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"Oh yeah, it was the second," the Big Bamboo said gratefully. "To be in there with George Foreman and get away from his shots is very difficult. His hands are very fast. He punches...." He paused. "Oh, mon," he said in his natural lilt, which sounds almost Scottish. "To box with George you must get low and very close. He's dangerous at far range. If I ever fight him again, I'd fight him much closer." He looked very dubious about the possibility. "Yeah," he suddenly said brightly. "It was the second round. Sure, mon, it was." The Big Bamboo really seemed quite pleased with himself.
The Foreman camp has an odd gypsy air about it. It is full of soothsayers, dreamers, tea-leaf readers as well as self-styled motivators, who give a desperate quality to the Foreman enterprise, as if they were going to rely largely on a Jovian thunderbolt arching down from the hills to dispatch the champion. For example, Doc Broadus, the man who first tied the gloves on Foreman when he was in the Job Corps, told about a dream he'd had in which Foreman knocked out Frazier between the first round and the seventh; he hoped to have another dream before the fight to narrow that down somewhat. Archie Moore dreamed that it was going to be between the first and the fifth, and he said this morning that he'd asked Foreman to pick a number between one and five and Foreman had picked four. "So the knockout will take place in the fourth round," Archie said. He was very positive about it.
This gypsy atmosphere is certainly encouraged by the most important member of the Foreman entourage, Dick Sadler, the fighter's manager, who is a small round man of excessive carnival tendencies. Endowed with a husky circus barker's voice, he is driven by a compulsive need to entertain, a comic figure essentially, who often doffs his golfing hat in theatrical gestures, takes bows and makes curtsies. He breaks into a soft-shoe at unexpected moments, as if his feet were independent and dance-prone; in the Pub, which is the bar of the Skyline Hotel where Foreman is quartered, he sits at the upright piano in the late hours and plays splendid Fats Waller interpretations, with a few bawdy songs thrown in, all of which is greeted with tumultuous applause by Foreman supporters, a sound that must drift up the facade of the luxury hotel to where the challenger is trying to sleep on the top floor. What can he make of it all?
Even Sandy Saddler seems divorced from the boxing world. Thin as a stick, with black hair lacquered smooth against his skull, a gold religious medal hanging from his neck, he wears such a big easy smile that one forgets that in the ring 20 years ago he was as savage a fighter as ever lived. And Archie Moore, his partner, knocked out more people than any other fighter in the record books.
On Archie's bureau was a red rubber mouse, the type that squeaks when pressed. "George and I play Ping-Pong," Moore said, "and at certain points during the game we play for the mouse. The loser of the point has to pick up the mouse right there at the table and squeak it. That's right. Man or mouse. It's a good mental exercise. Every fighter must have a belief that he can do anything he wants. The mouse is helping." Moore picked it up and squeaked it. "I like the man who puts priorities in perspective. I like a man who wants to win the championship of the world."
Drew (Bundini) Brown went to see George Foreman in his last workout. He is Muhammad Ali's noted associate, an ebullient handler who made up the slogan "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He favors Joe Frazier in this fight, since a Frazier victory will clean up the top of the heavyweight slate and leave a simple confrontation between Frazier and Ali that can only be resolved by a second "Fight of the Century." But Bundini likes Foreman and his style as a human, if not as a fighter, and the expediency of supporting Frazier has been difficult. In Foreman's dressing room Bundini watched Archie Moore tape the challenger's hands for his workout on the heavy bag. Bundini had never seen so much protective tape and gauze and bandage used.
"I think maybe his hands is broken," he whispered.
Dick Sadler and Bundini began talking about the hardest punches they had ever seen thrown. Both of them agreed that one of them was Rocky Marciano's hit on Ezzard Charles in their last fight—a blow, as Bundini described it, that landed under "the goozle pipe...which swole up so the neck and chin became the same." Throughout this Foreman remained quiet, watching Moore put on the tape.
Out in the gym it was Foreman's work on the big bag that was eye-catching, to say the least. He worked against a target held motionless, measuring every blow, and the concussive sound of each punch echoed in the vast gym.
Dick Sadler held the big bag for him, both arms clasped around it like a sailor clutching the mainmast in a hurricane, leaning into it, and when Foreman landed his enormous socking punches Sadler was jolted back and his white hat bounced slightly on his head. He wore a look of considerable foreboding as he held the bag. as if the force hitting it was ultimately unearthly and uncontainable. The drill was immensely impressive and brought to mind Sonny Liston's camps. One came away from them with an equivalent sense of a fighter's invincibility.