In April of 1973 after losing a split decision in Ali’s first of three bouts with Ken Norton on March 31st suffering a broken jaw. I came in contact with him for the first time. He was from Louisville, Kentucky, and also lived at 70th and Overbrook in West Philadelphia. At the time we met he was living in Cherry Hill, NJ.
I was in sales at the time and in Center City Philly. I thought someone may have jumped off the top of one of the buildings. I go over and there’s Ali. I joined the group standing in the back when this old timer said to Ali “next time you fight Norton be a man, not a boy!” Being one to rhyme things replied “did you call me Roy?” Everyone laughed but the one talking to Ali. Heckler then repeated “Be a man, not a boy” and Ali replied “play with him like a toy?” Even the heckler laughed this time.
Several weeks later the Philadelphia Daily News did an article on Ali’s former Philly location and the new one in Cherry Hill. So, I went over and found the house and knocked. Ali’s second wife Belinda answered the door and I asked “can I speak to the champ? She said “just a minute” and closed the door. I at first thought “she isn’t coming back!” She did and asked me to come into the vestibule. There was a Muslim banner, picture of a horse (being from Kentucky) and a plaque from the Cherry Hill Little League thanking Ali for his contributions.
I see Ali coming from the corner of my eye and figure “if I don’t speak first I will not get a word in.” So, I said “why didn’t you give Doug Jones a rematch?” (March of 1963 with two of the judges having it 5-4 in rounds) Then “why didn’t you give Ron Lyle a rematch?” (May of 1975 scores were 43-49, 45-46 and 46-46 in Lyle’s favor) The referee Fern Hernandez decided to stop the fight with Lyle doing his version of the rope-a-dope with hands held high while against the ropes not returning punches with Ali flurrying called a halt in the 11th round. Lyle dropped his hands to his side bewildered why the fight was stopped taking most punches off his gloves.
It would be almost six months before Ali and Norton had a rematch. Between 1973 and 1980 I visited Ali at his Deer Lake, PA, training camp. Legendary trainer Cus D’Amato was there one time. Ali was without a shirt on in the gym which no fighter trains without one. He was entertaining the fans that came up by the bus loads. I’m standing to the side and it looked like he had a small black pen cupped in his left hand. Ali loved magic tricks and here it was a “magic wand” that when he flicked it was suddenly about the size of a ruler. He then proclaimed to the visitors “that’s how fast I am. You can’t say I had it up my sleeve for I don’t have a shirt on. But you tell Norton how fast I am!”
This writer has written stories on Ali like “Muhammad Ali’s Offer of a Million to “Sugar” Ray Robinson Rejected!” Ali said he’d have a million Muslims put up a dollar each if Robinson accepted Islam. Robinson rejected it being a Christian.
Another article was Was Muhammad Ali a Draft Dodger. In 1990 Sadam Hussain gave Ali 15 American hostages to return to the US.
Ali was a people person! No one brought more attention to the heavyweight title then he did! I’ve written half a dozen articles on him and have to say “he was possibly the funniest boxer along with Tex Cobb.”