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Was Muhammad Ali a Racist?

Hero to some, Muhammad Ali was a racist to others. His controversial legacy is a split decision.

Greatest heavyweight in the history of boxing, yes. Perhaps even fifth or sixth greatest boxer ever, in any weight division. But as a person, Muhammad Ali was a complex individual, jaded by the racially charged atmosphere of the late 1960s and 1970s. The Vietnam war, along with his personal struggles and protests, took him out of the game for three years of his prime. He wore his showmanship on his sleeve, but beneath the entreating exterior lied an angry often extremely volatile individual, whose determination was unmatched in the sport of boxing. 

In January 1974 in an ABC television studio, Muhammad Ali, the prettiest clergyman ever to hold the heavyweight title, had a pre fight fight with another ex-champ, Joe Frazier. Ali said Joe was "ignorant." Joe stood up, menacingly. Then Ali stood up and put one arm around Joe's neck. Slowly they fell to the floor. Slowly they struggled. When it was over they were unmarked. There was no youtube video to go viral and no clip for ESPN. It wasn't intended for effect it was a combative moment for a man who did not believe society's rules applied to him.

Meanwhile, the late sportscaster Howard Cosell was carrying on as if he were describing violent riots in front of Greece's parliament building during the 21st century financial crisis. And why not? In the lackluster world of boxing, what reporter is not grateful for Muhammad Ali and the diversions he dreams up to provide copy? Without him, the great Howard Cosell would have had to dust off his law books and go back to defending people who smoke on buses.

When Ali retired, every heavyweight in the world may have gone into mourning. And the world mourned again on June 3, 2016, when Ali passed away. Where else will they find an opponent who can draw such crowds and create such controversy? Millions of people paid to see Ali out of love, out of hate, or simply out of a desire to see what he is going to do next.

Ali began as Cassius Clay, a teenaged Golden Glover out of Louisville who went to the 1960 Olympics and came home with a gold medal. Soon he was proclaiming, "I am the greatest. I'm pretty. I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," etc., etc.

At first, most of the white public regarded him as a nice-looking boy who was a little pushy. Old school rednecks despised him. The black community, for the most part, adored him.

Ali's troubles started when his draft board classified him 1A despite the fact he had flunked a written exam. By 1966, the army didn't care how smart a guy was if he had the strength to climb on a plane for Vietnam.

Ali protested that his taxes were enough to pay 200,000 soldiers for a year. It was an exaggeration, but he meant well. His initial approach was not to protest the war, just his specific draft. He thought the hard-nosed businessmen who run the country and the draft boards would appreciate his talking in terms they could understand.

They didn't. Ali appealed, first on the grounds that he was a hardship case, then because he was a conscientious objector, and finally because he had become a Muslim minister.

The government decided he had gotten conscientious too late. He was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Again Ali appealed. While the court fight continued he was stripped of his title, and for more than three years—in the prime fighting age between twenty-five and twenty-eight—he was barred from the ring. He lectured, acted in a flop Broadway play, divorced his wife because she could not adapt to Muslim ways, and married a Muslim girl.

In 1970, the rules were relaxed and he returned to defeat Jerry Quarry in Atlanta. On March 8, 1971 Ali fought Joe Frazier, who had been crowned heavyweight champion during Ali's three year absence from the ring, and suffered his first defeat on a close decision. He then won a succession of victories before being beaten in March 1973 by Ken Norton, who broke his jaw. Ali said he fought with a bad right hand and a twisted ankle. He met Norton again and won a-not-too-convincing split decision. Then he came back to defeat Joe Frazierand later George Foreman.

Ali became a Muslim and adopted his new name after he won the championship from Sonny Liston in 1964. He was billed as the warrior of Islam carrying the banner against a corrupt Christendom, although he personally disclaims any thought of being a leader, deferring always to Elijah Muhammad, the Muslim chief. It was not his Muslim ideals that disturbed the masses, but his vocal outcries against other religions, races, and creeds.

His Islamic supporters built that first Liston fight into a rerun of the Crusades. But putting Sonny Liston in the role of a Christian knight was a great act of the imagination for Liston was no Knight. He had a long record as a petty criminal and had served time. He also had the most fearsome face ever constructed for a human being. His gaze was so deadly that reporters interviewing him would avert their eyes out of fear of being turned into stone.

