The crowd around him grew and his face began to lighten and he said, "That Ellis is ugly. He so ugly he ought to donate his face to the National Wildlife Bureau." He waited for the laughter to die down with all the sense of timing of an old vaudevillian.
When it had stopped he said, "Me, I'm so pretty they ought to declare my face a national resource."
That morning, lying in bed, he had said, "I don't have to go through the act anymore. Different things intoxicate you different times in your life. You get intoxicated by the wine of success and you want more and more success. You get intoxicated by different things in every stage of life. The child is intoxicated by a toy, the man by a car. All of life is intoxication."
He had begun by speaking quietly, almost inaudibly. but as he went on, his voice grew louder, until finally he was orating.
"What gives you satisfaction and pride one time, the next time may humiliate you," he said. "When you think about it, you say to yourself, 'Why was I such a fool?' You think you must do this thing or that thing, then you find yourself on another road, doing something else. You just floating on the sea of life, the ocean of activity."
He was asked how he felt about the Supreme Court decision that vindicated his position on the draft.
"Blank," he said. "Blank. It's like a man been in chains all his life and suddenly the chains taken off. He don't realize he's free until he get the circulation back in his arms and legs and start to move his fingers. Then all at once he knows the chains gone and he can move about freely again. I don't really think I'm going to know how that feel until I start to travel, go to foreign countries, see those strange people in the street, then I'm gonna know I'm free. But it ain't meant that much to me yet."
His face was still solemn and thoughtful. He is no longer a laughing man in the privacy of his room.
Later, watching Ellis, with more and more of the crowd giving its attention to him, he was different. Ellis finished his workout and Ali said, "Nine rounds. That's all he did. Now I'm gonna do twenty."
Ellis left the ring and walked down the aisle near where Ali was sitting and Ali crouched down behind the seats again. Ellis passed, studiously ignoring him, then whirled and pointed at him and yelled "You!" and Ali grinned.