He got up and began shadowboxing. "You got to move and stick," he said, sidling quickly around the room, his big left arm jabbing out with speed and precision. "Move and stick. Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop. Quick. Hit him fast, he cain't get away. Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop.
"I hit so much harder now," he said. "I hit Bonavena so hard it jarred his kinfolks all the way back in Argentina. I really hit him. And in the 15th round I hit him harder than Frazier ever could hit him. And I hit him with a left hook. I been working on the left hook so I can hit harder with it.
"Get up," he said to a listener. "Lemme show you."
The man got up reluctantly and Ali reached out with the long left hand and tapped him gently, delicately on the forehead just over his eyebrows. "There's old Joe Frazier," he said. "Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop. He trying to get in and hit me with body punches and while he come in, I'm reaching out here and hitting him in the head like this."
The left hand flicked out a few more times, so carefully directed that the taps an the forehead were just barely feelable. He touched his own forehead and said, "As long as a man can't get to here on me and I can get to here on him [another light tap from the big left hand], he in trouble. He in big trouble. Now he coming in, he get maybe three, four body punches on me, I'm hitting him maybe 20 head shots. You think that doing him any good?
"People say Frazier is so busy throwing punches that he throws more than any other heavyweight. They tell you he's a big Henry Armstrong. Well, he can throw all the punches he wants, he's not in there with a amateur. He's in there with the best professional and the fastest in the history of the whole world. I want for everyone to read what I say 'cause I know how some people are, they try to make up for their bum predictions. No, I'm not putting Joe Frazier down. I'm just telling the truth. Liston was the greatest thing that ever was until I beat him. Then they called him a bum. Before I beat him he was the greatest of all times, badder than Joe Louis. That stare! After I beat him they said aw, he quit. The second time they didn't know what to say. Patterson, well you know Patterson was fast and good and I just played with him. So now Joe Frazier is supposed to be so good. I was defending against Sonny Liston when Joe Frazier came to my camp to see me. There he was, a little old country boy wearing suspenders. Just back from the Olympics. Now he is undefeated. Right—we can't deny that, he's undefeated. He's just whipping everybody. He is the favorite. He is the favorite to whip me! So what I want to say is that Joe Frazier is good, but I want people to say that after I whip him. I don't want them to write poor Joe was this or was that and Ali is this and he ain't that. I want them to say not only was Joe Frazier a great fighter but Ali said just what he would do to him.
"Now Joe Frazier ain't a great fighter to me. He's a great fighter to the fans been reading his clippings. But to me he can't even dance. See, I'm used to watching films of pretty fighters, Sugar Ray Robinson, Johnny Bratton, Kid Gavilan. I watch the action, watch the punches they throw, watch the footwork. These are some of the prettiest and best fights up until myself, I would say. It was hard to be the cameraman. He had to be quick to follow the action, and it's the same way when I fight. You can tell by watching the way the film angles, moves—that's the way it is with me. The difference between me and them is that I don't get it. I don't get hit nearly as much as Robinson, Bratton and Gavilan, and they were masters. It's a race for the camera to keep up. I notice all this when I'm fighting. I notice the cameraman sweating to keep up with my dancing, switching and turning.
"I'll be dancing on March 8. I'll be dancing, moving and hitting, and Frazier won't be able to find me. Joe Frazier will be reaching and straining with those hooks, and they'll get longer and longer, and he'll get more frustrated. Where's Ali? Why won't he stand still? And he'll start lunging and jumping, and that's when I'll be popping and smoking. It's like a horse race or a foot race. One man starts with a five-block head-start 'cause that's what I'll have on Joe Frazier. The first five rounds are mine. He won't be able to reach me. Yeah, he might not be able to find me for five rounds. But I'll be punching him."
He rested a moment, and he was reminded that two years ago he had discussed with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED what would happen if he met Frazier. At that time, he got up in his living room and fought a two-round pantomime bout in which he was knocked down twice in the first round, saved by the bell, then came back to knock Frazier out in the second with a thunderous left-right-left combination. He grinned.
"I ain't going to say what round it will end," he said, more seriously. "I'm a different fighter now, so is he. I train different. I even run different. Now I run maybe a mile, then I sprint, hard as I can run, maybe four or five blocks. What the sprinting do, it gives you speed."