"I'm against all war," he said. "I'm not following anybody. I said this before all this draft-card burning stuff. I still got my draft card. I made a speech at a white college in Buffalo, N.Y. and when I got to the room where I was gonna talk they had 34 signs stuck up on the walls and behind the platform. Signs said things like 'LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?' So I told the man who invited me there I wouldn't talk until they took all the signs down. They took them down. I'm not criticizing the government I'm asking to give me justice. I'm against all war."
If Ali's appeals fail, he faces up to five years in the penitentiary, and he considers this possibility with philosophical calm.
"The Koran says you must be tested," he said. "God will try you. He tried Job and He tried Abraham and He tried Elijah Muhammad, too. Elijah spent three years in prison during the war, studying. If I was in jail tomorrow, I'd study and preach to the other prisoners. The loneliness and the confinement and the food, that would all be a test. But a man who believes in a Supreme Being does not fear."
He shrugged the huge shoulders and smiled. "I'm prepared," he said. "I'm thinking ahead. You see that pretty young wife. I'll have one child, maybe two before I go to jail. Then, during the years I'm in jail, they'll be getting bigger, so when I get out I'll already have them and I won't be starting at 30. And my wife will still be young."
"I don't know if I'll be able to fight," Ali said. "I mean I'll have to see what the food is like. Right now I'm 219, so I'm not far out of shape. I work so hard on these sermons and studying, I don't have time to do any exercise. The other day I ran four miles just to check my wind, and my wind was good but I got awful tired. If it was urgent, I could get in fighting shape in maybe three weeks. Seven weeks would be better."
Ali feels that Jimmy Ellis is the best of the pretenders to his throne.
"He used to give me hell for four or five rounds in the gym," he said. "He moves good, hits good with the right hand. And he's had all that experience as my sparring partner. He can whip the other ones. Joe Frazier? He's like this."
Ali got up and imitated Frazier, moving in with his hands up near his face.
"He gets hit," he said. " Jerry Quarry I don't know," he said. "But I think Ellis will beat him."
He was up now, moving around the living room, shadowboxing.