goes to jail he'll come out as serene and sure of himself as he went in.