But the long ride
from N'sele to the great stadium in Kinshasa seemed to change Ali's spirits.
The revolving overhead fans were going in his dressing room. Ali came in
blinking, squinting his eyes open and shut like anyone getting up too early in
the morning. He looked at some of the long faces around him and asked,
"What's wrong around here? Everybody scared?"
He said that he
had watched a horror film that evening called Baron of Blood and that had
scared him, kept him right on the edge of his seat, but he wasn't frightened
about what was coming. He scoffed at the thought. "This ain't nothing but
another day in the dramatic life of Muhammad Ali. Scared? A little thing like
this! Do I look scared?" He grinned and put on a mock face of fear, his
eyes rolling. "Nothing much scares me. Horror films. I fear Allah and
thunderstorms and bad plane rides. But this is like another day in the
for his hand and said, "Good luck."
he repeated in derision. "No, man, skill!"
He undressed and
put on a long white ceremonial robe with black trimmings for his ring
appearance. "Look how long and beautiful it is. It's African and everybody
can look at it and tell it's African." Usually Ali wears a robe designed by
Bundini Brown, who now stood by, looking uncomfortable.
robe, Bundini?" Ali asked.
his forward. It was trimmed with the Zaïrian colors and had a map of the
country stitched above the heart. Bundini himself wore a matching jacket.
much better this one looks." Ali spun like a dress model in front of the
mirror. "It's African. Look in the mirror."
With his robe draped over his arm he stared fixedly at the fighter.
Ali slapped him,
the sound quite sharp in the dressing room. "You look when I tell you!
Don't ever do a thing like that." He slapped him again. Bundini stood with
his feet together, swaying slightly, still holding his robe and looking at Ali.
He refused to look at the mirror.