A WORLD ELSEWHERE
Nat Fleischer, the rather crusty 79-year old editor of The Ring magazine, adamantly refuses to call Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali and has no use for his contention that he should be exempt from military service, but last week The Ring again designated Ali as world heavyweight champion. And Fleischer says it will continue to recognize Ali as such pending the outcome of his appeal. It is, Fleischer explains simply, the just and democratic thing to do.
Last April Ali was precipitously stripped of his title by both the World Boxing Association and the New York State Athletic Commission, and he has not fought since. This is not because he was subsequently convicted of a felony—there are no laws or regulations prohibiting someone who is out on appeal from fighting or, indeed, otherwise earning a living. He has not fought because the few commissions that don't belong to the WBA would not dream of being so unpatriotic as to sanction an Ali fight and Federal District Judge Joe Ingraham of Houston has ruled that Ali cannot leave the U.S. to fight in a country such as Japan.
We tend to forget that Ali is the world champion and that, as Coriolanus said, there is a world elsewhere. As Fleischer points out, The Ring has an international circulation and of the hundreds of letters he has received from all over the world, 90% have been in favor of the magazine's stand on Ali. The 10% that have expressed disapproval have been exclusively from the U.S. They have come largely from the South and Southwest.
Of course, Fleischer's position is almost absurdly idealistic, for the great probability is that it is only a matter of a few months until the intransigent Ali goes to jail and a new champion is crowned. Yet we applaud Fleischer, if for no other reason than that in an age in which what is just is increasingly overwhelmed by what is merely expedient, he has stuck to his guns.
Sixteen months ago, after losing a semifinal match at Wimbledon to Billie Jean King, Margaret Smith declared she was through playing competitive tennis. She retired to a nondescript suburb of Perth in Western Australia and opened a dress shop. Then last summer she became engaged to Barry Court, the son of the deputy premier of Western Australia, and seemed headed for a settled and fashionable life in Perth. Not so. Last week she had another surprise for her Australian tennis followers—she is planning a comeback. Her first tournament appearance will be in the New South Wales championships next month.
"When I retired from competitive play," she says, "I was fed up with tennis, but now things are different. In practice the ball looks as big as a football, whereas when I decided to retire it looked as small as a golf ball. I've not been so keen on tennis for years and I'm very fit." What Margaret is keenest on, no doubt, is the prospect of meeting and beating Billie Jean in the Australian championships in January.
When he appears in pro tournaments, Billy Casper represents a country club in Peacock Gap, Calif., and not long ago Terry Dill putted out, or in, for Mule-shoe, Texas. But next year, when a golfer named U Mya Aye makes his debut on the PGA circuit he will be playing for the Burmese government.