'AIN'T NOTHING HIT TOWN LIKE ME'
Several days before he had fulfilled his audacious promise by knocking out Archie Moore in the fourth round, Cassius Marcellus Clay, child of scorn, lolled upon his bed in a hotel room in Los Angeles and listened to a recitation by an old man called One Round Andrews. Its tragic hero was, as in so many of these accounts, a cowardly fighter. "He was the prettiest thing you ever saw," said One Round, with feeling, "walking the streets of Los Angeles hungry. Know why? No heart, Cassius. No heart." He thumped his chest to show Cassius where it wasn't.
In preparation for Moore, who numbers his years in the upper 40s, Clay, only 20, sought the counsel of old citizens like One Round; in Miami, for instance, where he did most of his training, he sparred with a Mr. "Pop" Mobely, a bewildered 65-year-old tailor. Now he listened to One Round, whose eyes were shut as though he could better recall the past by dismissing the present. "If you had jabbed me," One Round asked, "where do you think you'd have hitted me?"
"In the palm of my hand!" One Round answered himself, cackling.
November 26, 1962
"You know what this old man, Mr. One Round Andrews, told me?" said Clay. "When I get in the ring with Moore, he's going to be wrong if he do and wrong if he don't. He showed me just like Jack Johnson do. Jump back and smile. I'm Jack Johnson. But I'm no Negro, am I, Angelo? I'm half Hawaiian and half Indian. Isn't that right, Angelo?" Angelo Dundee, Cassius' trainer, said nothing.
Clay leaped out of bed and looked soulfully at the rug. "How is it down there, old man?" he asked. "Get up. The people want to see their money's worth. It's only round two. You supposed to fall in four."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he knock him out in one round," said Rudolph Valentino Clay, Cassius' kid brother.
"You're the modest one, Rudy," said Cassius. "Don't you get bold. I'm the greatest. Ain't nothing hit town like me. I'm the onliest fighter you'll see on the corner debating with his fans. There's been a lot of great fighters that just fight and that's all, isn't that right, Mr. Andrews? It's unusual to see a fighter pop off. But if I didn't pop off they wouldn't have anything to write. And you seen what happened to that quiet man who walked into that ring with Liston. There are two greats left, Britain and Clay. I'm not conceited. Conceited means a person that thinks they have when they don't. I done talked so much, I'm tired of it. Scuffling to be the greatest, it's tough.
"You know what I'm going to get after this fight?" he said, brightening. "A candy-apple-red 1963 Fleetwood Cadillac. A convertible. I want my top down. I'm going to ride with a fox on each side of me and my record player playing Chubby Checker and $500 in my pocket for spending money. I'm going to wear a black silk mohair suit, starched white shirt, black bow tie, $55 alligator shoes. I'm going to have a TV set in the back seat and a telephone for communication with my $175,000 home. You like that, huh? And after I annihilate Liston I'll have a chauffeur. I'll be too valuable to drive myself. I'm going to have a double-decker Greyhound bus for my bodyguards, my valets, my sparring partners and my cook. My double-decker bus is going to have its own kitchen because there might be trouble along my route; I haven't integrated everyone like I have my trainer, Angelo. I'm going to retire when I'm tired of talking and set down in my $175,000 home and collect rent from my $500,000 apartment project. I'm the onliest one."
The great debate
"He's a loud person," said Archie Moore the following day while riding around town with an acquaintance. "He wants everybody to be conscious of his presence." Several weeks earlier, Clay and Moore had appeared on a half-hour television program entitled The Great Debate. Cassius wore a medal about his neck reading: "I'm the Greatest." Archie sat hunched over, twiddling his thumbs, while Cassius, not without a certain panache, told him he must fall in four. "The only way I'll fall in four, Cassius," Moore replied, "is by tripping over your prostrate form."
"If I lose," said Cassius, "I'm going to crawl across the ring and kiss your feet. Then I'll leave the country."
"Don't humiliate yourself," said Archie, evenly. "Our country's depending on its youth. Really, I don't see how you can stand yourself. I'm a speaker, not a rabble-rouser. I'm a conversationalist, you're a shouter."
