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Watching the Man in the Mirror
George Plimpton
November 23, 1970
Though millions saw Muhammad Ali return to the ring after years of exile, none had a closer view than this old friend. An eloquent diary of the day in Atlanta—and how it all added up to more than a mere exchange of punches
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November 23, 1970

Watching The Man In The Mirror

Though millions saw Muhammad Ali return to the ring after years of exile, none had a closer view than this old friend. An eloquent diary of the day in Atlanta—and how it all added up to more than a mere exchange of punches

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"Your man's in for a new experience," Ali said. "He's up against the fastest heavyweight alive, quick and trim. Look at that." He slapped his belly. "Look how pretty and slim."

"You won't be when Jerry finishes," Ketchum said. "I know he's going to hit you."

"How's he goin' to do that?" Ali looked genuinely surprised. "Angelo, how can he get away from the jab? How will he ever see it?"

Dundee shrugged. He motioned Ali to the rubbing table and began the taping of his hands.

Ketchum challenged Ali: "And if Jerry moves in on you, throwing the big ones? Ho ho."

"He goin' to get hit right in the banana," Ali said crisply. "He never seen a right like that."

"If you beat Quarry tonight, you are the greatest heavyweight who ever lived," Ketchum said, and he added with attempted sarcasm, "Yeah, and if that happens I'll come in here and kiss you."

"Oh, my, no," said Ali. He looked at the taped hand Dundee had finished. "Hey," he said. "We will give you guys $500,000, cash, if you let me put a horseshoe in my gloves."

Ketchum blinked. "Aw," he said.

Dundee finished the taping, and Ketchum leaned over and crisscrossed the tape with pen strokes. When he stepped back, Ali stood up and moved close to stare into Ketchum's eyes. Ketchum is a tall man; standing, they braced each other, like fighters getting instructions from the referee. "Look into my eyes," Ali said. "I'm the real heavyweight. I am the fastest heavyweight that ever lived."

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