At the weigh-in, Ali met that stare head-on and gave a performance worthy of all four Marx Brothers. He screamed, raged, stamped, strutted, popped his eyes, ground his teeth, and shrieked hysterical insults. It went on for an hour. It was the outstanding scene of his career. If anyone else had behaved that way in public he would have been ushered into a strait jacket.

His supporters say it was all an act but most impartial witnesses say Ali was in a state of frenzied uncontrollable terror. Whatever it was, the bizarre blowout apparently got the adrenaline moving and by fight time Ali was ready. He took Liston in seven rounds and went on to defeat all comers before being barred from boxing.

His supporters claim that if he had not lost those three and a half years during his court fight, Ali would be undisputedly the greatest boxer in history. Maybe. If Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams had not spent five years in the service, during his prime, he might have hit .400 again. If, if, if.

And while Ali had the financial resources and the reputation to win his fight to avoid military service, other war protesters did time for their convictions.

His later life was devoted to Muslim principles. He also said he had become a great writer and he would read his philosophic prose and poetry to all who would listen.

Two who did listen were Andrew Wylie and Victor Bockris, who conducted this  1974 watershed interview at Ali's training camp in the Pennsylvania hills. It is somewhat informative but, more importantly, disturbing interview of a great athlete who was near the end of his prime and had too many adversaries to count. 

At the age of 74, Muhammad Ali was hospitalized for respiratory issues before passing away from septic shock on June 3, 2016. With a career spanning many years, he participated in 61 fights, with 56 of them being victories. Known as "The Greatest" and "The People’s Champion," it is evident that Muhammad Ali had an effect on the the world of boxing and the world itself. 

Photo by Ed Gallucci

Andrew Wylie & Victor Bockris: How do you feel when you first come into the ring?

Muhammad Ali: How do you feel when you get up and walk down the street? It's natural. How do you feel when you breathe air? It's natural. How do you feel when you eat? It's something you gotta do. It's something natural with me—looking at crowds. I suggest to myself that I'm going to do this and do that, and I do it. I believe I'm gonna get him in this round; I practice it. And I believe I can do this, and do it.

Confidence. Confidence. Every man wants to be determined, every man wants to believe in himself, every man wants to be fearless. And when I display this, it attracts people; They come to see if I can do it. Many of them envy me, because they want to do it and they can't. Many of them like it; Many of them don't like it. Many like me for it.

Are you ever afraid of anything?

No, sir. 'Fraid of nothing. We have a saying in the faith: "True Muslims neither fear, nor do they grieve.'' I don't fear nothing, nor do I grieve about nothing. I know what to say and what not to say, I put it all together, and I can use it.

The man who has no imagination stands on the earth.
He has no wings.
He cannot fly.

Joe Frazier has no imagination. You all saw that. George Foreman has no imagination. They just pug nosed boxers. Left hook here, right hook there, and that don't attract women who like ice skaters, that don't attract the fan who likes to play bridge, that don't attract the man in Africa and England—but my image and my imagination does.

Most boxers, they just draw the boxing fans. Go to Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night and you just see the boxing fans. There's an old fellow sitting there with his hat down and a cigar. He says, "Hey, Joe, come on yum hum hum yaha." That ain't colorful. But then I come out in my pretty white robe, do my shuffle and give my predictions:

you talk jive
you'll fall in five
that won't do
you go in two

I'm the greatest! Hiya! Haaa! Ha! I'll get them there! "Hey, let's get a ticket, go and see this." Laugh it up! Make it colorful! Imagination! See, fly—they stand still.

When you were young, did you have a lot of heroes you looked up to?


What teachers did you have when you were a child?

My mother and father were my teachers.

How are you going to teach your children?

We have our own schools, and my children will go to school in Chicago—in a Muslim school where they are separated, boys with boys, girls with girls, and taught and disciplined in the Muslim way of life.

You don't approve of racial integration, do you?

There are now more white women after Negroes than ever before. There are more Negroes after white women. Go to a discothèque in New York and watch what's happening: everybody sitting with their integrated mates. That ain't nothing. That's bad. Bastard children. No intelligent white man or white woman in his or her right mind wants black boys and black girls marrying their sons and daughters, introducing their grandchildren as half-brown, kinky-haired Negroes. They don't want that.

No black man, no black woman in his or her right black mind wants any white boys or white girls marrying their beautiful black sons and daughters, introducing their grandchildren as blond-haired half-Negroes. It's embarrassing. Every man wants a child that looks like himself. The Japanese love their little Japanese children. Eskimos got their little Eskimo children. I love my daughters and my son, and they look like me. I don't want no blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That ain't progress.