Now, riding in the car, Moore continued. "I view this young man with mixed emotions," he said. "Sometimes he sounds humorous, but sometimes he sounds like Ezra Pound's poetry. He's like a man that can write beautifully but doesn't know how to punctuate. He has this 20th-century exuberance, but there's a bitterness in him somewhere. Could be a geographical bitterness. This is just my summation, you understand. He is certainly coming along at a time when a new face is needed on the boxing scene, on the fistic horizon. But in his anxiousness to be this person he may be overplaying his hand by belittling people. He wants to show off, regardless of whose feet he's stepping on. When you come on a man bragging it's like a man saying I have everything—new house, new car, servants—drop around sometime. He doesn't want to see you; he wants you to see what he has."
While Archie was parked in front of a laundry, two teen-age girls told him that Cassius had a fat mouth and that they wanted Moore to win. "You see," said Archie, "some of his contemporaries hope I beat the socks off of him. You see the results of youthful folly. I've never been vicious. I have made a few caustic remarks in my day and time, but it's been with tongue in cheek. He is not tampering with a novice. He may be in for a rude awakening. As I've said, Clay can go with speed in all directions, including straight down, if hit properly. I have a good, solid right hand that will fit nicely on his chops.
"I don't really think he believes all the things he says. He's a wonderful-looking young man. You can never tell what goes on in a young man's mind, though. I don't care what Cassius says. He can't make me mad. All I want to do is knock him out."
Although Cassius, in his guileless, arbitrary fashion, was confident of victory, it was reassuring to him that Dundee concurred. "Every fighter with ability has beaten Archie," Angelo said one evening, plucking an olive off a small plastic monkey that substituted for a toothpick. "He hasn't fought a good fighter since Patterson. Mine is a big, tall heavyweight with a good left hand and speed to burn. I see him boxing this guy real good. Everyone expects him to run. You got to move to an old man. They can't go back. He's going to box but box offensively, go to the guy with the jab, offset him with the jab and open him up for other punches. If the jab works early, he'll stop the guy early. Cassius throws too much glove. And I have two special punches for Moore. A right-hand counter and an uppercut to go in between his arms. Believe it or not, Cassius throws a left uppercut. There's no one like him. He's too egotistical to be conned by Moore, and guys who make moves like Archie give Cassius more time to think. And I like him against short guys."
Clay weighed in at 204, five pounds heavier than ever, and Moore at 197. During the ceremonies, a commissioner asked Moore, who has been fighting 27 years: "The rules, are you familiar with them?"
"Have they been revamped?" Moore inquired, mildly.
Said Clay: "Tell all my fans to bet heavy." Due largely to Clay's active mouth and sandbox manners, the fight drew 16,200 paying $182,599.76, a California indoor record. From the beginning it was evident Moore had no chance. Archie came out in a severe crouch, arms, as customary, a stout gate-crossing in front of his face. He clumped in pursuit of Clay but only rarely did he have the opportunity to punch. Clay stood off, always just out of range, stately, composed, serenely firing a dazzling variety of swift hooks, jabs and uppercuts at Archie's graying head. Clay's were not, of course, singularly powerful blows, but they added up.
The second round went much like the first: Clay ceaselessly punching, Moore swaying in his crouch like an old bear. Cassius missed at times, but as Dick Saddler, Archie's chief trainer, ruefully said afterwards: "Clay missed 100 punches—but he threw 200." Toward the end of the second round Archie caught Clay in Cassius' corner with a strong right, but Clay took it almost contemptuously and was giving Moore a good beating about the head at the bell.
Archie stood glumly in his corner between rounds; there is nothing quite so disheartening as having your opponent take your best punch. It wasn't bravura. If he had sat down he very likely wouldn't have gotten up. Archie did a few deep knee bends before the third round, trying to get a little life into his legs, and then sailed out into Clay's barraging fists. About the middle of the round, Clay, as he admitted later, began to get arm-weary. He had thrown as many punches as most heavyweights do over a full 10 rounds. Punching more slowly, more deliberately and, hence, with greater power, Clay caught Moore with three successive rights that forced him back into the ropes where he endured for a while, as he had with Marciano. Moore retaliated briefly, but it was his last gasp and, withal, a feeble one. Once more, Clay was rapping him at the end.
