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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay and fought many of the men shown on the overleaf and on the following pages, he lived in a $36-a-week room in the Charles Hotel in South Miami Beach, which he shared with another fighter trained by Angelo Dundee. Not until much later did Dundee discover that the room had only one bed. "Cassius never said a word," says Dundee. He has said several million since, most at the top of his voice, many in rhyme. And probably more words have been written about, more cameras aimed at and more arguments raged over Ali than anyone in the history of sports. In part, this is simply because of the duration of his boxing career, during which he has won the heavyweight title three times, he's going for No. 4 on Oct. 2 in Las Vegas against Larry Holmes. But it's Ali the personality even more than Ali the athlete that has kept him in the public eye: the poetaster and predicter—"They must fall/In the round I call"; the Black Muslim who refused to be drafted; the shill for bug killers. Yet Ali spoke most eloquently with his fists, as those who fell before them testify. And it is the testimony of those fallen men, in particular the first seven he fought, largely as obscure now as then, which is set forth here. "They were stiffs," says Dundee, "but they were educated stiffs." This education was passed on to AN; although he knocked them out, he also sat at their feet, as we have sat at his, marveling.
I was a policeman at that time. Even then I said, given the right chances, Clay could be world champion. He was a nice young man. In no way brash. The day of the fight I ran into him in a downtown department store and he started to clown around with a basketball and a baseball bat, but nothing outrageous. He didn't do that "I'm the greatest" routine until he became more well known.
The syndicate from Louisville had just given him a brand-new pink Cadillac and he was feeling great. He had just won the gold medal at the Olympics and he was something of a celebrity in Louisville. We drew better, than 6,000 people that night.
When Ali retires, boxing will die. He is the greatest. Joe Louis was a good man, a fine champion, but Ali is a showman like there never was and never will be again. I was pulling for him when he fought Spinks the second time. A man like Spinks never had any business being champion.
But when Clay made his stand on Vietnam, I didn't go for that. He should have served his country.
He wasn't the toughest fight I ever had, but he was certainly the best, fighter I ever fought. He could hit you from any position and you just couldn't knock him off balance. I never saw him again after the fight. I would like to have, because I kept in the game by training some kids.
I think I was paid $800 for fighting Clay. They offered me that because they were trying to bring him along—and they knew I was a spoiler. Clay didn't get as much but he had people paying him outside the ring.
I couldn't find any sparring partners, so I had to work out with my manager, who was only a little guy. I think the people who had money invested in Clay were afraid I would do something drastic and hurt him. It was stopped in the fourth on a TKO because I had a heavy cut in the mouth. He never hurt me, but I wasn't in top shape.