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Mayweather’s Unfortunate Announcement Stole No Thunder From Canelo-GGG II

In sports, as in life, timing is everything. An example of perfectly good timing, at least for the winning team, came Saturday afternoon in Auburn, Ala

Bernard Fernandez

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In sports, as in life, timing is everything. An example of perfectly good timing, at least for the winning team, came Saturday afternoon in Auburn, Ala., as LSU kicker Cole Tracy nailed a last-second field goal to cap a fourth-quarter rally and lift LSU to a 22-21 upset of Auburn in a terrific college football game.

An example of perfectly rotten timing came earlier in the day, as Floyd Mayweather Jr. revealed that he would be coming out of retirement, again, to take on the ghost of Manny Pacquiao in a rematch of their May 2, 2015, megafight that set financial records, but delivered far less action than any boxing fan could have hoped for given the astronomical ticket prices and only slightly less-outrageous pay-per-view subscription fee.

Coincidentally (possible, but unlikely), when they found themselves at a musical festival in Tokyo, “Money” and “Pac-Man” confronted one another and more or less announced the likelihood of a do-over sometime in December. The proposed rematch is something that Mayweather apparently believes will generate the same sort of global fascination that their first fight did, not to mention another hefty payday for himself.

“Manny don’t want none of this, baby,” a preening Mayweather was heard to say in a video that not unexpectedly went viral. “Easy work.”

An accompanying Instagram post on Mayweather’s account revealed why boxing’s foremost attention hound might consider another go at Pacquiao in a bout that the masses haven’t exactly been clamoring for. “Another 9 figure pay day on the way,” he optimistically predicted.

If Mayweather can squeeze another $100 million out of the public to put on another dog-and-pony show, he might prove himself to be more of a marketing genius than he already has demonstrated time and again. But it says here that the old master (he’s 41) will be sorely disappointed to learn that his drawing power is greatly diminished at this late stage of a remarkable career, a reality even more evident for the 39-year-old Pacquiao despite his recently won “regular” WBA welterweight title that came on a seventh-round stoppage of the even more-faded Lucas Matthysse.

Now, back to the matter of timing. Does anyone think it wasn’t planned that the notion of a May-Pac II clash was revealed on the very morning that Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin were to square off in the biggest fight of 2018, a fight that for the most part lived up to the lofty hype? It was widely speculated that Mayweather was trying to “steal the thunder” from Canelo-GGG II, which on the face of it is as much a certainty as early-morning sunrises. Much of the shenanigans that Mayweather is involved in to remain a lightning rod for controversy are orchestrated. Some, unfortunately, is not.

Let one thing be made clear. In addition to his gift for making himself the most fabulously wealthy boxer ever, Mayweather is the finest fighter of his era. He was the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet for years, and one of the best ever, although the man who bills himself as “TBE” (the best ever) might be a tad excessive in his boastful claim to such a distinction. Many boxing historians would make him an underdog if somehow he could be paired, prime on prime, against Sugar Ray Robinson at welterweight, Roberto Duran at lightweight or Sugar Ray Leonard at any weight. But even now, Mayweather’s magnificent defense and overall skill set would, at least initially, stamp him as a top four or five pound-for-pound fighter were he to come back to campaign in earnest in a deep welterweight division packed with such young guns as Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman and, maybe soon, elite 140-pounders Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis.

Conspicuously absent from the list of most-relevant welterweights is future first-ballot Hall of Famer Pacquiao, the secondary title he wrested from the used-up Matthysse (who promptly announced his retirement) notwithstanding. The only man ever to win world titles in eight weight classes, Pacquiao’s handling of Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, marked his first victory inside the distance since his 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, 2009, snapping a kayo-less streak of 13 bouts.

That Pacquiao would subject himself to another near-certain loss to Mayweather is not surprising. Unlike the presumably fixed-for-life Mayweather, Manny appears to be in desperate financial straits. He owes millions of dollars to the IRS, has been jettisoned by his longtime promotional company, Top Rank, after a 17-year relationship, and he had to put up some of his own dwindling funds to promote the fight with Matthysse, which tanked at the box office. All of the elite fighters at 147 want to get a piece of Manny while there is still a scrap to fight over, but the Fab Filipino has to realize that his last, best shot at a significant payday might necessitate offering himself up as another testament to Floyd’s ego. When last they fought three-plus years ago, Pacquiao’s more enthusiastic supporters backed him with their hearts and wallets instead of with rationality, which dictated that his was probably a lost cause from the beginning. But at least Pacquiao had the excuse that he was fighting with a bum shoulder, an injury he concealed until after the fact.

