Rahaman's suitcase and produced his protector, a black model marked
"Standard." Ali looked at it warily. He turned to the mirrors and began
some light shadowboxing, exhaling sharply with each punch thrown—a hard,
distinctive, explosive snuffle. He does this in the ring as well, a habit
common to many fighters and one which Ali has practiced from his earliest days.
He compares it to the sharp exhalation that karate fighters make as they chop
at their opponents.
Bundini was asked
if Sugar Ray Robinson, always Ali's great idol, had the same habit. Bundini was
out of sorts. He was angry about the protector and worried that Ali would
refuse to wear his brother's. "Nah," he said, "he didn't make no
noise like that. He made faces. Every punch, he made a face."
exercising very easily, stopped and left the dressing room for the lavatory.
There were 40 minutes to go.
On the way back
he passed his opponent's dressing room, just a step down the corridor from his
own. It had a hand-lettered notice—QUARRY—tacked to the door. Ali could not
resist the temptation. He pushed the door open and peered in. Quarry was
sitting facing him, his knees jiggling, and he looked up.
Ali said in a sepulchral voice, "you best be in good shape, because if you
whup me, you've whupped the greatest fighter in the whole wide world."
He clicked the
door shut before Quarry could come up with a reply, and back in his own
dressing room he described what he had done with impish pleasure. It had been a
ploy of a type that delights him—the unexpected materialization. On one
occasion last year, driving through Queens with a reporter, he had stopped the
car and tiptoed up behind a truck driver changing a tire. "I hear you're
talking around town that you can whup me," Ali said. "Well, here I
driver's ears had turned a quick red, and he spun on his haunches to stand up.
Then, seeing Ali and recognizing him, his jaw dropped and he froze in a curious
half stoop, the tire iron clattering from his hand. Ali grinned at him and
stepped back to his car. It was the speculation of what happened afterward that
caught Ali's fancy, how the truck driver would come home that evening and look
across the kitchen table at his wife and say, "Hey, Martha, I was changing
a tire today.... I know you're not going to believe this, but I was changing
At five minutes
of 10, with 35 minutes to go, Ali was lying on the table getting a rubdown from
Luis Sarria, a melancholy Cuban who has been in Dundee's employ for 10 years
and does not speak a word of English. "Tell him to rub harder," Ali
With a half hour
to go a representative from Quarry's camp—Willie Ketchum—turned up in the
dressing room to oversee the taping of Ali's hands. Ketchum had a towel over
one shoulder of his Quarry jacket, and his jaws worked evenly on a piece of
gum. Ali's eyes sparkled. "Well, look who's here," he said. "You
all in trouble tonight."
trouble?" Ketchum said. He knew he was in for some badgering.