The Chinese love China. The Mexicans love Mexico. The Hindus love India. They love their culture. Who wants to lose themselves through blood mixing? You come back 20 years later, you don't know who's who. That ain't no progress, that's fighting God. Bluebirds fly with bluebirds. Pigeons like pigeons. Eagles like eagles. Buzzards like buzzards. All of them are birds, but they have different hang-outs. Flies are with flies. You see bees with bees. Insects got sense. Now, why are Negroes and white people in America so right, and all of nature so wrong? You see the black ants dragging the other ants to get out of his neighborhood. They even fight. Everything want to be with his own kind. But the Negroes don't know themselves. And the white people are trying to trick the Negroes into thinking that four-hundred-year-old enemies are, all of a sudden, brothers. All of a sudden you can go to Mississippi, go get a white girl, take her out and screw her. But you know her old father, who didn't like niggers five years ago, ain't changed now. You can do anything you want now down South. I could take a white girl right now and walk downtown with her in Mississippi, hold her in my hands, and won't nobody say nothing. That change is too quick.

So, you believe integration is a snare for the black man?

Well, the only way Pharaoh could stay alive was to keep the slaves in Egypt. As soon as the slaves got out of Egypt, then Pharaoh was in trouble. Likewise, as long as black people are in America, she won't have too many problems, but soon as they separate, or even start thinking of splitting, there's going to be a lot of trouble. So the government don't want this, and they are stopping it through integration. They got a fresh-air program down there where they send little black boys from the North to the South and into the white towns. And you know that's phony! It's hypocritical. What's a white family in Alabama doing with a little black boy? Here's a little black boy, eight years old, and a little white girl who's twelve, and they're running around and playing. What's that going to lead up to? That ain't no good. And the white family's taking care of the black boy. You know that's not real. It's something that's being pushed by the government.

Well, what do you think's going to stop it?

It ain't going to stop. America's going to be so plagued with droughts and tornadoes and earthquakes and hurricanes and beef and food and milk and all kinds of shortages, that God is going to force America to let the black people go free, separate. When a woman is nine months pregnant and the baby starts kicking—that baby wants to get out. If they don't get the baby out, the woman and the baby will die. Well, America is pregnant with the truth. In 1930, the seed of truth was planted. Allah God, a flesh and blood man, came to America, taught Elijah Muhammad, told him to unite black people, bring them back to Islam, back to their right names, cultures, religion. America's rule is over. It's time for us to separate. Now this truth has been planted and it's growing. The baby, the black man, is now kicking. He wants to be free. America's paining. And if she don't let him go, they'll both die.

Does all this make you hate?

I don't hate nobody. I know people. I know where to go, where not to go. I know whose daughter to look at, whose daughter not to look at I don't get in no trouble. The man in trouble is the man who don't know where he is. The man in Vietnam who knows how to find booby traps is in less trouble than the man in Vietnam who can't find a boobytrap. I respect you. I treat everybody good. Integrate? We're integrating now. But I ain't going to go drinking with your women; That's going too far. Too many pretty black women that I could meet. I can marry a Mexican woman, ain't nobody gonna be mad. I can marry an African woman, ain't nobody gonna be mad. I can marry an Egyptian woman. I been offered all kinds of women in the Moslem world. I can marry a Pakistani woman—they're beautiful people. Why do I want to go out of my way chasing after someone when her brother might shoot me or poison me? It's sick. See. this ain't no progress. It's gonna be stopped. Black people are all gonna be Muslims soon. They all gonna be with Elijah Muhammad. 

And what will happen to the white people?

The white men—who are the most powerful—will get weak. And when they see that they ain't so big and bad, then they'll come and follow. The power will be broken. See, the black people are like leeches on a dog's back, sucking his blood. The dog die, the leech die so the leech has to find another back to hop onto. See? So, if you notice the country, you notice the way the money's falling. You turn on the news at 6:00, all bad news. Look at the meat problem, the concrete problem, the wars. America's like a poor person who has a lot of food in the Frigidaire. All they got is what's in the fridge. As soon as the Frigidaire be empty, that's real trouble. She's still pretending to be big and powerful, red, white, and blue; but she's got just a little left in the Frigidaire, and when that's gone, that's it.

