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Two million dollars and change is a lot of gold. That's no lie. But this fight means more to me than the money. The fight itself is that important. When I first started out, money was the thing. That's why a man turns pro—it ain't enough to be good, he wants to get paid for it.
Before Clay and this fight came up, I had that taken care of. I've got money put away so my kids can go to college. There's enough so when they come around and tell me they want new clothes, or music lessons, or "Daddy, I want a motorcycle," I don't have to say sorry, we can't afford it. I won't have to listen to them say, "How come, Daddy? You were a big fighter, you made a lot of money. What happened to all the cash?" But most men, when they start out, have goals. I mean, they going to do this and going to do that. Well, from the beginning, Clay has been the man. The one I wanted to beat. You're never sure you'll ever get there, get to the Big One, but I have. All the goals have been met and now there's one left—Cassius Clay. And I got him March 8th.
From the beginning, this is the fight I wanted. That's all I heard when I was coming up—Clay's this and Clay's that, Clay's the man. When I came from the Olympics he told me, "Come on up, work hard and I'll make you rich." You know what? I came up, I got rich and he got poor. Now I'm making him rich. Ain't that something? I mean, he ought to kiss me. I got him back in the fight game and got him two-and-a-half million dollars besides.
It's funny how life turns. If it weren't for me he wouldn't be a fighter today. He wouldn't have no reason to tie the gloves back on. But all that time he couldn't fight, I kept him alive. I would never say anything bad about him, regardless of what he stands for. If anybody ask me, I have nothing but good to say about him. I tell 'em his religion is his belief. That's his right.
Still, I say he's a loudmouth. He makes a bunch of noise. But I don't see why he wants to talk that I'm a Tom, that I don't stand up for the black man. Sure I stand up for the black man. But the most important thing, I stand up for Joe Frazier. That's where it all begins, each man standing up for himself and looking after his family.
Clay, he makes me laugh. What do he know about hard times? Bigmouthing and loud talk, yeah he's an expert on that, but hard times—that's something else. At least in boxing, everything has been easy for him. He had a white man in the corner and those rich plantation people to back him. A white lawyer kept him out of jail. And he's going to Uncle Tom me. Now, I have a black man as a manager and both white and black people in the group backing me. But long before there was anybody, there was Joe Frazier, working hard, making it on his own. Ever since I came up from the South, in 1961 or '62, I had a steady job. Most of the time it was in the slaughterhouse, hard, long work. Sometimes I had three or four jobs. I got married young, had kids and wanted to take care of them. I wanted to be somebody. Make something of myself. So I'd go to work 4:30 in the morning, work until 6 at night, then go into the gym. Often I'd run at night after I got through. Trying to get my body in shape, sacrifice so as I could make it. I neglected my family a lot, but it was for a good cause, for me and for them.
When I go to training camp, I go to training camp—nothing gets in my way. I've always pushed myself. Like most of my strength came to me long before I began to box. If something was hard, why I'd just make it a little harder, more complicated so that I'd put more in and get more out. That's how I've always trained for fights. Like now I should be really working with three guys maybe three rounds. I don't want to kill myself—leave the fight in the gym—but I want to make things that much more difficult for myself, so when I get to the real thing it will be that much more easy for me. Instead of going three rounds, I'm boxing eight. That is why I perform good in the ring. I work so hard in camp, and punish myself, and then when the bell rings I'm ready. I'm turned on. I hit the smallest speed bag, a peanut bag. No heavyweight uses one that small, and I can run it as long as I want. I roll it, potshot and move it. Everything I do is at speeded-up tempo, to my rock-music time.
I'm going to be in shape for this fight. I'm going to be ready, and I'm going to whup him. That's what this fight will be all about—conditioning. And there's no way he's going to be in better shape than me. Conditioning, that's my thing. But for him to win he'd have to be in much better shape than me, because he has to do two things: 1—move backwards, 2—fight. Me, I only have to fight. It's that simple.
But that ol' Clay is crazy. He's something else. He goes around the country, preaching that so-called black talk. He's a phony. You know what I mean. He calls people ugly. Now what do that have to do with anything? We didn't make ourselves—God made us.
Well, that cat is something else. But he's falling into the same trick bag as all those other guys I fought. Clay says he going to do this to me and do that to me. He's been talking this jive—now he's going to jab me silly. Clay's going to find out one thing. He can't hit with that jab as easy as he think he can. He can throw it. I don't wanna stop him from throwing it, but I can stop it when I want to. If I don't beat him to the punch, then I'll slip it. I'm not going to get away from all of them, you know what I mean. If I have to take a couple of them, sure. But I'm not going to let him bang me around like a punching bag. If he think that, he got another thought. No, it ain't going to be easy. He's good and I'm good, and that's what fights should be about. Me or him.