It should not be inferred that Mayweather rose to the heights he did by beating up on used-to-be’s, never-were’s and not-quite-there-yets. There are many big-name victims on his resume, and he dispatched most of them in convincing fashion. But as he developed an antihero persona that stirred the masses one way or the other, raised his profile and inflated his bank account, he became ever more protective of his undefeated record and veneer of invincibility.  His obstinance was the primary roadblock to delaying a fight with Pacquiao that came five years later than it should have, and his two bouts thereafter were a perfunctory tuneup of mouthy Andre Berto, who fashioned himself as Floyd Lite, and the novelty matchup with even mouthier UFC superstar Conor McGregor, whose crossover into a fighting discipline in which he played the deluded novice to “Money’s” grand master made the Irishman more of a designated victim than legitimate threat.

Now Mayweather is back, which might be because, like other retired greats, he craves the spotlight that has since focused on others. But it might also owe to the possibility that his fabulous and much-flaunted wealth, like that once possessed by Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, was not so fabulous as to be severely whittled down by his exorbitant spending habits.

In a 2014 Showtime special in which his lifestyle of the rich and famous was examined by, yes, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach, Mayweather’s otherworldly extravagance was nearly as incomprehensible to regular folk as that displayed by  Charles Foster Kane, as played by the great Orson Welles, in the 1941 film classic Citizen Kane. Among the nuggets of information revealed in that program:

*Mayweather maintained three residences in Las Vegas, one in Sunny Isles, Fla., outside of Miami, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City. Among the 88 luxury cars he had purchased for himself and members of his unwieldy entourage, he kept a matching set at his primary Vegas residence (those were white) and one in Florida (those were black) “because I don’t want to get confused where I am,” he told Leach.

*Despite his fleet of spiffy rides, he couldn’t resist the urge to shell out $4.8 million for the world’s most expensive car, a Koenigseeg CCXR Trevita, a land rocket that can go from zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds and has a top speed of 250 mph. After Leach’s camera crew departed, Mayweather further splurged on a $3.2 million Pagani Huayra and a $3.3 million Aston-Martin 177.

*He wore wildly expensive boxer shorts and sneakers (Christian Louboutins, which are priced anywhere from $795 to $3,595 a pair, depending on the model) only once before discarding them.

*He kept on staff a personal, in-residence chef at $4,000 a day (useful if he got the late-night munchies) and a personal barber charged with the daily responsibility of keeping Floyd’s shaved skull shiny and follicle-free.

*The bars at his various residences are stocked with his beverage of choice (Louis XIII Remy Martin Cognac, which goes for $3,500 a bottle).

Although Mayweather’s investments supposedly guaranteed him at least $1 million a month in interest, his expenditures far exceeded that amount, which might have caused a cash-flow problem as he no longer is an active boxer and receiving checks with lots of zeros on them. Given his fondness for betting big on sports events, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop (he only goes public on those occasions when he collects on wagers), it is not unreasonable to believe that he either has cut back on his spending, sold off some of his pricier boy toys to lower the overhead or – more to the point in this instance – decided to throw down again with Manny for fun, profit and self-gratification.

But should Mayweather proceed with still another flight of fancy, he is apt to find out that all the network executives and other power brokers once obliged to dance to his tune aren’t willing to give him anything he wants, or even most of it, this time around. Those he bossed around because he could on his way up might want some payback now that he no longer is holding the whip. Even fans who once felt compelled to follow Mayweather’s every move might now balk at ponying up for a second installment of the slow waltz with Manny as the realization settles in that the first fight, when both men ostensibly were better than they are now, wasn’t exactly a barnburner.

No, Floyd didn’t steal thunder from Canelo and GGG with an announcement that made news but did not – could not – snatch boxing’s biggest headlines on a day in which a really good and competitive fight wasn’t about to be supplanted by one that wasn’t all that compelling three years ago, and another that might or might not take place in December.

If there is any surprise should Mayweather actually go through with this, it will come when he discovers he no longer controls the narrative, and he can’t regain his grasp on the steering wheel by relentlessly insulting Pacquiao or trying to surpass his own record for titillating f-bombs. For the Pacquiao fight in 2015, he ordered the revocation of credentials from two female reporters, Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols, who had the temerity to mention Floyd’s history of domestic abuse toward women, which is much more of a hot-button topic now than it was then. Beadle did not particularly mind being absent on fight night, and she said there is more to Mayweather, not all of it positive, than his superb defense, signature shoulder roll and unblemished record inside the ropes.