America has only been here but a few years. Look at the history. America's been here 200 years. What's 200 years? The pyramid at Gaza in Egypt is 7,500 years old! I mean, America just got here yesterday. People are intoxicated with narcotics, alcohol, and some wealth. America's so intoxicated that she really believes now that she's God.

Do you believe in inspiration?

Yeah. Inspiration is just somebody who inspires you, like our religious leader in America, Elijah Muhammad. He's been here 42 years, trying to unite black people, clean 'em up, give 'em morals, teach 'em to do for themselves, quit begging white people, get out and work, respect their women.

He's running a whole nation from his living room table. And one man doing all that inspires me to say, "Well, he runs a whole nation of people, so I can watch this camp and I can make sure they clean that bunkhouse." If this man, seventy-five years old, can handle a whole nation, with all those black people, then I can handle my little world.

When did you begin making up rhymes and poems about people?

Oh, way back in 1962. I fought Archie Moore. I predicted his fall in round four. "Moore" rhymed with "four," so the publicity for that fight was:

Moore will hit the floor in round four.

Then when I fought Henry Cooper, I said:

This is no jive Cooper will leave in five.

One thing led to another.

How about some of your more serious writing?

I have some good writing I've been working on for about three months. Since the last time I saw you, I been working on these. I was offered a professorship of poetry at Oxford University. Some people don't understand it, but I'll let you hear some of the things I don't reveal to the public too much and let you get an idea of how I write. These are short poems that I think I'm going to put on signs. People hang these things up in kitchens, they put them on their walls, and I read a lot of these twice because a lot of them are so good that you don't understand them right away. And I don't care what race you are, what religion or what country. These facts are true of everybody's nature.

Destiny can take your best friend as an instrument to cause you harm, and your worst enemy to do you good.

How about some examples of that?

Judas betrayed Jesus, and Malcolm X betrayed Elijah Muhammad. I just fired two fellers who were with me for a few years. And some people who didn't like me said, "You know, been watching you and I like you now." One time I couldn't fight in this country, I couldn't box nowhere; Now they beg me to come. Destiny caused this, see? Isn't that beautiful?

Where is man's wealth? His wealth is in his knowledge. If his wealth is in the bank and not in his knowledge, then he doesn't possess it because it's in the bank.

Ain't that beautiful? A man with no money can get it. They had me broke at one time—was fighting and thinking and writing—and I come back. A lot of people lose their money, but if they have no mind, they don't get it again.

Many admit the truth to themselves, but few admit it to others.

Right? Watching Watergate I got that.

Life is a continuing battle, and he alone is victorious who conquers himself.

When I'm up here in training and I have to dodge people and certain types of foods, it's a constant battle. But if I can fight myself, defeat myself, I'll go right through it.

Do I pass through life? No. It is life that passes through me.

Have you been doing any other writing?

Yeah, lectures. I studied a few things, putting topics together. I just spoke at Cornell College, spoke on the topic of friendship. I'm getting lectures together before I even know where I'm speaking. Lectures on different subjects. I carry a briefcase of them, and when I go to a lot of places, a lot of times I don't know what type college it is. After setting down and weighing the situation, I pull out a lecture to fit the occasion. The lecture I'm writing now is for doctors or nurses or other people who care for children. This lecture's entitled "The Education of the Infant" and it explains how children go through three or four or five different colleges within themselves, even before they're three years old. Then I have a lecture called "The Power of Suggestion." And in it say that if you suggest failure to yourself, then you'll be a failure. Some people say, "I'm timid" or "I'm forgetful" or "I'm stupid.” And once you repeat this two or three times, it deepens your stupidity or your forgetfulness.

I have another lecture called "The Art of Personality." You know, personality's not something you're born with. We're born as individuals. What I'm trying to say is that personality is the development of individuality.

What do you really think of your poems? Do you really think they're so great?

Ah, it's good stuff. It's beautiful. I never heard it in my life before, and I don't think there's nowhere else you can get it. It's really going to inspire the people.

When do you find time to write?

During the night sometimes, 11:00 at night to 3:00 in the morning.

You stay up that late?

