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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 33: After the Storm Comes the Deluge of Fights

David A. Avila

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After days of rainfall pummeling the coasts of California now it’s boxing’s turn to take a few swings of its own.

In three days five fully loaded fight cards take place mostly in Southern California with the Sunday punch erupting in Northern California. Those who love boxing may never be the same again with Gervonta Davis, Alberto Machado and Jose Carlos Ramirez coming through the pike.

From small promotion powerhouses like Thompson Boxing Promotions to older established mega monster outfits like Top Rank, fans in the Golden State will be able to watch world title fights, classic clashes and good old fashion club fights from Friday to Sunday on television, streaming or in person.

Let’s begin the tour.

Thompson Boxing

On Friday, Feb. 8, Thompson Boxing brings its usual impressive array of prospects to the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. The boxing company that introduced Timothy Bradley, Josesito Lopez, current world champion Danny Roman and many others will be showcasing several new prospects.

Over the years matchmaker Alex Camponovo has shown a keen eye in picking prospects from the pile. Who will emerge as its next star?

Bantamweights clash in the main event with Mario Hernandez (8-0-1, 3 KOs) facing Luis Saavedra (7-6, 3 KOs) in an eight round contest. Several other solid matchups are planned. Doors open at 7 p.m. and action starts at 8 p.m. For tickets and information call (714) 935-0900. The fight card can also be seen via stream on Thompson Boxing Promotions page on Facebook. Commentating for the first time will be Doug Fischer who replaces Steve Kim. Remaining as a lead commentator is Beto Duran.

Golden Boy

On Saturday Feb. 9, Golden Boy Promotions presents possibly its best boxing card in years though many may not see it that way. Top to bottom the lineup led by WBA super featherweight titlist Alberto “Explosivo” Machado (21-0, 17 KOs) defending against Andrew Cancio (19-4-2, 14 KOs) promises to be riveting at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.

And it should be. All of the cards will be streamed by DAZN and it’s in a battle for boxing relevancy with Showtime, Fox and ESPN. Nothing less than excellence will ensure its survival.

Facing Machado (pictured on the left) will be Blythe, California’ s Cancio who’s known for giving any aspiring superstar a run for their money. Many a title challenger has been toppled by Cancio who is like an NFL safety making a shoestring tackle on a running back heading for daylight. If you don’t have the goods Cancio will let you know.

“I know he hits hard but he’s been put down too,” said Cancio. “We’re going to see what he can take because after I feel him out we will see what happens. I’ve fought guys that hit hard before like Rene Alvarado and Dardan (Zenunaj).”

It was the fight against Zenunaj that caught the attention of fans as the two super featherweights put on a performance that many claim was the true “Fight of the Year.” It caught many by surprise at the ferocity both fighters showed that summer night last August.

Zenunaj is another fighter that should be brought back but that’s a topic for another time. Hopefully we see Zenunaj again.

On Saturday, Cancio expects Puerto Rico’s Machado to come out blasting.

“He likes to start fast and see if you can take it,” said Cancio. “I’m ready and thankful for this chance at a title.”

Another world title fight matches WBC super bantamweight Rey Vargas (32-0, 22 KOs) a tall, long and angular fighter from Mexico City who has made three world title defenses since snatching it away from Britain’s Gavin McDonnell in England two years ago.

Venezuela’s Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17 KOs) gets his crack at Vargas and has that hunger you can’t teach.

“He’s a really good kid and works hard,” said trainer James Gogue who works with Manzanilla in Colombia. “There are a lot of hungry fighters in Colombia who want their chance.”

Manzanilla is making his first visit to the USA and says his family and friends in Colombia and Venezuela are ecstatic about his opportunity.

“I know Vargas is a very good champion and I’m just happy for this opportunity to fight him,” said Manzanilla who is almost as tall as Vargas. “I’m very prepared for this fight.”

A third marquee fight features featherweight title contender Jojo Diaz (27-1, 14 KOs) facing local legend Charles Huerta (20-5, 12 KOs) in a fight set at 130 pounds instead of 126. Could the difference in weight make a difference?

Huerta, now 32, has a vast amount of experience that he can unfurl on any fighter regardless of talent. One major question mark is rust. He suffered an Achilles Heel injury and was inactive for more than a year. But he’s one of the most intelligent fighters in boxing crazy Southern California and can topple anybody on any day.

 

“We’ve sparred before,” said Huerta, who lives in the Los Angeles area. “We know each other very well. I like these kind of fights that mean something.”

Back in the 1980s this type of fight between Southern California hotshots would have sold out the Olympic Auditorium. Expect fans of both fighters to travel 100 miles to see this fight at Fantasy Springs Casino.

Huerta and Diaz are not the only Southern California rival fight. A pair of lightweights are set to clash with San Diego’s undefeated Genaro Gamez (8-0) meeting L.A.’s Ivan Delgado (13-1-2) in an eight round contest. I guarantee this fight will light it up.

