I won big, too.
In two rounds of hard fighting, I could tell that my whole life has changed.
Man, I was back in the ring again and it was all different, like I want it to
be: all clean and sharp and a good job done. Like a lumberjack chopping down a
tree and not leaving any mess.
Maybe you didn't
even read about the fight. I mean, there was no TV and the newspapers didn't
fall all over themselves to cover it. But I fought a tough young guy named Jody
Ballard, 202 pounds and a 22-3 record. We fought in the Concord resort up in
the New York Catskills and I gave all my money share to the U.S. Olympic fund.
It wasn't no exhibition. It was a flat, all-out bout.
First round. I
screened everything else out. There was no audience sound, no nothing except
the sound of Clancy's voice coming from my corner and my own voice inside my
head that night. "Put the punches together. You can do it, George. That's
it." And I knocked Ballard down in one and took him out in two. "Don't
look unskilled" I told myself. "Quality, quality. You're a workman,
George." Once, Ballard went to the ropes like Ali did in Za�re, and I rared
way back to let him have it—and I could hear Clancy's voice cutting clear
through everything. "Oh, no!" he said. "Don't!" And I didn't. I
eased my jab and I didn't drop my right hand, and I got patient and waited for
my opponent to come off the ropes. "That's it, George," I said. And
when Clancy's voice wasn't in my ear, it was my own. "Don't jump him now,
George. You were going to jump on him. Well, don't. Uh, uh, no. Get smooth.
That's it!" And down he went.
I helped to pick
him up and I got to thinking, "I did a crisp job." I could have whaled
away. But I had called inside to myself and said, "Remember that lumberjack
taking down that tree. Don't look back and find out that you left a leaf on the
I stood there
with the ring announcer (this time he got my name right), and I made a little
talk about how we should all support our Olympic athletes. We all come from the
U.S. and we should show our allegiance. I waved at everybody and they waved
back at me, and Clancy and Kid Rapidez was there, and I felt like I had a
boxing family at last, my people all around me, people who are going to help me
get the title back. Now I can be happy boxing, I can do it. The people I'm
working with are helping me with the rest of it, teaching me more tactics and
especially teaching me to be patient while I'm in the ring. Every day I'm
feeling more and more like a pro, like I'm the top contender.
And I'm not going
to talk up everything all crazy, like Ali does. You don't know this about Ali,
but I'll tell you now. We're in a strange, foreign place, and Ali is talking on
and on and shouting and yelling and waving his arms about how great it is and
how he loves the place and he really loves the people, and he wouldn't be any
other place in the whole world. They love him and oh, how he loves them. He'll
be saying it like this—"Blah, blah, blah, love it," and then he'll turn
his head toward me and say out of the side of his mouth, low, "Man, I'll
see you in
What Ali really
wants is he wants out of there, wherever it is, but nobody but us other
fighters knows this. You won't hear me carrying on like that.
I hope to have
another fight before Lyle in Las Vegas—not an exhibition but a real bout
again—and I want to do it clean again. I want to be like that man running the
jackhammer on the street, doin' a job. Or like the man who smooths out that
concrete—I want to look back and not see any ripples or messy spots in that
The patient part
is hard, I'll admit. Sometimes I get tired of waiting for Ali to make his move
when I'm here and I'm ready. Sometimes I feel like I just ought to pick up the
phone and call him. Wouldn't that be something?
You know—I'd pick
up the phone and call Chicago. And I'd make my voice real high, like this, and
I'd say, "This here is Susie calling." Or some name like that. That
would get him right to the phone. "This is Susie and I want to talk to
Ali." He'd come running.