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When it came time for the fight, I got my needles ready and Ali called me into his dressing cubicle.
"Doc, you know I trust you, but...well." His voice trailed off. "But, well...the boys in Chicago, uh...."
"Ali, you know you need this shot to fight Frazier," I said. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"Well," he said, "the boys from Chicago say that nobody knows what stuff it is you are putting into my hands. You don't get paid for this, see, so they say that maybe someone could buy you off and get you to shoot some dope into my hands. Look, I trust you, Doc. But they say, how can you trust a white man that don't get paid...." He looked bleakly down at his boxing shoes.
"Well, the hell with it, then," I said. "Don't put anything into your hands. You're the one who has to fight Frazier. Let them numb your hands."
"No, no," he said. "No, you can do it, Doc. But they want you to use their stuff...." He held up a small, unlabeled vial of fluid.
"Hell, no, pal," I said. "Either I put what I know is good and fresh into your hands or nothing. I am not about to inject anything into your hands that I'm not sure of, especially from people I don't know. Forget it, or do it yourself."
Ali saw that I was really steaming and he thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. "Doc," he said, "you go on ahead and do it your way."
The fight was tough and hard, with Ali hitting as hard as he could. After the decision in his favor was announced, he leaned over and panted in my ear, "Couldn't have done it without you, Doc."
Back home, I reflected on the bizarre situation. The fact that I worked for free in boxing had somehow marked me as suspect. No matter that I had a long unblemished record in boxing medicine or that I had had more experience than any ring doctor in history. Or that I had worked with nine different world champions, not just Ali, and had never charged a fee. The fact that I had never been wrong in my medical judgments with Ali, that I had backed him in his exile years, and had worked to help him on the way back to the title, did not seem to count. What did count was that I was white and working for free, therefore automatically suspect. I did not feel that the people who counted, Herbert Muhammad and Ali, felt that way. But nonetheless, there it was. In order to be trustworthy I must charge a fee. Presumably, the bigger my fee, the more trustworthy I would be. After struggling with the situation, I submitted an enormous bill.