The result is
that Ellis' reputation has once again been damaged severely. He shares the
splintered heavyweight title with Joe Frazier; Ellis is the World Boxing
Association champion and Frazier was made in New York. The two are involved in
a battle for public recognition, and Ellis is losing despite the fact that his
record is much more impressive. Ellis needed a big victory over Patterson—say
an early knockout—but he came away from this fight with a disputed success that
exposes him to discredit.
Floyd has no
identity problem. He used to have a few hundred other problems, mostly
imagined, while he rusticated in one of his many retreats in upstate New York.
He is no longer a factor in the heavyweight division, but he still has a
dedicated throng that bleeds with him after each fight. He is to many a classic
anti-hero, while still others marvel at his gentleness in such a mean business.
When Floyd traded punches with Ellis in the 14th round, Ellis went down slowly,
and Floyd, tagged quite well himself, seemed intent on joining Ellis on the
floor. It was not a knockdown, the referee ruled, just a slip. Floyd was not
aware of the ruling, but there he was—good old Floyd—trying desperately to help
Ellis to his feet.
without a doubt, love Patterson and they have all but put a statue of him in
Kungstradgarden. They admire his softness, they claim, but one guesses the
Swedes understand and share the melancholy he exudes. One of the most advanced
societies in the world, the social welfare state of Sweden may be paradise on
earth to many, but the people do not seem to be terribly happy—not even the
army of drunks who are forever falling off bicycles or stumbling around town.
"We think too much," said one Swede. "We sit in the parks all day
and think too much."
The Swedes also
have a lot of foreign company in the parks these days. Many of the American
draft evaders are there and they, too, are doing much thinking. Harold Conrad,
the principal promotional figure in this fight and the one who swayed Patterson
away from retirement, wanted to give the Americans tickets to the fight, but
after a session with his associates in Sports Action he was persuaded that the
gesture might be "bad form." It was highly doubtful anyway that the
Americans could have been lured away from the park and the hashish.
interested in the fight?" one was asked.
Patterson or Ellis turn on?" he wanted to know.
"What do you
think of Sweden?" he was then asked.
soul," he replied. "That's what we think. The people are nice, but
completely spiritless. It makes you sad just being around them."
then, always the wounded introspective, has meaning for the Swedes, but the
extreme sympathy for him is really only sympathy for themselves. Floyd does not
need sympathy anymore. He has money and he no longer is, he says, engaged in
lonely struggle with himself, no longer the kind of person who could get so
tormented that he would have to get out of bed and write his thoughts down or
go into the gym at 3 o'clock in the morning and work out. Ahead is a possible
acting career and behind him—at long last—is a career that helped him conquer
ignorance and a weird childhood, a career that was often shattered and derided,
and finally one that was at once sad, unbelievably comic and altogether