“I feel strongly about holding people accountable for their actions,” Beadle wrote after her credential had been lifted. “People are fed up. A lot, not all, but a lot of fans are tired of rooting for terrible human beings who are allowed to continue being terrible, so long as they’re winning.”

That assessment might be overly harsh. I don’t know Floyd well enough to weigh in on the subject one way or the other. But it is, and always has been, abundantly evident that his undeniable talent is eclipsed only by his unshakable belief that he operates on a higher plane than mere mortals. It is at once his gift and his curse.

All Hail to the Great Lotierzo

There is a reason Frank Lotierzo is TSS’ foremost expert in analyzing what will happen in an upcoming fight. The reason is simple: he’s right a lot more often than he’s wrong. When Frank predicted a points victory for Canelo Alvarez over Gennady Golovkin in their delayed and very contentious rematch, I should have reconsidered my own position, which was that GGG would win, probably on a stoppage (I picked him to get the job done in eight rounds, but I, like two of the official judges, had Canelo winning by a 115-113 margin).

Kudos to Frank, and mea culpas on my part to those TSS readers who erred in siding with me on this one. But the great thing about boxing is that there’s always another big fight coming up, and with it another chance to either look really smart or to embarrass yourself. Maybe we can agree to disagree somewhere down the line, Frank. Should be fun.

 Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s “Bazooka” Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Muhammad Ali Biographer Jonathan Eig Talks About His Book and the Icon Who Inspired It

Rick Assad

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Given the breadth and depth of Muhammad Ali’s 74 years, it isn’t very easy to capture the complete essence of the man.

Dozens of books have been written about the three-time heavyweight champion including Jonathan Eig’s 2017 biography, “Ali: A Life.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay, he would one day be known around the globe as a world-class boxer, civil rights advocate, philanthropist and cultural icon.

Like so many others, the Brooklyn, New York-born Eig became intrigued by Ali.

“I loved Ali as a child. He fascinated me. He was outspoken, radical, yet so very loveable,” he said. “And, of course, he could fight! I was astonished to realize, around 2012, that there was no complete biography of Ali, even though he was probably the most famous man of the 20th century.”

Eig, currently at work on a major offering about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., added: “I had read lots of Ali books, including [David] Remnick’s “King Of The World: Muhammad Ali And The Rise Of An American Hero,” and [Thomas] Hauser’s “Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times,” and [Norman] Mailer’s “The Fight” – but those were not complete biographies,” he pointed out. “By 2012, enough time had gone by to put Ali in historical perspective. Also, there were plenty of people still alive to tell the story. I did more than 500 interviews, including all three of Ali’s living wives. I wanted to write a book that would treat Ali as more than a boxer. I wanted to write a book that would show the good and the bad. I wanted to write a big book worthy of an epic life, a book that danced and jabbed half as beautifully as Ali.”

Given Eig’s exhaustive research, what previously unknown tidbits about Ali did he come across?

“I learned thousands of new things. I think even hardcore Ali fans will find new information on almost every page,” said the former Wall Street Journal reporter and 1986 Northwestern University graduate. “I discovered things Ali himself didn’t know. I discovered Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, for example. Ali didn’t know that! I read Ali’s FBI files, as well as those of Herbert Muhammad, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. I interviewed Ali’s childhood friends. I found MRIs of Ali’s brain. I counted the punches from all of his fights. I measured how those punches affected his speaking rate. Ali’s wives also confided in me things I never knew. I spent four years working on this book, and every day delivered revelations.”

Over the years, Ali, who posted a 56-5 ring record with 37 knockouts, seemed to mellow with time which helped ingratiate him to an even wider audience. How was this possible?

“People change. They grow. It’s hard to stay radical as you get older and richer,” said Eig, who has written five books including three that deal with sports. “The late Stanley Crouch had a great line about Ali. He said young Ali was a grizzly bear. Ali in the ’70s was a circus bear. Ali in his later years was a teddy bear. We all loved the teddy bear. We wanted to hug him and love him. But it was the grizzly bear who we should remember first. It was the grizzly bear who shook up the world.”

Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram covered nearly the entirety of Ali’s career which spanned 1960 through 1981 and included a three-year period, 1967 until 1970 when he wasn’t allowed to box after being convicted of draft evasion because he refused induction into the armed forces.

In Kram’s book, “Ghosts Of Manila,” the author asserts Ali was essentially a pawn of the Black Muslims.

What’s Eig’s take?