Sometimes I do. What happens is, when I'm in the city and I'm eating cheeseburgers and drinking sodas and I'm up all night, I can't think. Those living close to nature, in solitude, as peasants in the country, have greater intuition than educated people living the city life. Why? Well, now I'm breathing fresh air, my mind is clear. But not in New York City, I'm only drinking fresh water from the ground, rainwater. There's nothing in it. You can taste that water when you drink it. The vegetables I eat are not frozen or sprayed. The tomatoes I eat, the lady picks out of her garden. So I'm nourishing my soul and my thoughts with real water and real food, which is natural for the body. So I seem better than the man who's eating artificial food, breathing artificial air. That's why they say wise men go off and meditate, go on top of a mountain and fast and think. They eat just honey and vegetables and no meat and things that just come to them. Like I wrote something the other day—I got it in mind, I haven't written it yet—"The world is a field, and we are born to cultivate the field. Once we learn to cultivate the field, we can produce anything." I can sit down and I can figure out a problem or something I want to do, and I just know about people.

Do you dream a lot?


Do you listen to the news much?

Yeah. All the time. I got TVs all over the place. That's where I get most of my information. I don't read much except Elijah Muhammad.

Do you have any opinions on the presidency and its problems right now?

Well, my wisdom is too limited to judge a man in such a great position, so I have nothing to say, and it is not my business.

Is this crisis in the presidency important to you?

I feel there ain't no more important thing than the black people the government's mistreating every day. There ain't no more important thing than the black people that was robbed, whom the government brought over here. There ain't no more important thing than us. Nothing more important than the Muslims in my religion, shot and killed daily by police throughout the country. So Watergate is just a case of white people judging white people, because white people were crooked to white people. I think they should judge everybody like that.

I don't know nothing about Watergate, I just know what I hear on TV. I don't follow that closely. To me the country's always full of lies, thieves—so it ain't no surprise to me that something like this happened. My phone is tapped. Elijah Muhammad's phone is tapped. It ain't stopped. They still snoop on us. So I ain't surprised by that I don't worry about it.

Do you have any advice to young people about how to take care of themselves in the 70s?

I think we have enough white scholars and millionaires to take care of their problems, know their people, better than anybody else. All know is my people. So I would tell all black children to go to an Islamic temple, a mosque. There they'll get everything they need to make it in the world. The teaching of Islam as taught by Elijah Muhammad. This is all I can tell you. I could talk for hours about what been taught by him. So I just tell young people where to go and get it. 

Do you have any favorite musicians or singers?

Yeah, people like Sammy Davis, not only my favorite, but the world's favorite, James Brown, Bill Cosby… [Gene Kilroy, the manager of the camp, enters with a young white hippie.]

Listen, Muhammad, here's a friend of mine, a hippie, come up to say hello to you.

Yeeeaaah? Ha ha! We was just talking about kids!

Hippie: I just packed up and left...

You did the right thing! You did the right thing!

You gotta be a hippie to make it.

Yeah, ha ha. Well, how'd you get here?


Yeah? No kidding. Coming from where?

Well, I come up from Ambler, down around Philly. I just got back from Florida. I've been on the road for a while. Just tripping around, you know.

How many clothes you carry with you?

My jeans, pants, pair of shorts, a couple of shirts.

That's all?


No kidding! You're not married? You don't worry about nobody?

Well, I been through them things.

Ali: Yeah? How old are you then?

Twenty-six. How about yourself?


You get used to it, you know. [Hippie leaves.]

Yeah. You gotta admire somebody like that.

Andrew Wylie & Victor Bockris: Tell us about this camp. It obviously means a lot to you.

Yeah, having this place is one of those things that gives me the incentive to keep going. You know, if I was still in a hotel or in somebody else's gym, I'd be bored. And now this—this is like a real life. I can go to the gym when I want, got my own cooks in the kitchen and my own bunkhouses, my own crew, fresh air, fresh water, peace, looking at the view, can't beat it. I didn't know it would be this nice.

There's not a camp in the world like this for boxing. I mean, the rocks and the logs and the rustic look, the rough antique.

When you showed us around the camp, we noticed that a lot of stuff you're getting is antique, like that great wagon and the outlaw posters for your cabin.

The outer appearance of all these houses is antique; but the oldest thing that would really be old all the way through would be my bunkhouse. I'm building it out of old railroad ties. Just a one-room log cabin like it was 200 years ago, I'm gonna have my mountain rock fireplace built there. Nice to have a good hot fire at night. No electricity! I'm gonna have coal-oil lamps, just a real antique camp, you know, no radios. An old Benjamin Franklin cook stove, they put the wood and the coal in, and you cook on the stove. And then that big, old pot-bellied stove over there will be in the middle of the room. If the fireplace itself will heat the room, I'll just use the fireplace. But it will be a lot of fun in the wintertime, to come in from zero cold days and make your own fire and wait for it to heat up.

