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JAWFUL TEST ON THE MOUNTAIN
Mark Kram
September 03, 1973
Muhammad Ali took it on the chin for real and felt no ill effects from his recent fracture. Training hard and seriously at his hillside retreat, he is still king of his clique and future champion of all he surveys
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September 03, 1973

Jawful Test On The Mountain

Muhammad Ali took it on the chin for real and felt no ill effects from his recent fracture. Training hard and seriously at his hillside retreat, he is still king of his clique and future champion of all he surveys

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6. Don't critize the coffee you may be old and weak yourself some day.

7. Anyone bringing guests in for dinner without PRIOR NOTICE will be awarded whacks on the skull with sharpe object.

8. Please waite Rome wasn't burnt in a day and it take awhile to burne a ROASTE.

9. If you must pinche something in this KYTCHEN PINCHE the COOKE.

10. This is my kitchen if you don't believe it START SOMETHING.

The rules were the work of Ali's father, who is a sign painter; they are here as they appear on the wall. Fortunately, for the safety of Ali and his Muslim brethren, who are all over the place at his camp, the father had nothing to do with the housing on the mountain. The camp, which has cost Ali roughly $200,000, contains four buildings constructed of pine trees and cement: a fine gym, a bunkhouse for the help, the mess hall and Ali's house. Ali calls the camp Fighter's Heaven. "A real place," he says, "a valid place for fighters to come and work and sweat like fighters should, not like all those places with chandeliers and thick carpets and all those pretty girls around."

Work begins early on the mountain. Ali is the first one up at 4:30, and the first thing he does is go to a massive bell that stands high over the camp. "I didn't want to sell it to him," says the man from whom he bought it, "but he wouldn't leave me be. He can be a charmer." The bell, says Ali, "cost $2,500, and it was made in 1896. It's a valid bell." After the bell is rung, awakening his trainers, he hits the road for four miles, with the headlights of a car showing the way through the possums and rabbits. "They nice to see," he says. He then returns to the kitchen where he poaches six eggs "from my own chickens."

After breakfast he picks up an ax and cuts down a couple of trees. "They not pine, they oak!" Ali says. He has been cutting down these trees, 85 in all, since January, and his camp is quite proud of the fact that he has busted one ax and dulled five others. "I'm borrowin' my strength from the trees," he says. Later, in the evening, he usually relaxes by watching films sent up to him by Jim Aubrey of MGM, or he may just sit quietly with Belinda in an old surrey, the two of them all alone looking down and out over the rolling hills. She then goes to her room, and he to his.

"I'm goin' to spend maybe the rest of my life up here," says Ali. "After I beat that sucker Norton and then Foreman, wherever he is, and old Joe Frazier, who I feel sorry for 'cause I think I made him sick. Right over there near my bell I'm gonna build an old log cabin. It's goin' to be made of 200 telephone poles. They gonna cost $85 each, and there ain't gonna be a piece of cement anywhere on 'em. Inside, there's goin' to be a potbellied stove and lanterns...nooooo electricity. And there's goin' to be a pump so I kin drink real water. And there ain't nobody gonna make me leave my mountain."

As he walks along, past his luxurious bus and Rolls-Royce, it is hard not to be amused by the juxtaposition of them to his new discovery of nature. It is hard to accept his valid and real camp for more than it is, an elaborate motivational prop designed for this most vital comeback against Norton, one that will mean so much to him emotionally and financially. Yet, something is astir within him, and it is quite clear when he talks of pyramids and the moon and bones in Africa, "how trillions of years old they all are," when he talks of all the people gone forever, "mothers and fathers you loved and big names like Nat King Cole...Dinah Washington...Sam Cooke."

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