Ali and Smokin Joe
By Thomas Hauser
"Life," Mark Twain wrote, "does not consist largely of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head. What a wee part of a person's life are his acts and words. All day long, every day, the mill of his brain is grinding. And his thoughts, not those other things, are his history."
In the spirit of the holiday season, this writer decided to imagine the thoughts that are swirling around in the mind of Muhammad Ali as "The Greatest" approaches his 65th birthday on January 17, 2007.
People are planning all kinds of tributes and shows for when I'm 65. They got the same people selling my name now that are selling Elvis. But I ain't dead like Elvis; I'm still alive.
Some folks see nothing but a 64-year-old man with Parkinson's when they look at me. There's people who think that all I do these days is sit around wondering what kind of ice cream to eat. They don't know how I shook up the world when I was young, so I'm gonna shake up the world again.
There's lots of boxers that made it big after winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Me, Joe Frazier, George Foreman; I could name lots of names. But none of them ever became heavyweight champion of the world and then went back to the Olympics and won a gold medal again. So I'm gonna go to Beijing and win a gold medal in boxing at the 2008 Olympics.
Professional boxers can't fight at the Olympics, so I'm gonna get them to change the rules. The new rules will say that anyone over sixty years old can box in the Olympics even if he used to fight pro. They got the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act in professional boxing. This will be the Muhammad Ali Olympic Boxing Reform Rule.
People thought it was big when I lit the Olympic Flame in Atlanta, but that was nothing compared to this. And the big surprise is, I'm gonna fight in the Olympics at 178 pounds. That's what I weighed when I won the gold medal in in 1960. Right now, I'm down to 197. Nineteen more pounds to go.
I'll whup Joe Frazier at the Olympic trials. I'd whup George Foreman too, but I don't think George can get down to 178 pounds. I'll whup all the young amateurs in the United States who think I'm too old to whup 'em. And then I'll go to Beijing and whup everyone else in the world. I don't think I can go fifteen rounds no more, but four rounds will be no problem.
There's entire generations of people who've grown up around the world, knowing I'm famous but not knowing really who I am. When I get to the Olympic boxing finals, six billion people will be watching.
After I win the gold medal, I'm gonna stand in the center of the ring and tell everyone in the world that they got to stop fighting and get along. When I was young, the hate I saw was mostly between black and white. Now the hate between religions is worse. Some people act like they hate their enemies more than they love their own children. All they want is war. It makes me sad.
People say it would take a miracle for me to win another gold medal. But they said it was a miracle when David whupped Goliath. They said it was a miracle when I whupped Sonny Liston. They said it was a miracle when I whupped George Foreman. Now I'm planning another miracle; that's all.
I got a new saying. He who does not believe in miracles is not a realist. That's heavy.
And after I win another Olympic gold medal in boxing, I'm gonna hang up my gloves and do whatever God wants me to do next.
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A few notes on other matters --
2007 will be the year that mixed martial arts begins its assault on boxing's favored position at HBO and Showtime.
Showtime has already announced a "partnership" with Pro Elite to televise live mixed martial arts events beginning on February 10, 2007, with additional events airing through 2009. HBO is expected to air three UFC cards in the coming year.
Now comes word that Showtime is planning to counter-program HBO-PPV's May 5th telecast of Oscar De La Hoya versus Floyd Mayweather Jr with a mixed martial arts event instead of it's normal first-Saturday-of-the-month boxing show.
We shall see what we shall see.
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New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens has earned national recognition for his role in turning the NYSAC from a cesspool of incompetence and corruption into a respected institution. In that regard, a journey back in time is in order.
In the early 1980s, Stevens, was driving a cab to make ends meet. One night, he was held up at gunpoint on 105th Street in Manhattan. He reported the crime to the local police precinct and, a few weeks later, was called to the station-house for a line-up.
"The guy who robbed me was there," Stevens recalls. "No doubt about it. He was number four in the line-up. After that, I got a call from the assistant district attorney who had the case. He took me into the grand jury to testify and the guy was indicted There was never a trial because he pled guilty."
That bit of history is relevant now because the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case was Eliot Spitzer, who last month was elected governor of New York. Stevens's term as chairman runs through January 1, 2009, but government is such that he could be forced from office if the powers that be wish it. Let's hope that Spitzer does the right thing by boxing and for the people of the State of New York and is fully supportive of Stevens.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org