I have replicas of old posters—they even look old and smell old–I’m putting them on the wall. Me and the wife will come here, and the children. And then we'll probably get some kind of refrigerator, which would need some kind of electricity.

How did the whole thing begin?

I got this land almost two years ago. Guy who owns that house right there, he owns a mink farm about a mile down the road. He wanted me to train on his mink farm, and he had a punching bag in a cinder-block building which he used for making coats and things. I pulled my trailer up next to his cinder-block building, punched the bag a few days and didn't like it. There weren't no gym. Had to go into Reading, thirty miles a day. So I said, I got an idea: you sell me the land and I'll build me a gym. Then pulled my trailer over here. That's how I got started. Then we needed somewhere to eat, so | built a little kitchen out of logs. I liked the log effect. After the kitchen, we built the bunkhouses, 'cause we needed a place to keep the crew, hotel bills are too high. And then we got into decorating with the rocks and all these things I'm doing now, like that big bell brought in last week. Did you hear it ring yet?


You can hear it all over. That bell is to wake up the fighters at five in the morning to ring 8:00 for breakfast; 2:30 for training at 3:00; then at 6:00 for dinner, 8:00 for the movie, 11:00 at night, everybody's gotta be off the grounds and in bed. It keeps the spirit. Then the chicken coop up there. You know, we just keep 10 or 15 chickens around, and those we eat. We're not trying to raise them.

How many people are living up here?

There's about 11. Eleven of us in a hotel on Miami Beach, at least eight rooms renting for $45 a day, and eating three meals apiece, man, we had bills for $10,000 a month, easy! So I build a bunkhouse for $12,000. And other fighters use it.

What's going to be happening here when you are not training?

When this thing is finished and publicized, it'll be a well-known spot and people will be coming in, renting to good fighters. I know if was training for a top-notch fight and I saw a place like this, I'd go crazy.

Do they really call this place "Muhammad's Mountain" now? Someone answered the phone when we called up and said “Muhammad's Mountain!"

That musta been Boudini. Muhammad's Mountain! A lotta people on this mountain, not just me. I like it, it's lovely. It gets to be a habit, you know, hanging round here with the rocks and everything. Those cranes are coming through with those rocks. I'm gonna have a great big rock sitting there, and it's gonna say Rocky Marciano. This rock'll be Jack Johnson. Rock over there might be Joe Louis. Rock over there might be Jack Dempsey. The name of the camp is "The Fighter's Heaven." This is a fighter's heaven. And then, these rocks here are like tombstones. Jack Johnson's dead, so he's in heaven now. Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey are still living. But the idea is, all the great fighters are here. They around here someplace. Fighter's Heaven.

You gonna have Louis and Dempsey up here?

Louis and Dempsey are coming up, right. And they'll stand by their rocks and get photographed. Then let them have the pictures blown up. Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Jersey Joe Walcott, they all coming up to stand by their rocks and get photographed, everyone in different places.

Are you gonna have a rock?

The whole mountain will be my rock!

Do other celebrities ever come out here?

All the stars come out here, boy Elvis Presley—when did he come here last? Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Charlton Heston. Flip Wilson was out here the other day. Samantha Eggar, have you heard of her? Richard Harris...

What will you do after fighting George Foreman?

Oh, I don't know. Most likely, retire. I'm not sure. And go back to ministering the Muslim faith, spreading it throughout America.

That's what you'll do full time, as an occupation?

It's up to our leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. He's gonna give me assignments—where to go, what to do, either to serve at the mosque or temple in one city, or else to do a lot of traveling around, studying. I got to get a lot more lessons from him.

What do you think is the biggest strength you have?

The teachings of Elijah Muhammad. I've been involved with his teachings now for 14 years, and I am developing more and more each day.

But obviously everyone who's taught by him doesn't have the same ability to go out and spread the word.

Right. Well, naturally, my boxing is what causes my influence in the sport world and recognition up there. That's what makes me more popular than anybody else. We have thousands who are qualified to spread the word, but they can't get the crowds. But this is only because of my boxing.

Do you ever wish that you weren't so famous?


Do you wish that now, or when you retire from boxing, that you could be a less famous person?

I want to be famous to help others, to draw crowds to promote, propagate the faith. Otherwise, I wish nobody knew me.  

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