In the fourth Archie, his face as red as a boy who has been in the jam pot, was knocked down by a flurry of punches, his mouthpiece spurting out. Clay danced exultantly about him, arms outstretched above his head. Referee Tommy Hart, who did a commendable job, had some difficulty getting Clay to go to a neutral corner. Moore arose at about the count of eight. A series of combinations followed by a shove forced him to sit down—as much from discretion as the force of Cassius' blows. Clay again signaled his prowess with outflung arms. Archie cumbrously regained his feet. Another sequence of sharp punches put him down again and Hart, not bothering to count, stopped the fight.
Lots of bombast
Cassius had picked the round, as he had done many times in his previous 15 fights. There was a lot of bombast to the effect that the fight was a fix, that many of Cassius' fights were fixed because he has the uncanny ability to pick the round and that Cassius still hasn't shown he is a worthy fighter because Moore was fat and washed-up.
But there was no fix: Jimmie (The Greek) Snyder's Las Vegas odds rose gradually in Cassius' favor until they were 3 to 1 at fight time. Smart money would have moved the line appreciably more. Cassius Clay, believe it or not, is an authentic heavyweight contender who weighs a solid 204 pounds and is still filling out. He may hold his hands low, but it makes little difference where a quick-reacting fighter keeps his hands (viz., Jack Johnson). Clay may move away from a punch instead of falling in, as is generally taught, but that is the way Johnson did it, too, and he is acclaimed the finest heavyweight of all time. Clay has faster hands than anyone his size and a complete arsenal of punches. He does lack a truly heavy punch, like Louis or Liston, but he hits plenty hard enough. He would be the betting favorite tomorrow against any heavyweight except Sonny Liston. Archie was, indeed, old and logy, but Clay took more out of him than can be explained by time and vanilla ice cream.
Cassius, naturally, was elated in the dressing room. "Who is the world's greatest?" he asked and didn't wait for an answer. "If you didn't see the fight you know what happened. All of my fans who betted heavy—cut it with Cassius. I don't give myself much credit for beating him. He's an old man. I hate to do it and Archie knows it, but I have to use him as a steppingstone. He's a great fighter. Fighting for him is a business now, no glory, and that makes him desperate and dangerous, but this was my easiest fight. I was throwing fists as fast as the law of gravity. A man is supposed to fall behind blows like that. You must say I'm the world's greatest. Liston will fall in eight. If it was up to me, I'd pull on my trunks and whip him now." (Privately, however, Cassius has this to say about meeting Sonny: "Are you crazy? I can wait.")
"Cassius proved," said Archie Moore with sobriety, "that he was everything I thought he wasn't. I had hoped to stay close to him, wear him down, but it didn't work. I couldn't hit him. Faster than Patterson? Oh, yes. Should he fight Liston? Well, that depends on his economic standpoint, you see. He is certainly the most colorful and he has enough ability to go out and do nicely.
"I don't know whether I'll retire. This might just have been a cloud that covered the sun. It was a cloudy night, but every morning brings a new ray of sunshine, new hope. I'm hopeful. And why should I complain? I've been stacking them up like cordwood for many years."
As the Moore-Clay debate ended, the Liston-Clay debate began. That night, after the fight, in a hotel ballroom, Liston met Clay at the microphone and, in rare, jovial humor. Sonny decisively decisioned Cassius. "I'm not just talking," Liston said. "Clay won't last as long as Patterson."
"I'm surprised to hear you say that," said Cassius, grabbing the microphone. "I'm going to run for one round."
"Well, then the only thing I say is I hope I can stay as long as Archie"—long pause—"in the fight game."
"I just found someone who can out-talk me," said Clay, and prudently sat down.