His trainer for this fight is Harry Wiley, a small and phlegmatic black man who did, indeed, train Sugar Ray for 23 years, and was cornerman for Kid Chocolate and Henry Armstrong.
"He taught me some new tricks," Ali yelled to Angelo. "Seven lef' hooks in a row! Brrrrrrrp!" He made a sound like a machine gun and laughed with the crowd. Now he was warming up, the crowd with him, beginning to dance around the ring, once doing the Ali shuffle.
"This year going to make my whole life," he had said in the morning, very seriously. "What I want to do is buy a 150-unit housing development in Atlanta, Georgia, and I got other things on my mind I want to do. I got other lectures I want to write."
"He looks like he's in pretty good shape," Angelo said, watching him work with one of the two burly sparring partners he has with him, both of whom are more of the style of Joe Frazier than of Jimmy Ellis. "But he was in good shape for Frazier, too. His problem is he isn't concentrating on fighting anymore. The day of the Frazier fight some movie people came to me and said they wanted to shoot some pictures of him for a movie he's doing and I said 'Hell, no!' and the minute I turned my back he's doing the movie bit. On the day of the fight!"
In the ring Ali was fighting flat-footed, not trying to punish his sparring partner. He has never been vicious in the gymnasium; on this hot, humid afternoon he contented himself with producing an occasional flurry of lovely, quick combinations near the end of each round. When he does that, the old Ali is there again, the big arms moving with precise, flickering speed, the jabs snapping back the head of the other man.
Ellis, watching from the back of the hall, shook his head.
"Float like a butterfly?" he said. "He float like a elephant. After this fight they gonna be a new saying about him. Buzz like a buzz saw, fall like a tree!"
For Ellis, this is by far the biggest fight of his life; he has looked forward to meeting Ali for years.
"I don't care if I never win another fight as long as I live—if I win this one," he said. He is not as impressive, physically, as Ali, but there is no hint of fat on him and his body is strong and graceful. "I lived in the shadow of Ali too long," he said. "All those years when I was his sparring partner, he's fighting and beating men I knew I could beat. I guess I been in the ring with him way over a thousand rounds and he never knocked me down and I knocked him down twice. I know everything he do and he ain't gonna change. Nobody gonna teach him any new tricks, no matter what he say. I know how he cover up, I know how he lean back to get his chin out of the way, and when he lean back that way he got his stomach sticking out."
Ellis leaned back, tucking in his chin and sticking out his stomach.