"Don't jump now," Ellis said. "You better jump when you get in the ring."
"You in trouble," Ali said. "Without no endurance, come July 26, you better up your insurance." He listened to the laughter of the crowd with pleasure, then went to dress for his own workout.
In the morning there had been no signs of lightheartedness.
"You only live in the present," he had said. "The past is a dream and the future is a mist. The great moments pass away. What amuses man is to be puzzled, not to know the outcome of a boxing match or a baseball game. A man is never satisfied. First they had to make a car, then that wasn't enough, so they made an airplane and that wasn't enough, so they had to land on the moon."
In the old days he used to indulge his imagination on flights like this, surreptitiously eyeing his audience to see if they were buying his put-on. Now he was perfectly serious.
Someone asked him about the fight, if he took Ellis seriously, and he frowned. He did not want to talk about the fight.
"It's not the same anymore," he said. "Used to be, before the Liston fights, all I thought about was fight, fight, fight, be the greatest, be the champion. Now it's like I go to work, put in eight hours a day, do my job. I got other things on my mind, heavy things."
In the afternoon, in public, he wore the mask of the old Ali. When he got in the ring, with a crowd of some 200 watching him, he leaned on the ropes for a few minutes, looking at the people, sweating from 10 rounds on the light and heavy bags. He seemed fit, but there was still a smudge of fat blurring the outlines of the heavy muscles in his upper body.
Angelo Dundee, who has trained Ellis and Ali in almost all of their fights, is training Ellis for this one, since he is both manager and trainer for Ellis and he was only trainer for Ali. Dundee was standing in the back of the auditorium and Ali waved at him.
"Angelo Dundee!" he said. "People ask me do I miss Angelo Dundee. Naw, I don't miss Angelo Dundee! All he got is the connection and the complexion. Now I got a trainer took Sugar Ray Robinson as a barefoot little boy in Harlem, made him into almost as great a champion as me. Only reason he ain't got the reputation is because he colored."