"Gonna be about three weeks before I can start running again," he said. "When I come back, people going to see a better Ali. My footwork will be beautiful, all that speed. Doin' the Ali shuffle, all them things."
He did the Ali shuffle, watching himself out of the corner of his eye in a wall mirror. He looked trimmer than he has recently, although he had not lost any weight on the liquid diet.
"I wasn't following my religion," he said. "I only have to answer to Allah for that. He knows what I was doin' wrong. Goin' to bed at one o'clock in the morning, sleepin' until nine before I got up to run."
Now he was waiting in the small foyer of the Coxson headquarters building, which he said he owned. "Goin' back to the old Golden Glove days," he said. "I was too busy puttin' on a show, talkin', laughin', makin' jokes. When I start trainin' again, all that is out. I'm gonna get up at five, say my prayers and run three miles. Three is enough, I don't need no more than that. Go to bed early, face to the east and say my prayers again. Train up at my camp in the Poconos, just me and my manager and a sweaty gym, like in the old days. I won't let nobody in to see me train but the press, so I'll get right down to business, no more shows."
He looked seriously at his companion, widening his eyes as he sometimes does when he is trying to evaluate the impact of his words.
"I'm more dedicated now than ever," he went on. "This was a test. Allah say, 'Ali, you so great, now you got your jaw broke, now let's see what you can do.' I'm gonna be better than ever. Should be in shape in maybe three months, then I'll give Norton another chance, though he don't really deserve it after barely winning a fight with a man with a broke jaw, a bad ankle and a hurt right hand. I'll bump him off in four rounds, then I'll bump off Frazier in six. I'm just in my prime at 31, know more, still can hit, still got most of my speed. Then I'll fight Foreman, but I won't knock him out. I'll beat him so bad they'll have to stop the fight in the 13th round."
His car—not the Rolls-Royce but a long Lincoln limousine—came around for him and he got in for the short ride to his home in Cherry Hill, a wealthy New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia.
It is a big, Spanish-style house in a predominantly white neighborhood. Lavishly furnished, it is built around an inner patio containing a swimming pool. Ali watches his movies and cartoons in a basement projection room that would do credit to a Hollywood studio.
At home, Ali left boxing for a while to discuss another of his talents—poetry. He has been nominated as a poet in residence at Oxford University, a post to be decided by the vote of Oxford graduates in the near future.
"Yeah," Ali said. "I heard about that. That Oxford a big, famous place?"