"Mission?" said Bundini scornfully. "Man, of course. What sort of a
man goes huntin' in the big jungle and doesn't know what he's shootin'? My
There was a
commotion outside on the lawn. The Rev. Jesse Jackson of SCLC and Operation
Breadbasket strode into the house—a tall, impressive figure in a buckskin
jacket, with a Martin Luther King medallion as big as a wine-taster's cup
dangling from his neck. He was greeted by a number of admirers, but his face
remained passive and solemn as he moved through the cottage.
"He's a young
prophet," Bundini said. "Prophets recognize prophets. That's why he's
here. This place is sort of a prophet place. The champ and me walk in the woods
in the night, talkin' and thinkin' and throwin' stones, and you can look back
and see the glow of the man, the shine of his eyes and his teeth."
came into the kitchen. He leaned against the sink, and it was evident that for
him the fight that night was a symbolic event of tremendous significance.
"If Cassius loses tonight, Agnew could hold a news conference
tomorrow," Jackson said. "Symbolically, it would suggest that the
forces of blind patriotism are right, that dissent is wrong, that protest means
you don't love the country.... They tried to railroad him. They refused to
believe his testimony about his convictions and his religion. They wouldn't let
him practice his profession. They tried to break his spirit and his body.
Martin Luther King had a song: 'Truth crushed to the earth will rise again.'
That's the black ethos. With Cassius Clay all we had was the hope, the
psychological longing for his return. And it happened! In Georgia, of all
places, and against a white man."
somethin'," Bundini shouted. "The Master Painter from the Far Away
Hills has arranged this. We're raisin' the flag!"
"So there are
tremendous social implications," Jackson went on calmly. "It doesn't
mean that Quarry is a villain. But the focus must be on Clay. He's a hero, and
he carries the same mantle that Joe Louis did against Max Schmeling, or Jesse
Owens when he ran in Hitler's Berlin. Injustice! In Atlanta, I have never
sensed such electricity, such expectation in the streets. For the downtrodden,
they need the high example—that their representatives, the symbol of their own
difficulties, will win. Is that illogical?"
the Frazier fight, if it ever happens?" someone asked.
"This fight is for the people. The night he fight Joe Frazier will be a
different thing altogether. That fight will be for boxin' and for himself, a
personal thing. He win that and we won't have to jive no more."
called from his bedroom. He was stirring and he wanted Bundini to come in and
give him a pep talk. "Let's talk spiritual," he said. Bundini joined
him. Their voices rose from behind the door. Bundini's was much the louder. The
two were arguing. Ali was saying that he wanted a pure knockout that night; he
didn't want the fight stopped because of a cut. If that happened, if he cut his
man, he would go for the kill rather than exploit his advantage carefully. It
would be dangerous, but at least, if he were successful, there'd be no question
mark left in anyone's mind.
Bundini raged at
him. "What are you talkin' 'bout? If you cut that eye you take that eye and
you put it on the canvas if it's necessary, you hear? A champion got to expect
that, you hear? Think of the Quarry camp. Why, that man open a cut on you, and
you think he say, 'Oh, my goodness, what a terrible thing! I cut him! I got to
hurry up and knock him out.' Young man, you got to kick; you got to rumble. You
got to get him in the first round. You got to stick him!"