Those were the
last words Sadler and I ever spoke on the subject. After that fight I would
never work with him again.
It wasn't a
question of firing the man. I hire people to work for one fight at a time,
anyway, and at the end we can walk away or stay together. But there you
go—Sadler went to work for Ali before the Manila fight with Frazier. He's one
of Ali's trainers now. And I'm not so much frustrated as I am sorry.
So that was the
fight, and the title. But let's go back now just a little bit further. I should
have flown right out of Africa soon as I got my eye cut. Even if it would have
cost me $20 million, I should have left that place. About a week before the big
fight I was sparring against one of my partners. I knocked him into the ropes,
and he threw up an elbow to defend himself. I felt something wet in my right
cut," I told Sadler.
Forget it," he said.
cut!" I said.
I got out of the
ring and we put a butterfly tape on the cut to hold it together. This official,
he was the head of the boxing program for the country of Za�re, came in. He
told Sadler not to say anything about the accident. The official wanted us to
go ahead like nothing had ever happened. He was scared of what a postponement
might do to the promotion. As far as this man was concerned, I could stitch up
my eye and go right ahead with the fight. It was hard to believe that my
manager was just sitting there listening and nodding at that nonsense.
Don't let him tell you what to say," I said to Sadler. "I'm not gonna
fight Ali with a cut eye. I'm the champion. I've earned more respect than that.
I want to fly to Paris and get myself healed up."
Right then is
when I should have left. But Don King and some of the other promoters came
around and asked me to stay in Africa. They told me it would have a terrible
effect on all the closed-circuit TV distributors and exhibitors around the
world if I was to leave the country.
But if that
wasn't bad enough, I also started getting this spooky feeling that I wouldn't
be allowed to leave. Everywhere I went a dozen guys with guns were all around
me, pushing people out of the way. I'd walk from one house to another in our
compound at N'Sele, and here'd come all these cats with guns—click, click,
click. It was a very strange thing. When I was a kid in Houston the cops would
roust me on the street and say, "Hey, boy, don't you make no move or it'll
be your last." But I always knew then that if they turned their heads I'd
break and be gone. I always had freedom on my mind. But in Africa there were so
many strange things going on that I kind of got swallowed up in all of it. I
lost control of my own situation.