The Skeptic: Oh,
my God, look! They have given it to Muhammad Ali! That Greek vase of theirs to
him. Look at him there on the cover, cavorting about in a tuxedo and wearing a
That's a rented tuxedo. He's only got about three suits.
How do you know a thing like that?
W: Well, I'm sort
of a student...
S: You mean
you're a boxer?
W: No, I spend a
lot of time studying Muhammad Ali. He can become a fixation with someone who
writes, perhaps because he may be the most astonishing athlete of our time.
Charismatic. Talented. Outspoken. Possibly of tragic stature.
Unpredictable—both in the ring and out. You never know whether he's going to
come in fat or lean, or what sort of fight he has in mind. The only sure bet is
that you're going to be surprised. Even his opponents can never be sure what
he's going to do. In the second Liston fight, Ali was going to whip a red
bullfight muleta out of his boxing trunks and wave it at Sonny in the first
S: Well, the
guy's a nut.
W:...but at the
last moment Ali forgot the muleta. I mean where does one buy a muleta in
Lewiston, Maine? But then Ali's behavior outside the ring is just as
controversial; it has made him a historical as well as a sports figure. I would
think that anyone with young grandchildren coming along had better be prepared
one day to answer, "Tell me about Muhammad Ali." Of course, even then
Ali could very well still be heavyweight champion of the world.
S: Fat chance!
Did you think he was going to win in Za�re?
W: Truthfully, I
was among those frightened for him. George Foreman seemed just too awesome.
Archie Moore, who was working in Foreman's corner, told me that just before
going out to the ring, Foreman joined hands in his dressing room with his
boxing trust—Dick Sadler, Sandy Saddler and Archie—in a sort of prayer ritual
that they had practiced since Foreman became champion in Jamaica with his
victory over Joe Frazier. They had done it in Caracas, Venezuela before Foreman
knocked out Ken Norton in the second round. Now they were holding hands again
in Za�re, and Archie Moore, who had his head bowed, found himself thinking that
he should pray for Muhammad Ali's safety. Here's what he said: "I was
praying, and in great sincerity, that George wouldn't kill Ali. I really felt
that was a possibility. George truly doesn't know his own strength."