Ali decks press to open promotional tour
FRANKFURT, Germany — He sat down amidst the wave of press photographers behind the swarm of microphones and waited.
He was introduced and the world heavyweight champion said: "I'm now stepping into a new arena and I hope that we can be as successful in this as I am in boxing. I hope that my book managers here are as well versed as my boxing managers."
Muhammad Ali, like he has been so many times in the ring, was in complete command of the situation.
The heavyweight champion of the world sparred with the press for about 45 minutes, fielding questions on his new book 'The Greatest', written by Ali and Richard Durham, the reason for All's trip to Germany.
But the champ hinted that his boxing career. the most colorful — and in its own way the most successful — in boxing history, was far from over.
"The offers we get are just unbelievable. I'm fighting in other countries now. American promoters can no longer afford me because governments are bidding and putting up money. It's kind of hard to get me for Madison Square Garden or the Houston Astrodome or Yankee Stadium. They got too small for me. I've completely outgrowed the sport of boxing.
People are finding out now that once they sign me up for a fight and pay us, then their country is publicized where it never was heard of'. People are now using my fights to actually promote nations."
Ali said that with the crop of heavyweight contenders he has now, he sees at least two more years left in his career.
"I'll know when its time to quit when my timing is off and 1 my features start changing. But I can't fight too much longer. I don't need but about two more years to do what I want to do."
Ali continued, "if you watched those films of Frazier (the recent championship fight with Joe Frazier that Ali won by technical knockout in the 14th round) I got two more years in me with the crops that you have around now.
You don't have a man on this planet — there's not a man on the earth to beat me yet. Now when I'm a little older I'll be beat. But for two more years the world can't produce a human being superior to me in a boxing ring.
I took Joe Frazier — bad Joe Frazier — and beat him into total submission. I was in such good shape I beat him until they had to stop it. And that's a tough man. Joe Frazier."
And Ali claimed that bout with Frazier, the rubber match — Ali winning two of three — was the toughest bout of his life. It may have been his greatest performance. "The Ken Norton second fight was tough. Both of the first two fights with Frazier were tough.
"But it was good that at the age of 33 I could still get into that condition and put up a fight. That fight, at this late stage of my game was ranked by experts as the greatest heavyweight championship fight of all of 'em. All of Jack Dempsey's. All of Rocky Marciano's. All of Joe Louis's. All of Jack .Johnson's. There wasn't no fight that action packed in the history of all boxing. After all the wear and tear I've had, after the four-year layoff. I still produced that."
Ali, only the second man in boxing's history to regain the heavyweight championship title after losing it — Floyd Patterson was the other — said the next man to have a chance at that honor would be George Foreman, who Ali dethroned in Zaire in 1974.
"I'm not fighting Ken Norton anymore until he fights Foreman," Ali said of the only man besides Frazier to beat him.
Foreman knocked him out so quick (two minutes into the second round) that he's going to have to earn the right t o fight me again.
Ali then said that Foreman would most likely be his next opponent and that it would be at least six months before the bout would come off.
Ali considers himself as the greatest
fighter of all time. Not many argue with the articulate heavyweight who brought boxing from the smoke-filled auditorium atmosphere of more than a decade ago, to worldwide popularity with his famous knockout predictions, egotistical manner — and most important. the ability to carry out those predictions.
"You might want to know why I'm the greatest fighter of all time. Ali said, "I just came out of the roughest heavyweight fight in the history of fighting and look at my face." Only the faint remains of black eyes remain on the unmarked face of the champion.
Ali did say that Sugar Ray Robinson was a great fighter — second only to himself.
Ali added that he. could fight five or ten more years if he cut down on the number of fights.
Asked why he fights more than most of the heavyweight boxers today. Ali said: "life is short in this game and you get old quicker and financially, I need a lot of money to do the things I want and complete the projects I have going. As long as I can fight and not be hurt and get a little rest and do another one then I will."
But the man who was once known as Cassius Clay, before taking up the Muslim faith and the preachings of Malcolm X, the man who brought the Ali Shuffle to the ring, who found a place for poetry in the brutal world of boxing, who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, who boasted "I am the greatest" seconds after defeating Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, took a lot of punishment from Joe Frazier just two weeks ago.
But Ali claims to have the drive from God, Allah. The heavyweight champion of the world has a purpose on this earth — according to himself.
"My purpose was to be the first of the (black) multimillionaires that didn't do what we call Uncle Tom. Didn't kiss ass. Didn't show his teeth and go off and try and be something that he wasn't, being in the white society, like he's made it.
"I'm going to stay in the Ghettos, stay talking my rebelistic freedom talk and still make millions of dollars, still put books out, still be welcome throughout the world, still fight on Satellites, still be everywhere and show and other ones 'you don't have to kiss behinds and you don't have to do all this to make it. Look at Muhammad Ali.
"You can't get no bigger than him. Look what he says and does. This is my purpose. To be an example for other blacks to come up.
"Lew Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Jabbar, Walt Hazard, Duane Thomas, Joe Tex changed their names. But who was first to do that. Way back in '65, a kid named Cassius Clay.
"Who was the first resistor of popularity of the Vietnam War? Muhammad Ali. My purpose is to be right in front of the world — as big as you can get, but at the same time humble, work with my people."
But Muhammad Ali, who jabbed his way into the favor of the press at the conference and at the subsequent afternoon cocktail party, was most surprising when he dropped his poetry, his talk of religion and responded to one question by saying, "I feel silly beating up people. For what. Me and Joe Frazier fighting to death. For what. I'm not mad at him. lie's not mad at me. Why are we fighting?
Ali doesn't like to fight, he says. But he says he was born with the talent to fight and must use that talent to help his people.
And Muhammad Ali figures he can do that for at least two more years. His next hurdle will be George Foreman — one more man waiting to gun down the seemingly ageless champion.