President Ferdinand Marcos had greeted Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in his private study, a cool, dark place in the Malaca�ang Palace. After talking to the two fighters, the president consented to a private interview with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Mark Kram. He sat behind a big desk, wearing a barong Tagalog, the traditional long Philippine shirt made of banana and pineapple fibers. He said some people were waiting, but there was no need to hurry. It was two days short of the anniversary of the imposition of martial law in the Philippines. The fight—the use of sport to project the image of his country—was important to the President.
Do you have any critical thoughts about Ali vs. Frazier, Mr. President?
No, I intend to remain quiet about the two fighters. They look good, and Ali seems slimmer than I thought. I can't believe he is 229, as the reports say. Can he be really going down to 220?
You look in fine shape yourself, sir.
Well, I exercise every day, and I have to. I was very active when I was in college, and then, too, the doctors insist that I exercise. I don't feel well if I don't exercise.
Have you clone any boxing yourself?
Yes, as a flyweight and then as a bantamweight. I wrestled, too.
Are you especially fond of any one sport?
Well, I was a national champion in shooting. I won the championship when I was 16 and kept it for many years. My shooting got me in trouble. I was once charged with murder, but was acquitted.
What do you think of Ali? Do you think he transcends sports?