SI Vault
February 22, 1971
"I'm a small piece of leather but I'm well put together, and nobody commands me.... I don't see how he can survive, unless he runs." So says Joe Frazier in a rare interview with Morton Sharnik
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February 22, 1971

I Got A Surprise For Clay

"I'm a small piece of leather but I'm well put together, and nobody commands me.... I don't see how he can survive, unless he runs." So says Joe Frazier in a rare interview with Morton Sharnik

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Now they say Clay is going to challenge me, that he's bigger and stronger and punching hard. Well, I hope he does, but any man is crazy to try it. That's my thing. When they challenge me, that's it. My punches get an inspiration. I hit harder and fight better. I mean, that's what this boxing business is all about—just me and the other guy. That's when it's beautiful. When it's me or him. And Joe Frazier don't ever intend for it to be him. I just get this feeling—you got to go, instead of me.

It's like this. Most every time I step in the ring it seems like I'm challenged. I'm a short heavyweight, and these big guys are thinking and acting like they got the power over me. They command me. Well, see, I can't take that. I'm a small piece of leather but I'm well put together, and nobody commands me—nobody. That's when the feeling comes into my body.

Nobody gets stronger as the fight gets longer, but I pick it up as the fight goes along. The first round, I'm a little tight, and that's when you'll see the other guys doing his thing. Then as I go around, my legs and everything get looser. Look back over my fights and you'll see what I mean. Ellis, Quarry, Buster all had big first rounds, and that's the way it was the last time out with Bob Foster. In the second round I knock him out.

Now Clay's figuring to run. He thinks he can move for five, six, seven or eight rounds and then stick around and do what he wants to do after that. But I got a surprise for him. As long as he moves, I'll stay on him—if I don't do nothing but touch him every now and then just to let him know I'm there. Everywhere he goes in that ring, I'll be there. If he goes left, I'll be with him, and if he moves right—he won't lose me. No, man, he's in trouble. Because sometimes I'll be there to meet him. And if he tries to go side to side, it's no good. Maybe he's O.K. when he moves left, but when he comes right he has to stop and punch, and I'll be waiting, ready to smoke.

I can put pressure on a man and make him fight his own self. Make him throw punches and miss. That's how I did Ellis. Missing takes a lot out of a man. Let Clay ask his friend Jimmy Ellis. Actually, I don't punch until the other guy do, and then I beat him to the body. You see, I'm really a counterpuncher when I go to the body.

Now the ring ain't square like people from the outside think. It's round, but only so big when you're inside. That's what Clay is goin' to discover. First off, I cut the ring in half. Then I keep slicing until there's no room to run and there ain't nothin' to do but fight. I mean, I don't chase, I cut a man off. I'm going to keep cutting the ring on Clay—I'm going to make Clay fight. If he moves, it won't be 'cause he want to, but 'cause I'm making him. I don't see how he's going to survive—unless he runs. And if he does, there's only so long before he gives out. But that's his problem.

He's going to find out that Joe Frazier don't hurt easy and he don't discourage quick. I'm going to make the cat stay down to business. He can keep that pretty head, I don't want it. What I'm going to do is try to pull them kidneys out. I'm going to be at where he lives—in the body. Then I'll be in business, when I get smoking around the body. Watch him—he'll be snatching his pretty head back and I'll let him keep it. Until about the third or fourth round, and then there'll be a difference. He won't be able to take it to the body no more. Now he'll start snatching his sore body away, and then the head will be leaning in. That's when I'll take his head, but then it won't be pretty, or maybe he just won't care.

The man has troubles, I mean he has bad problems. He wants to be pretty as a woman. He wants to be good in his movements and he wants to be heavyweight champion of the world. No way he can do it. If that wasn't enough, the man has to be more famous than a politician, bigger 'n the President. He's the greatest, the biggest in everything he do, and no man can be all those things. He loudmouthed so long and bigtalked so much that he put himself in a box. You know what I mean? The man has to do or die. I think, he's going to die.

Now me, I just want to be the best at boxing. And I'm going to do my best. Give it all I got, do what I ever must to beat Clay. Now I don't like to think about it, 'cause it ain't going to happen. And I never talk about it. But if—if I lose, I'd walk away and never feel bad. I'll tell you why. Because I did all I could, there was nothing more to do. That's it. That's all a man can do.

No, I wouldn't want him back, because the challenge would be gone from boxing. So I'd just go on to somethin' else. Now Clay, what about him? What's he going to do? That's what I mean when I say I'm going to check his mind out. I'm going to put something on him. I'm going to smoke on the man, and what then? What's going to run through his mind when that happens? I think Clay feels something like this: I'm in his way and he has to push me aside. Now I tell you this: in his own mind the man isn't sure he can do it. I feel the same way—except I've been there before. You know what I mean? I've been to the bad wars. As a fighter, I'm together. I've proved I can take a punch, but what about Clay? Is he together- or will he come apart when I put something on him, when I start smoking where he lives? See what I mean?

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