He walks over to the wagon, lifts a flap of wood and he sees hundreds of termites. "Eeeeeeee," he screams. "They goin' at my wagon!" Immediately, four cans of poisonous spray are produced and Ali and three others, choking and spraying furiously, erase the termites.
A fight camp can tell much about fighters. The atmosphere of where they work carries their personality, conveys sometimes what is on their minds. One watches the way a fighter treats his help, studies the people who have his ear, looks at all the small things until a picture evolves. It seldom has much to do with the fight itself, but it will help to solve the puzzle of a man. A word can describe some camps. Floyd Patterson: Hamlet. Sonny Liston: hostility. Dick Tiger: simplicity. Sugar Ray: tension. Joe Frazier: industry.
Frantic used to be the perfect word for Ali's camp, especially in the past year or so. It was not in his nature to train, to be forever alone with the hard facts of the ring. "Never trained more than three weeks for Liston, never trained more than three weeks for Frazier," says Ali. "Been up here now 14 weeks." That old element of intrigue—who was in, who was out—along with Ali's sometimes cruel ego is barely noticeable now. "There no little yous 'round him now," says Bundini. "He say we all the same." Walking through the place, Ali's own camp, listening to kids crying, screen doors banging, smelling the corn bread in the air, one is not certain whether Ali is a gifted stage manager or truly a new man.
The wagon is usually the first stop when he conducts a tour of his camp. Then comes the mess hall, which is the province of his Aunt Coretta, the cook who is backed up by a large sign on the wall that reads:
Rules For My Kitchen.
1. Please to keepe out, except on express permission of cooke.
2. COOKE. Shall designate pot scourers pan polishers peelers scrapers and COOKE has supreme AUTHORITY AT ALL TIMES.
3. No remarks at all will be tolerated concerning blackening of toast the weakness of soupe or the strength of the garlic stewe.
4. What goes in stews and soups is Nobody's Damn Business.
5. If you must stick your finger in something stick it in the garbage disposal.