While watching the movies, he fantasized in his small lakeside cottage about what the night of the fight would be like, how he would look, how jolted the world would be. "I want to shock people, blind 'em," he said.
On the night itself, if he was not shocking, he was certainly astonishing. Would he fight Frazier quickly, he was then asked, or would he need another bout? "I don't know—if he's ready, I'm ready," said Ali, appearing more fatigued and enervated than usual. He was talking of the bout for which the bidding is already up to $2 million.
Most observers clearly approached this fight with wariness, uncertain as to whether they would see the reemergence of the strangest and most lurid comet in sport or the sad, last splutter of its disappearing tail. What they did see was an artist, bringing honor to his craft.