It was a weird
experience. Of all the terrible times for this to have to happen. Here it was,
the biggest fight of my career, and for 10 days during the postponement I
couldn't run because I couldn't let sweat get in my eye. Later, when I could
run, I ran for miles and miles trying to put myself back in shape, which was
very bad. And now here I was rushing myself toward my peak instead of building
to it. And I still couldn't box for fear of reopening the eye. That was the
best thing that happened to Ali when we were in Africa—the fact that I had to
get ready for the fight without being able to box.
You ever have the
feeling that maybe you're about to be assassinated? Maybe not but, man, that's
how it was in that compound. Soldiers with guns walked through my house day and
night, drinking beer, cussing, throwing beer cans on the floor, waving beer
over my food. And then, a few days before the fight, my own personal cook
popped out with an awful rash. His eyes got so puffed up that he had to wear
dark glasses, and his hands got all swollen like a monster's. We never did find
out what was wrong with him. I had to do my own cooking from then on.
I love most
animals, but I can't stand mice and, man, I really hate lizards. I woke up one
morning in N'Sele with a lizard hanging right over my bed and a bunch of drunk
soldiers yelling in the next room. I waited for that old lizard to make his
move. Soon as he did, I rolled over and out of bed and rolled straight out of
N'Sele and into the hotel in town.
Then I began
having odd weak spells. I told Archie Moore, my adviser, that I felt all wrong,
and Archie said for me to drink two raw eggs in my orange juice every day. I
did it, but I got weaker. As the fight got close and I could box again, I'd
work a couple of rounds, and Sadler would say, "That's enough, George.
You're too strong already."
There has been
some word around that maybe I was doped in Africa. It's hard for me to say if
that is true, but I will say that everything possible was tried in that country
to keep me from winning. When I saw what was going on over there, the thought
hit me: if they have enough nerve to be doing these things to me, they must
know I ain't got a chance in this place, or else how would they dare to treat
me this way? It's a big promotion, and it looks like they might want a rematch
someday if they've got any sense. But they didn't seem to be worried about a
The they I am
talking about is a lot of people on every side of the promotion. Even people
who were supposed to be my people. I know for sure that my guys quit scuffling
in my behalf.
But still, much
of the fault was negligence on my part. I was the general. I had the
opportunity to make my people perform as I wanted them to. But when you're weak
and confused, you rely too much on the advice of those close to you. Man, I
really got messed up over there.
And when I got
home, well, I traveled around some, looking for something to get interested in,
but it was hard to find a real good reason to get out of bed. It looked like
Ali wouldn't give me a rematch and I had nothing to do. I had very few friends.
I had put myself into being lonely.
Winston, a promoter, came to me with an idea that he had got from Marvin Gaye,
the singer. The idea was that I would fight five guys on the same night. Three
rounds each. And at the end I would be challenged by a big fighter of Gaye's
named Mandingo. I said fine.
the opponents, good names, tough guys, too, like Boone Kirk-man and Terry
Daniels. I was happy about it. I picked up a 600-pound steer of mine to pose
for a picture, and they printed it in PEOPLE magazine and it went out all over
the UPI wire. That was to show I was still strong. And I went back to work.
Every day in the gym I fought as many different guys as they would let me. But
Winston was having trouble finding a place for the exhibition.