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Bob Arum, who holds the options for Weaver's next three fights, had offered Ali $4.5 million for his comeback in New Orleans against John Tate. That looked like the fight until March 31, when Weaver erased the Tennessee giant from the WBA's championship roster with one short left hook (page 20).
Don King, the orator who decides the ring fortunes of WBC champ Larry Holmes, had countered with an offer of $7 million. But that offer was set for self-destruct: King had offered Holmes only $3 million.
"To hell with that," stormed Richie Giachetti, Holmes' manager. "Don said we should give Ali the most money. Why? We've got what he wants. We should get as much and more, and Larry feels the same way. If Ali gets $7 million, then we get $7 million. And that's the way it is." By week's end King reportedly had withdrawn his offer to Ali.
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Ali's personal physician for many years, said, "I don't see any helter-skelter race to the bank to get the money out. I hear about all those million-dollar offers, but a lot of that talk is like Miami Beach mortgage money. It's all on paper."
But while Arum and King were out shaking the money trees, Murad Muhammad, 29, who was once an Ali bodyguard, set off on a six-day transcontinental trip that netted him $10 million in backing from a California firm called Prime Corp.—reportedly a mining business—and the apparent acceptance of Ali vs. Weaver. In giving Murad Muhammad the rights to Weaver's first defense, Arum will get a percentage of the TV revenue, whether it be network or closed circuit.
If the complex package doesn't unravel, which has been known to frequently happen in boxing, Ali will be paid a record $8 million, while Weaver will earn $2 million. Scheduled for July, the fight is supposed to be held in the 165,000-seat Stadium Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. On April 3 in Chicago, Ali was given $250,000 by the Prime Corp. people, which he will keep even if the deal should die.
When Holmes received word that it apparently would be Weaver and not he who would be fighting Ali, he wasn't disappointed. " Ali's not crazy," Holmes said. "He doesn't want to fight me. I used to be his sparring partner and I had to hold back. I thought I could beat him then. Now I know I can beat him. But as a friend I have this advice for Ali. You don't need all those houses and cars. If you're broke, sell the houses and the cars. You can do other things. Don't swallow your pride just to make some money. Don't get into the ring.
"You can't beat nobody—well, you can beat Weaver, he's a plodder. I just hope you haven't sold your pride and sold yourself and your family out. Let your kids have their pride. They could be the proudest kids in America because their father was the greatest fighter who ever lived. Don't take that away from them."