"You mean you
can turn me green? And I'll stay green for six weeks? Wow! I can bill myself as
the Jolly Green Giant. It's perfect." He left my house a happy man, and
when he returned the next night he had a contract to wrestle in Texas,
providing that what he had told them was true. He was now ready for his first
About this time
we realized that the gag had gone far enough and we reluctantly told Tampa Red
that we had been kidding. The drug was unproven, we said, and it might possibly
have unpleasant side effects. Such as death. But Red didn't blink. "Get me
a lawyer," he said. "I'll sign a paper absolving you of any fault if
anything happens to me."
easy," we told him. "You can sign your life away because you don't know
any better. But we're doctors and we do know better, so we can't do
I'll steal the drug and you guys will be innocent," he said.
The argument went
on into the night until it became clear that he was about to try a few
wrestling holds on us. We teamed up, seized him and threw him out of the house.
He threatened never to speak to us again, and we felt badly about it for a few
days. But then we read in the paper that he had suffered a fractured clavicle
after being thrown out of another ring, and we both felt an awful lot better
For years Ali has
had serious problems with his hands. They are sensitive to the pounding that he
subjects them to in intensive training and while fighting. Hitting the heavy
bag made them very sore, and soon he developed a bursitis of the knuckles and
at times a tendinitis. There is no solution to sore hands but rest—and Ali
simply couldn't rest his hands. The next-best remedy was obvious. We would numb
his hands and let him punch to his heart's delight.
Bonavena fight in the Garden on Dec. 7, 1970 was the first time I took my
syringes into a dressing room and used them before a fight. With a
dentist-sized capsule of Novocain, I deadened Ali's knuckles so that he could
punch with impunity. He knocked out Bonavena in the 15th round of an extremely
hard fight. His hands held up, but they were very sore. Thereafter I became
indispensable around the fight camp and, at the same time, had a great deal of
difficulty with various people in the camp, including Ali himself.
important bout of Ali's career was coming up: the first Joe Frazier fight.
Again, the plan was to deaden Ali's tender hands. Ali did not particularly like
the arrangement—he hates needles and shots—but he understood that if he was to
punch with authority, he could not afford to worry about his hands. Herbert
Muhammad also was not happy with the plan, but he yielded to the logic of it.
We could not postpone the fight. Frazier would come on like a tank. Ali would
need his two hands to punch without regard to pain. I deadened the knuckles
again—and it worked again. Unfortunately, Frazier knocked Ali down in the 15th
and won the fight.
visited a doctor in the Pennsylvania hills near his Deer Lake camp. The doctor
dragged out the old country remedy of soaking the hands in warm paraffin to
relieve soreness. And if it didn't exactly help, it certainly couldn't hurt;
the fact was that Ali's hands were gradually improving with rest. A later visit
to a Boston hand surgeon served to confirm my diagnosis and prognosis.
When we came to
the second Frazier fight in January of 1974, Herbert Muhammad began to question
me about the effect of the injections. I explained that they only numbed the
knuckles so that Ali could hit hard, and that the shots would not affect the
speed or accuracy of his punches. Herbert seemed convinced, but a few days
later he was still skeptical. I told him that the sooner Ali did without the
shots, the better—because the less a doctor does for a fighter, the better.
However, Frazier was a different matter; fighting Frazier required strong hands
and, while Ali's hands were gradually getting better, they were not that well.
Herbert nodded inconclusively again. It is important to note here that in all
my previous dealings with Ali, the question of the color of my skin had never