Met Ali in Chicago. I think it was before the first Frazier fight. He was walking down Michigan Ave with a crowd around him. He stopped to sign autographs and answer questions, so I stepped into the mix. First thing I noticed, he really was beautiful, I mean Greek god-come-to-life-beautiful, I mean better looking than Mandela beautiful. I mean TV, photos, movie can't do him justice beautiful.
I asked him, "Champ, what about all those writers who say you've slowed down?"
"What writers? Who cares about them? I want to know if you think I've slowed down?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I have no idea, " I said.
Then Ali said: "Don't move. Don't move a muscle." The crowd around us backed up and oohed, anticipating my imminent, and rapid, deconstruction.
Ali threw maybe 20 punches at my head, at different points on my face, pulling each punch by about 1/4 inch to avoid contact. I didn't move because I never saw any of the punches coming...not a one, just a blur.
Then Ali dropped his hands and said "Now what do you think?"
I said, "I'm betting on you, Champ."
I asked him for his autograph, and he took the book I was holding and signed the title page. The book was Marcuse's Reason and Revolution, which I still have to this day, with Ali's autograph on the title page.
The other thing I noticed when Ali was signing my book-- the knuckles on both hands were bone white-- from all the impacts from all the punches.
June 4, 2016