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The vanguard of Muhammad Ali's clan was gathering. Lana Shabazz, the camp cook, was seated at a long planked table preparing lunch. With her in the log house that serves as kitchen and dining room were Jimmy Ellis, the former WBA heavyweight champ who had been promoted from sparring partner to assistant trainer; Abdul Rahaman, the tough security chief once known as Captain Sam; and Howard Bingham, the photographer. Drew Brown, known as Bundini, had had a big night and was still sleeping in one of the camp's 14 log cabins. Those in the room all wanted to know one thing: Who was Ali going to fight, Larry Holmes or Mike Weaver?
That he would fight again was all too apparent. He was there, wasn't he, there in his $500,000 training complex high on Sculp Hill overlooking Deer Lake, Pa. The three-time heavyweight champion had arrived the night before, in the backwoods darkness of last Friday, and he had just climbed from the Paul Bunyanesque bed in his private cabin. "Too late to run," Ali decided, a grin accenting his new mustache. Then he yawned.
With her gleaming knife poised over a large carrot, Lana eyed the sleepy Ali. "Who you going to fight?" she demanded with finality.
Ali's answer was distorted by another yawn. "The Marine," he said.
Lana was still a little puzzled. "Which Marine?"
The carrot was halved by a sharp stroke from Lana's knife. "You got to whup him," she said with concern.
Sighing, Ali lifted the front of his brown warm-up jacket. Thick coils of midsection spilled into view. Ali clutched fistfuls of the offending flesh. "Ain't this disgusting? I can't hide it no more. I don't want to hide it no more. Going to get rid of it."