“I love Kram’s book, but I think it’s dangerous to question anyone’s religious faith,” he said. “Ali was a true believer. The Nation of Islam took advantage of him at times. But does that mean he was a pawn? I don’t think so. He knew what he was doing. He made his own choices. One might argue that the NOI did more for Ali than Ali did for them.”

Ali wasn’t perfect and that included his fondness for women. As a Muslim, how did he hurdle this?

“He didn’t reconcile it – except to acknowledge that humans are human, they are flawed,” Eig said. “The thing I love about Ali is that he said he was the greatest, but he never said he was perfect. He talked to his wives about his weakness. He even talked to reporters about his flaws – his weakness for women, his disdain for training, his poor handling of money. He knew who he was and he never tried to be anything else.”

Eig, who has also penned “Luckiest Man: The Life And Death Of Lou Gehrig,” and “Opening Day: The Story Of Jackie Robinson’s First Season,” went on: “We’re all complicated, right? Ali was no more complicated than you or me, but he let the whole world see his complications – his racial pride and his racist behavior toward [Joe] Frazier, his love of women and his cruelty to his wives, his generosity with his money and his stupidity with money,” he said. “I don’t think Ali was different, just more open, more willing to let us see everything.”

Ali’s battles with Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton are legendary, but his two fights against Sonny Liston are filled with question marks, such as were they fixed?

Ali claimed the title on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round and then faced Liston 15 months later in Lewiston, Maine, where he knocked out the challenger in the opening frame.

In Eig’s mind, were these two bouts on the level? “My hunch is that the first fight was legit. Liston quit when he knew he couldn’t win,” Eig said. “The second fight is more suspicious. Liston’s flop was pathetic. Bad acting! But I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. As an aside, Liston’s wife said Sonny had diarrhea before the fight, which might have given him one more reason to throw it.”

Still, Ali in his prime was a sight to behold. “Ali before the exile, in my opinion, was the most beautiful boxer of all time. His combination of speed and power and ferocity was thrilling, elegant, frightening and marvelous,” Eig said. “Was he the greatest heavyweight of all time? Maybe, maybe not. Was he the most breathtaking? To me, yes.”

Early in Ali’s career his braggadocio was off-putting to many. But much of it was showmanship.

“One of the Greatest” doesn’t sound as good, does it? If we’re only discussing his action in the ring, Ali was one of the greatest,” Eig said. “But that’s like saying Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest trumpet players without considering his voice, his charm, his improvisational skills, his smile. In and out of the ring, Ali was the greatest in my book.”

For so many, Ali was many things. What traits in the man does Eig admire? “I love his fearlessness, his honesty, his insatiable appetite for people,” he said. “He was so very loving. But he could also be narcissistic. He wanted everyone to love him, but he wasn’t always sensitive to the feelings of others – including his wives and children. He turned his back on friends like Malcolm X and Joe Frazier when it served his purposes.”

While Ali could be polarizing, he had his legion of supporters including Howard Cosell, Jerry Izenberg, Robert Lipsyte, Larry Merchant and Jack Newfield.

“You could add Mailer, [George] Plimpton, and so many others to that list,” Eig noted. “Those men were lucky enough to spend time with young Ali and to bask in the great warmth of his sun. He was great to reporters. He was the best story they ever covered. And unlike most celebrities, he really paid attention to them.”

Eig continued: “I only met him once, six months before he died, and I envy those reporters who got to know him and got to see him at his best. I think those who knew and loved Ali became his disciples,” he pointed out. “Ali’s friend Gene Kilroy told me over and over that he thought Ali was like Jesus, that people would be studying his words and drawing inspiration from his life for centuries to come. That’s the feeling he gave to those with whom he spent time.”

Ali was a boxer, but so much more. How does Eig see him? “I think Ali will be remembered as one of America’s great revolutionary heroes – one whose courage went far beyond sports. Like Jackie Robinson, like Martin Luther King, like the abolitionists and suffragettes, he loved America but refused to accept its shortfalls,” he said. “He fought to make his country live up to the promises contained in the Declaration of Independence. He will also be remembered as an important world figure, one who united Africans, Americans and Asians, one who helped Americans better understand Islam and helped people of Islamic faith around the world better understand America.”

In Ali’s last quarter century, he was almost universally loved. This is a far cry from being labeled a draft dodger.

“Ali was always a spiritual man, but in his later years I believe he clarified and deepened his spirituality,” Eig said. “He became more focused and more thoughtful.”

When Eig turned in his manuscript, what was his immediate thought? “I wanted to take it back. I didn’t want to be done,” he said. “I had so much fun writing this book I wanted to work on it for the rest of my life. I knew I would never find anything more fun to work on.”

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