Five other bouts are scheduled including Armenian warriors Ferdinand Kerobyan and Azat Hovhannisyan in separate bouts. Plus, Durango’s Oscar Duarte and Coachella’s Rommel Caballero in two other separate bouts. Middleweight contender Tureano Johnson is also scheduled to fight on the ultra-stacked boxing card.

It’s absolutely the best boxing card Golden Boy has staged in years from top to bottom. If you can’t make it to Indio you can view the boxing card via DAZN.com.

PBC

WBA super featherweight southpaw slugger Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) defends his world title against last-minute replacement Hugo Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 9, at the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly StubHub Center) in Carson, Calif.

Davis was slated to face Abner Mares in a top notch matchup but an eye injury forced a cancellation. Now, Ruiz, fought last month in Las Vegas and won by decision against Alberto Guevara, is the replacement opponent for the mighty Davis. It’s just one of those quirks of fate that happens in boxing.

“All I know is that he is fast, he has some speed. It looked like he has some power and good timing,” said Davis about Ruiz. “I actually think that this is not a walk in the park, like people think.”

Ruiz knows what to expect.

“I think this is going to be an explosive fight. We’re both known for our knockouts and this is a fight that can end at any moment. It’s going to be by a knockout,” said Ruiz of Mexico.

Another fighter to watch is Mario Barrios.

The undefeated Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) meets Mexico’s Ricardo Zamora (19-2, 12 KOs) in a 10 round super lightweight clash. It’s another step-up fight for the 23-year-old from San Antonio, Texas. Last summer, Barrios clipped Jose Roman in a similar battle for legitimacy as a contender.

“This is going to be one of my toughest fights but I put in all the hard work in camp and I’m going into Saturday night with no doubts,” said Barrios who trained with Virgil Hunter in the Oakland, Calif. area for this fight. “I was getting great work, sparring with Devin Haney. We got about two or three weeks of great work just going at it. That was tremendous experience just keeping up with him. He’s a very explosive fighter and ahead of the curve for his age. I finished off camp sparring with Amir Khan, who is getting ready for his Terrence Crawford fight.”

Showtime will televise the main card and the undercard fights can be seen on the Showtime page on YouTube.com

Roy Englebrecht Events

Super bantamweights Humberto Rubalcava (9-0) and Jonathan Torres (8-6-1) clash in the main event on Saturday Feb. 9, at Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. The fight card is promoted by Englebrecht Events and features several local fighters.

Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131.

Top Rank

Because of the Saturday afternoon crush of fights Top Rank pushed its boxing card to Sunday afternoon where the sports calendar is free especially now with NFL football finished.

“That’s the beauty of working with ESPN,” said Bob Arum of Top Rank. “We can have a Sunday show and not have to deal with other competition.”

WBC super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez (23-0, 16 KOs) defends against Jose Zepeda (30-1, 25 KOs) in the main event at Save Mart Arena in Fresno, Calif. ESPN will televise.

Ramirez, 26, is making his second defense of the world title since winning it nearly a year ago in March 2018 against Amir Imam. His last fight was a firefight against Antonio Orozco that ended in a unanimous decision win. But for 12 rounds the two fired relentlessly nonstop. It was a riveting performance and considered one of the top fights of 2018.

“Yes it was a pretty good fight for the fans and I give all respect to Antonio Orozco, but this is what I love to do,” said Ramirez while in L.A. recently. “I want to unify the world titles and this is the first step toward doing that.”

Ramirez also has dedicated his fight toward the war against cancer and will be donating part of his boxing wardrobe for an auction. The proceeds will go toward the local Community Cancer outreach.

Zepeda, 29, is a southpaw knockout puncher who has been around the Southern California fight scene for a while. He always presents a danger.

“I can’t underestimate Zepeda especially because he’s a lefty,” said Ramirez who trains with Robert Garcia in Riverside, Calif.

Also on the fight card is former champion Ray Beltran (35-8-1) who meets Japan’s Hiroki Okada (19-0) in a super lightweight contest in the semi-main event.

“It’s more of a challenge at 140,” said Beltran the former lightweight world titlist at 135 pound lightweight division. “It’s about that time in my life for another challenge.”

Saul Rodriguez, the super featherweight prospect out of Riverside, has his second fight under the Top Rank banner since returning. His next foe is a Brazilian knockout artist named Aelio Mesquita.

Rodriguez (22-0-1, 16 KOs) meets Mesquita (17-3, 15 KOs) in a 10 round contest at the lightweight limit. Both are hard-hitting fighters with speed. Mesquita has faced Shakur Stevenson and was stopped in two rounds. It’s an important test for Rodriguez who was among the top prospects before signing with Mayweather Promotions more than two years ago. But an inability to place Rodriguez in marquee fights forced the California fighter to return to Top Rank. Now he’s poised to break into contender status. This is step number two for Rodriguez.

ESPN will televise some of the fights and ESPN+ will stream the other fights on the streaming service. First streamed bout begins at 1 p.m. PT.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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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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