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THE MOUTH THAT NEARLY ROARED
Tex Maule
April 23, 1973
His wired jaw kept the decibels down, but the message was clear: Norton, Frazier and Foreman are in trouble. Muhammad Ali will be 'trained' for this comeback and better than ever. That's what he says
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April 23, 1973

The Mouth That Nearly Roared

His wired jaw kept the decibels down, but the message was clear: Norton, Frazier and Foreman are in trouble. Muhammad Ali will be 'trained' for this comeback and better than ever. That's what he says

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" George Foreman," he said, with relish. "He a better boxer than Frazier. He got a good left hand, hits hard, got a good right uppercut, too. But he's too slow on his feet. Don't move around. They tell me he gets tired after five or six rounds, and I can get in shape to dance for 15. So I'll just stick and move and tire him out and that will be the end of George."

He was sticking and moving as he talked, and he began to imitate his old friend Howard Cosell, who has broadcast most of his fights.

"This is gonna be the next big fight," he said. "Me and Foreman. Cosell before the fight, he's gonna be sayin', 'There is the unbelievable Muhammad Ali, the man who came back from a broken jaw to destroy Norton in four rounds, then knock out Joe Frazier in the sixth round.' "

His imitation of Cosell suffered from his inability to catch Cosell's nasal twang, but the timing and heavy accent on key words was perfect.

"Forty-five minutes later," Ali said, "he goin' to be sayin' this: 'Ladies and gentlemen, here is the incomparable Muhammad Ali, who has just chopped up George Foreman. He is the greatest fighter who has ever lived and no one will ever match him.' "

Ali savored the thought.

"Gonna be all those people jumping up in the ring, talking to ever body, tryin' to talk to me," he said, his eyes wide again, seeking belief from his listeners. "Gonna be hollerin', 'You the champ, you the greatest, you best ever lived.' They gonna be right, but I been there and I know how quick they forget. I'll be there, no marks on me, handsome, strong, the best fighter in the world, no marks on me from a fighter who destroyed Frazier."

He shrugged and, as often happens with him, the light dimmed. He has a curious faculty of being hypertalkative for a long time, then his eyelids slip halfway down over his eyes and he seems to go into a trance, thinking of the things he will—or can—do.

That mood lasted briefly before he lit up. "Then, you know what?" he asked, the eyes wide and sparkling. "Cosell gonna come into my dressing room to talk to me. He gonna say, 'Here's the greatest! They had to stop the fight in the 13th round because he was giving Foreman such an unbelievable beating. Champ, what have you got to say?" Then he's gonna stick that microphone in my face and I'm gonna say, 'Git away from me, sucker. I don't want to talk to you after all you say about me bein' washed up. I don't want to talk to you, sucker.' "

He laughed, thinking about that scene. He is sure it will happen. It could, except for the spurned microphone. The Mouth never could give up an opportunity to talk, broken jaw or not.

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