Gleason’s Gym is the most famous boxing gym in the world. I am a trainer there. It was a day or two after Ali died and all the television stations were there interviewing fighters.
The owner, Bruce, asked me if I wanted to be on television. I told him I’m not a big fan of Ali and would prefer not to say anything disrespectful.
I went back into my office when Bruce knocked on my door and introduced a television crew from North Carolina. I guess Bruce figured the station was remote enough that I couldn’t do much damage. Also, it seemed they wanted to interview me because I was a poet-boxer.
A young lady asked me, “Did you feel compatibility because both you and Ali are poet-boxers?”
“No, offense. Ali was no poet. He may have been a great boxer but don’t give me “Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee” as evidence of his having the skills of T.S. Eliot.”
“Well, where would you place him?”
“As a pleasant idiot. I published a thousand poems and five books. I have a Ph.D. in English. He’s not even in my world. And I’m not in his. I have six pro fights. I never fought Frazier or Foreman. I’d be dead. He has Parkinson’s and I have mild brain damage.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that it’s an insult to poetry to call him a poet. Love him for what he was—a great fighter.”
“What do you think of his stand against Vietnam?”
“He was a chicken. So was I. I avoided the draft but I didn’t come up with some high and mighty garbage like I was a conscientious objector. I was a draft dodger. So was he. We didn’t mind a little brain damage but we weren’t getting our legs blown off like our brothers who took our places over there.”
“So you didn’t like Ali.”
“I did. You don’t measure a man by this or that. He had a nice sense of humor, a good smile. He looked like fun. But don’t make him into a God.”
“What about his boxing skills?”
“Maybe his boxing skills were Godlike. But his politics were self-centered. And he converted to the Muslim religion which has become the most violent, misogynistic, terroristic religion in history.”
“What about his changing his name?”
“He didn’t want his slave name, Cassius Clay but he took a Muslim name, Mohamed Ali, when Muslims were even bigger slave traders than us.”
“Thank you David.”
“Remember, give credit where credit is due. I’m a better fighter than he is a poet and I’m no great fighter. We pay the price with injured brains. The audience has no idea.”
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