Aside from that inner satisfaction I would get, I will be building more security for my family. Boxing is a sport, but it is also a business and this fight will be the most profitable one in my career. Last year, for example, when I knocked out Ingemar in Miami Beach in March in our third fight and kayoed Tom McNeeley in Toronto in December, I made $1,052,-000. I will make more money from fighting Liston than in the two other bouts.
Graff, Reiner and Smith of Los Angeles, the company that purchased the closed-circuit TV rights, has guaranteed me $2 million. In addition, Championship Sports, Inc., the promoter, expects a $1 million gate. The money I will receive from TV will be deferred compensation. For the first year I will get $300,000. For the next 17 years I'm to receive 55% of $100,000 a year as gross income. If the press doesn't exactly cheer me, you can see it shouldn't bother me too much.
Besides, I don't know how much longer I will be fighting if I get by Liston. My eldest child, Jeannie, is almost 6 years old and I've barely gotten to know her because I've been isolated at training camps for so long. My wife, Sandra, has been on me about retiring. I've told her I won't think about it until I've been permanently eliminated or completely lose my interest in the ring. That may be a while yet, although I don't think it will be too much longer.
If Liston should beat me, there is a return bout due. If I beat him there are other opponents. Cassius Clay could be one. He claims he can beat Liston and me on the same night. I don't think he's as good as he thinks he is. He's a good fighter. He has ability, but he needs seasoning. Eventually that will come and when it does I still hope to be better than he thinks he is. For the present I'm more concerned about Liston, who may actually be as good as he thinks he is.
And so I'm going into this fight with confidence—but with doubts. Doubts are important. They help to keep you from underestimating an opponent. If I were pressed I'd even admit to going into the fight with a little bit of fear—fear of losing. A fighter needs to be afraid. It enhances everything inside of him. The more fear, the better I am because then I'm alert. I want to take advantage of every opportunity.
This is a side of prizefighting that can be misunderstood. Mental attitude is important, almost as important as your conditioning. One punch can knock all the condition out of you. For the first Ingemar fight I boxed over 500 rounds and I don't know how many hundreds of miles I ran on the road, but one punch got me. All the road work, all the boxing, all the training and sacrifice went right down the drain because my mental attitude had been all wrong.
For Liston I will be in the best condition I've ever achieved, but my attitude will be different. I've thought of nothing else but Liston from the moment I decided to accept his challenge. I will keep that interest. Whenever he flicks, I want to move. I want to be so extremely sharp that before he even throws a punch I'll be getting out of the way of it. That's when you're really ready. I want to have a certain amount of viciousness in me. You do that by wanting to beat the odds that are quoted against you. I'm happy I'm the underdog. I enjoy hearing that I'm supposed to fold up when I get hit. That helps build viciousness. More is created by building up a feeling of anger for an opponent.
I was never as vicious as I was when I regained the championship from Ingemar. I went into the ring at the Polo Grounds that night determined to be carried out again if necessary. He had knocked me out once. I was aware it could happen again. I wasn't going to let it because I didn't like myself at all during that horrible year between our first two fights. I wouldn't want to go through that again. Regardless of whether I win or lose, I don't think I'll have to spend another year of misery, because I will know I tried.
All through that year Ingemar's attitude was a growing contempt for me. Everything he did and said showed that he didn't think I could fight. He made so much of the "toonder and lightning" in his right hand. He said I never knew what hit me and couldn't know how to keep from getting knocked out again by it. Now here is Liston, who has a chip on his shoulder. At first I disliked him intensely for it. If I am what so many people say I am, I could have avoided fighting him. Certainly there was ample reason, considering his background, the refusal of the New York State Athletic Commission to license him and the pressures that were on me to bypass him.
I am aware of the feeling of the NAACP, of which I'm a lifetime member, and of such people as Dr. Ralph Bunche of the United Nations and Jackie Robinson—that because of Liston's criminal record he should not have been given a chance to fight for the title. But so many people in the Negro community have not been given a chance to lift themselves above the surroundings into which they had been pushed. How could I refuse this chance to Liston, who paid the price the law demanded? I could have been just like him if I hadn't been given a chance when I was younger. I was an emotional delinquent. I could have become worse if I had been sent to prison instead of to Wiltwyck School, where the chip was taken off my shoulder by understanding treatment and consideration.