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FRANKFURT (S&S) — There's no business like Muhammad Ali show business, no matter what the business — boxing or books.

The world's greatest fighter stepped off a plane from Chicago and into a series of press conferences and cocktail parties during Frankfurt's International Book Fair to present his upcoming book, "The Greatest : My Own Story," written with Richard Durham, and to face a swarm of journalists from Europe and America.

A spokesman for Ali's publisher, Random House, announced that first printing of the book would be 125,000 copies and that the foreign rights had already been sold to France, England, Italy and Germany with more countries waiting in the wings. It would be a world best seller, Ali predicted.

To add emphasis, Ali added that he would stop answering the mail from any country that did not buy the rights to his book. This, he said, was going to be the best seller of all times.

"All other books must fall — because they're all too small," Ali rhymed.

It was rumored at the fair that Ali received a $250,000 advance for the book when it was nothing more than an idea that Ali had, and that publisher Droemer & Knaur had already paid $200,000 for the German rights.

Ali proved more than most of the journalists bargained for with his mixture of comedy, seriousness and almost mystical fervor and enthusiasm in spreading his religious message.

Why is Ali the greatest champion of all-time? Look at his face, he told a reporter, he had just fought bad Joe Frazier and there's not a mark on it. "I look better than you, and you're a writer and I'm a fighter."

During the meetings with the press, some journalists raised the question whether Ali could read or write.

In the middle of the question about his reading and writing skills, a little girl approached Ali, asked for his autograph and spread an album before him.

Ali wrote a long dedication. He was then told the little girl was the daughter of the general-director of the hotel.

Ali asked how to spell the name of the hotel.

It took four journalists five minutes to come up with the correct spelling of "Intercontinental," including the reporter who doubted Ali's ability to write.

The truth of the matter is that Ali did not "write" his book, he dictated it into tapes that were edited and condensed by the prize-winning journalist.

"The problem was," Durham said, "getting time to work with Ali. If you think he is busy here, you should see him in the States. Taping was the only possible way of doing the book."

Durham said he worked from more than 144 90-minute tapes and that the original manuscript had about 3,000 pages that had to be cut down to 400 for the book.

Why should anyone buy Ali's book when so much has been written about him already?

"Because this is the only book that is fully authorized by me and you do not know me from what you have read," Ali said.

"You didn't know that when I was a youngster that I was a little black Al Capone. You didn't know that I was once the main speaker at a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan with burning crosses and all. You never heard about my fight with a motorcycle gang. And there's a lot more."

Ali broke the monotony of being asked the same questions time and time again by breaking into poetry and sometimes long lectures on the meaning of life.

The closest he came to insulting anyone for asking stupid questions was a couplet he

hurled at a reporter: "If I had a lower I.Q. — I might enjoy this interview".

A delegation of Turks presented Ali with three hand-made dishes inscribed with text from the. Koran bought by the Turkish foreign workers in Germany for the Moslem athlete.

One of the delegation then removed his shirt and proceeded to perform a series of yoga exercises that astounded the audience.

The man made it clear that he was not some side-show performer but a simple workingman who wanted to demonstrate his reverence for Ali.

In an excerpt from Al's book published in an American magazine there is a short story about dinosaurs. Ali once had a manager who referred to heavyweight fighters as dinosaurs. "Everybody got buddies, I know. But not dinosaurs. The dinosaur's different. He's got his own satellites. His own crowd. Like each kite got its own tail. Oh, now and then a dinosaur might bump into another on the street. In a hotel lobby, or somewhere. But dinosaurs go it alone."

Ali didn't remember the passage.

Durham did. "Yes. That fascination with dinosaurs started with Ali back in school. He came home and asked his mother what a dinosaur was and she looked it up and told him. Then he wrote a short article or story about dinosaurs. His mother, Odessa Clay, kept all of her son's writings and used them when she tried to write the story of Ali's life. She gave me all her work and notes when I started on the book and decided to use it. She had finished 80 pages when she had to give up the strenuous undertaking."

Durham's explanation for Ali's not remembering; "It's been a hard day for him here and there is little chance that he'll even want to talk about anything serious in this situation."

Durham explained that Ali told him that if they were to do the book together, Durham would have to eat and sleep with him.

"He told me that in time I would find that

he would begin to speak differently to me and then we could do the book. So I moved in with him and slept in the bed next to his. Ali also speaks in his sleep and very clearly. That was very enlightening to the puzzle of this man."

Asked if he thought Ali considered himself a dinosaur, Durham replied that he thought so.

The dinosaur story in the book continues: `You a light-heavy now, but you got real dinosaur blood. You gonna be a big one, a champ. But you can't be buddies with heavyweights. Listen, he said, and leaned close to my ear as though to give me a great secret, when dinosaurs see one another, they just size each other up for the kill. All they's trained to do is to tear each other to pieces. They know a day'll come when they'll have to go out there in that high-noon sunshine with all the world watching and destroy each other. They can't be buddies. Only one can be king."

But Al's attitude toward boxing and his opponents is the opposite of the dinosaur mentality.

Asked if he really hated Frazier: "No. I really haven't hurt anybody. If you remember when I fought Jerry Quarry, I stopped and told the referee to come stop it. When I fought James Ellis, I told the referee come stop it. When I beat Ron Lyle in Los Vegas. I had him on the ropes and almost unconscious, I told the ref to stop it. So I'm practicing what I preach because of my view of man.

"So, what is the purpose of fighting`.' Do 1 fight to hurt? No! I fight to make money. To go back to the ghetto in Chicago, to the black people to build Moslem temples to convert our people to the religion, clean them up, take them off of dope, take them off of prostitution, stop them from fighting each other. I fight to buy school buses to take the children to the black schools. The city doesn't help them, the government won't help them, other blacks get rich and go off and marry out of their race and only think of themselves, so I buy buses. I can't solve the problem but I'm doing as much as I can to help those who are smaller.

"Now, why did I write this book? Why did I come to this country? I don't need this publicity. I don't need this book, I don't need money. But this is prestige. When I go to colleges and universities I can tell the professors, `Well, I went to Germany and met the biggest white, black, all types of literary people in the publishing world.' They listen!

"We live in a material world where if you have money, if you have fame, if you have a position or title or rank, people respect you. You've got to show people something.

"All the physical things I get from the world, these things go back to the poor people.

"That's why I go out into the streets to meet the people and speak the truth. That's why I fight, so I can go out and help other people. So my purpose is just. My purpose is not hate for Frazier, my purpose is not to beat you up, my purpose is to take the fame, take the wealth, take the prestige and go help my people.

" You see, black people in America are so brainwashed that you have to be a white man to approve a person. If a white man says you are tops in his world, then our people will respect you because everything of authority was made white; Jesus Christ was made white, all the angels were made white, the last supper was made white. Miss America, Miss World and Miss Universe are all white, they even made Tarzan, King of the Jungle, white. Angel food cake is white, devil's food chocolate. so everything white is right.

"So, once white people say he's okay, then my people will listen to me. So, I accept all this praise. I accept all these interviews, the titles, the satellites and the money because when you give me all these stamps of approval I can go back to the black neighborhood and they will listen to me because you okayed me."

Is Ali's book a one-shot affair? He says he's got enough material to give us a book a year for the rest of his life.


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