They are all gathered in the suite in Munich—the one who tastes the sweat on the champ's body; the one who licks the champ's mouthpiece; the keeper of the lists; the keeper of the heavy bag; the Raphael of the side deal—all of them standing there as if they were blind men on the streets of Calcutta, sensing that their tin cups are about to be smashed. The air is tense, the breathing heavy as Muhammad Ali, at ease in his bed, first searches the room with his eyes, then speaks.
"You, Bundini!" yells Ali, who had called the meeting after he heard about soaring hotel bills. "Bundini, how many phone calls can you make in a day? How many meals can you eat?"
"That's right, Champ!" wails the Amen Man, Jeremiah Shabazz. "Go on, Brother."
"Aliii, Champ," moans Bundini, his eyes filling with tears. "Whyyyy, Champ, you pick on Bundini?"
"I feed you niggers," Ali goes on. "I take you all over the world. You see places. You learn things. Never been anywhere in your life. You treat me like this."
"That's right, right!" echoes Jeremiah.
"A lotta sausage eaters 'round here who don't tell the truth," says Walter Youngblood, an earnest man, a Muslim and an assistant trainer.
"Who you talkin' about?" asks Ali. Youngblood remains silent. Ali screams, "What kind of friend are you? You make a statement and then don't tell me who you mean."
Youngblood is furious and genuinely ready to rumble with Ali. He takes off his jacket.
"Come on over, sucker!" shouts Ali. "Come here, and I'll throw you out the window." He suddenly smiles; he is calming down now. "Look, fellas," he says. "I don't mind you eatin'. You want three steaks for dinner, get three steaks. I don't want anybody goin' hungry. But I don't wantcha wastin' food. Sendin' food back." The audience relaxes.