Thursday, 30 September 2010

Big Ali by Harry Carpenter

This short extract was taken from a 'Books and Bookman' issue published in 1972.

Teddy Brenner, a Manhattan cynic who puts fights together at Madison Square Gardens, comes close to
analysing the appeal of Muhammad Ali: "If Ali says that he is going to walk on the East River, you can bet your ass that over 100,000 people will be there to see if it's true."
In the beginning he was easy to assess, when he was plain Cassius Clay, before he got into the Black Muslim, socio-racial scene. In 1963, a year before he was world champion, we met in New York for a filmed interview. "Let's do it on top of the Empire State Building," I said, "so that The greatest can meet The Highest."
He rolled those big eyes in that beautiful black face and said: "Man, you're not as dumb as you look."
He dug those corny ideas, because he was a big, cute Kentucky kid who'd hit on the notion of boasting and predicting rounds ("if he wants to jive, he'll fall in five"). He sold himself to the public by making them livid with his bragging. He told me how, when he fought Archie Moore, a Whitey in the front row kept yelling: "Archie kill that nigger!" Clay laughed: "Man that Archie Moore is blacker than ME!"

Harry Carpenter