From the S&S archives: Unmarked champ checks mirrors, lauds German
FRANKFURT, Sept. 10 — The tall, perspiring champion pushed through the clamoring press, walked to the mirror in the corner of the dressing room, studied his face carefully, and smiled.
"Not a mark," someone said, and Cassius Clay's smile widened slightly.
Flopping on the bench against the wall, he wiped emotion out of his face and placidly answered all questions in a voice so quiet as to be almost imperceptible.
Speaking of challenger Karl Mildenberger, whom Clay had just whipped by technical knockout in the 12th round Saturday night before 45,000 at Frankfurt's Forest Stadium, the 24-year-old banger from Louisville, Ky., said: "He put up a better fight than anybody I've faced so far."
Pursuing this theme, the world heavyweight champion who had just made his fourth successful title defense of the year remarked, "I had to pace myself. Right from the beginning, I knew it could go a long ways. Mildenberger was moving, and fast, trying to set me up."
Clay interrupted his questioners, popping his tongue loudly off the roof of his mouth to get the attention of his trainer, Angelo Dundee.
"Angelo!" Clay yelped, raising his voice for the first time, "Got some soda? Got any soda there? Or water? Got some water?"
A taped quart bottle was passed over the heads of the tightly packed mob jamming in around Clay, and Cassius pulled deeply. Sweat trickled freely down his face and body, but his breathing was easy.
"Tired?" he responded to a question, "Do I look tired? No, I'm not even breathing hard."
He then fired a question of his own: "Did anybody ever beat that man (Mildenberger) as bad." Someone said that Mildenberger, who had lost only twice previously, and never to an American, had been a first-round KO victim of Dick Richardson.
Clay seemed satisfied with this, then quietly accepted congratulatory kiss from his mother.
Returning his attention to the fight, the reformed loudmouth softly explained why in each round it appeared that Mildenberger pursued him, Clay, only to have Cassius suddenly go on the attack at mid-round and carry it to the left-handed European champion.
"A man looks unimpressive when he's not leading, and if I let him lead all the time, it would look like I'm losing the fight. The only difference was, when I was leading, I was hitting him."
Cassius, who referred to Mildenberger as "a nice gentleman," said that "I'd like to fight him again if they'd build it up." He said he would fight Cleveland Williams next, but said that he had not yet signed for the fight that would reportedly be held in Houston in November. After that, he planned to tangle with Ernie Terrell in December.
Labeling the fight "a good contest," Clay said he was "lucky that I didn't get a scratch on me." As he self-consciously pressed his fingers to his face, he said to the question of whether he had been hit hard by Mildenberger, "Does it look like he hit me hard?" He admitted, however, that Mildenberger rapped him hard with a couple of rights.
Asked about his reluctance to take advantage of the situation a couple of times when he had the German in trouble, Clay commented, "I didn't want to take a chance."
On those occasions Dundee had been heard yelling across the ring at Clay, "Go after him! Go after him!"
Turning back a query on his questioner for the third time during the interview, he responded when asked whether Mildenberger's left-handed style bothered him.
"Did it look like I had any trouble with it?"
Although some observers thought Cassius didn't look us sharp Saturday night as he had in some previous fights, Clay didn't agree. And Dundee backed up Clay: "Considering he'd lost both times in his only meetings with left-handers," Dundee said, "I thought the champ fought an excellent fight."
Among the throng milling around the dressing room was former Cleveland Brown fullback Jimmy Brown, now a partner in Main Bout, Inc., one of the title fight's sponsoring organizations.
Brown, massive and dapper in his dark suit, said "I enjoyed the fight very much," and expressed surprise that the bout lasted as long as it did. "The other boy had a lot of guts, a lot of heart. I knew Clay would win; it was just a question of time, a question of time."
Clay's mother, now sitting quietly off to one side as press, Black Muslims and miscellaneous types fell over each other getting to the nonchalant champ, said "I'm very happy, happy, yes I am. Mildenberger certainly put up a good fight. Yes he did."
At that, Dundee played blocking back and guided Clay toward the showers.
"Nobody goes in there with the champ," Dundee ordered. "Nobody "
The interviews were over.