It was to the Terrible Table that Ali went to get into condition to destroy Spinks in their second fight more than two years ago. For that one he did 8,024 sit-ups in 39 days. "What was the one-day record for Spinks?" Ali asks after his 42nd Belly Buster.
Wells looks up from the purple ledger he uses to record each day's work. "It was 517," he says.
"I'll beat that today," says Ali, as he resumes driving his body back through the years. The total for this day will be 536 sit-ups. It is Ali's 39th day of serious training, and his sit-up total is already 10,000, even. There are still 22 days until the fight with Holmes.
On the afternoon of this day, Ali also boxes 36 straight minutes without rest, using seven sparring partners. He weighs 224 pounds, and the rolls of fat that jiggled through his most recent fights have disappeared. He's 29 again.
The betting had opened with Holmes favored 3-1 and had dropped to 2-1. On the day Ali sparred nonstop for more than a half hour, the odds were 9-5. The next day they dipped to 8-5. "The odds are dropping like my waistline," says Ali with a laugh. Then his voice hardens and the words come as darts. "They say I'm going to get hurt. When did I ever get hurt? They say I got brain damage. Liver damage. They all lied. I spent three days at the Mayo Clinic. They stuck wires in me; I looked like Frankenstein's monster. I passed every test. Look how pretty I talk. How could I have brain damage? I'll show those lying...."
For Ali, this 60th professional fight, for which he'll receive $8 million, is The Big One. Again. That's all he needs. It has been said that he has made a critical mistake by not having a tune-up. The simple truth is that he probably couldn't beat any other decent heavyweight because any other heavyweight would be, to him, meaningless. Ali has always had a problem walking up a gently sloping hill, but he can race up a mountain.
"I'm the underdog," he bellows happily. "God, I love it. Just tell me I can't do something. Tell me it's impossible. Tell me I'm not the greatest."
Put it all in a computer and the winner comes out Holmes. He's a superb champion, he's eight years younger than Ali, and he's in excellent condition. In the last two years he has had seven fights to Ali's none. He's unbeaten.
There's just one thing that he isn't: he isn't Muhammad Ali. No other earthling could be.