Parkinson Meets Muhammad Ali Parkinson


Parkinson Meets Muhammad Ali

Michael Parkinson searches the archives and revisits four outstanding interviews with the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali.


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Transcript


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APPLAUSE

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Evening. Welcome. Muhammad Ali was the most singular human being I ever met. No contest.

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A great athlete, part-time comedian, sometime poet,

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he made a robust contribution to relations between black and white.

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Between 1971 and '81, I interviewed him four times - I've got the scars.

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Tonight, we present a portrait of a truly remarkable man,

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and we'll also, sadly, chart his decline.

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I first interviewed Ali in 1971. He was in his prime and he was something else.

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One of the undeniable things about you, Muhammad,

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is this gift, this flair, for publicity.

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You attract it. Now have you always had this gift, going back?

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No... I was training for a fella named Duke Sabedeng, a Hawaiian.

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A giant - he was six feet eight inches tall.

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I was due to fight him and I was on a TV show, something like this,

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and Gorgeous George, a famous American wrestler who's deceased now,

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he was talking before myself and I came on after him.

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When he was interviewed, he was saying,

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"I am the prettiest wrestler.

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"Look at my beautiful blond hair.

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"If that bum messes my hair up, I'll annihilate him."

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"What if you lose?" "If I lose, I'm catching the next jet to Russia!

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"I want everyone to know, if I lose..." He just got mad.

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He said, "I'm sick and tired!" and he ran off the show.

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I was nervous. Boy, he talked a lot.

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I had to go to see. Would he win or lose?

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Many people were there for various reasons.

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Gorgeous George came out. Two beautiful girls carried his robe so it wouldn't get dirty.

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Real conceited and arrogant.

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LAUGHTER

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One fella... APPLAUSE

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And I was there in astonishment. 21 years old. Nobody knew me.

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Olympic champ, but I hadn't started talking yet.

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I looked at him and said, "Boy, he needs a good whuping!"

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I wanted the other man to whup him! And he reached out for a keg of beer,

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and he threw it in this man's face, and he messed the man's suit up.

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Later I found out this fella worked for the show but people didn't know.

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He had a lady with him but he got to arguing. "You need a killing!"

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He threw the beer on him and then he got up in his opponent's corner,

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and he took some deodorant and sprayed it.

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Sprayed the fella's corner!

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And he was throwing out at people and making bad gestures.

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Then he won the first fall, lost the second fall and won the third one.

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And when I saw all those people come to see him get beat,

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and they all paid to get in - that's the thing!

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And I said, "This is a good idea."

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So I started talking. "I am the greatest. I am beautiful.

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"If you talk jive, you'll fall in five!"

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In America, they got an old saying - "The nigger talks too much."

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APPLAUSE

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-Were you in a gang in those days?

-No, I didn't run with a gang.

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They had a few little street gangs and people hanging around.

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They were shooting dice, playing marbles.

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But I was so wrapped up in boxing, since I was 12,

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I'd go to the gym every day after school.

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I would run, looking forward to the future Golden Glove, the Olympics.

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I had something to do, which most kids need.

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A goal or purpose - it keeps them out of trouble.

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I'm lucky that at 12, I had a good boxing talent. I was good for my age.

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We had a TV show called Tomorrow's Champion in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Each Saturday there were three bouts and I had 45 fights on this show.

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I was so busy that I didn't have time to run in street gangs.

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In your teens, did you ever imagine yourself as world champion?

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It happened one night when I heard Rocky Marciano, in 1954 or sometime.

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In the rain, I was on my bicycle, leaning to listen to a fella's radio.

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And I got there too late.

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I heard, "Still heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano!"

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And a little skinny kid in Kentucky of about... I don't know how many stones it is, but 85 pounds.

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I just rode off on my bicycle and I could hear the man saying -

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at that time I was Cassius Clay -

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"And still the heavyweight champion of the whole world - Cassius Clay."

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As I rode off in the rain, I said, "The champion of the whole world!

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"I can whup every man in Russia, in America, in China,

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"every man in Japan, Europe, America. The champion of the whole world!"

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It sounded big then.

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So I kept working until I did it.

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Not only champion of the world, but better than all those before me.

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APPLAUSE

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I'm not going to argue.

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You're not as dumb as you look.

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Can I turn the conversation a bit?

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Now, you're as much a political figure as you are an athlete.

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I don't call myself a political... I'm seeking to be.

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You're a leading member in a power struggle between black and white.

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When were you first aware, as a child,

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-of the differences between...

-Let's get things straight. I'm not involved in a power struggle.

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I'm not trying to get power over whites.

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I'm involved in a freedom struggle.

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Power struggle means I wanna do you -

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not you but the white American, like they've done us.

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We don't want power to rule nobody. We just try to escape the evil rule.

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When did you... When was your first recollection, as a child,

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of being a second-class citizen?

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Second-class? No... Sixteenth-class.

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I used to say to my mother, "How come we're second-class citizens?

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"The Africans go where I can't go, the Chinese go where I can't go.

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"The Englishman can come to America and do things that I can't do.

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"The Puerto Rican, the Hawaiian - everybody comes before black people.

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"If we were second-class citizens, we'd be doing all right."

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But we were way down from second.

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If we were second-class citizens, we'd drive Cadillacs, live good.

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First-class would be driving a Rolls Royce. No, we're way under that.

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Things are getting better but I wondered when I went to church...

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I'm not just a boxer - I do a lot of reading, I study, I ask questions.

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I watch how people live and learn.

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And I asked my mother, "How come is everything white?

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"Why is Jesus white, with blue eyes?

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"Why is the Lord's Supper all white men, the angels white, the Pope?

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"Mary, everything, even the angels.

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I said, "Mama, do we go to heaven?" She said, "Naturally, we do."

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And I said, "What happened to all the black angels when they took the pictures?"

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I said, "Oh, I know. If the white folks was in heaven too,

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"then the black angels were in the kitchen preparing milk and honey."

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But I was curious and I wondered why I had to die to go to heaven.

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Why I couldn't have cars, money and nice homes now.

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Why do I have to wait till I die?

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I said, "Mama, I don't want milk and honey, I like steaks!

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"Milk and honey's a laxative anyway!

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"Are there many bathrooms in heaven?"

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I was always curious, wondered why.

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Tarzan is king of the jungle in Africa - he was white.

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LAUGHTER

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I saw this white man swinging with a diaper on in Africa and howling,

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-"Aaaahh!" Do you all see Tarzan over here?

-Right.

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And he's beating the Africans up, breaking the lion's jaw.

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Tarzan talks to the animals and the Africans have been there centuries.

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But only he can talk to the animals!

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Why was Miss America always white?

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With all the beautiful brown people, beautiful shapes...

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But she always was white. Miss World was white, Miss Universe was white.

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Then there's White House cigars, White Swan soap, King White soap,

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White Cloud tissue paper, White Tornado floor wax. Everything white.

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And the angel cake was a white cake and the devil's cake was chocolate!

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I said, "Mama, why is everything white?"

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I always wondered, you know? And the President lived in the White House!

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And Mary's lamb had white feet, Snow White, Santa Claus was white.

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And everything bad was black - the ugly duckling...

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The black cat was bad luck. If I threaten you, I blackmail you!

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I said, "Mama, why not call it whitemail? They lie too!"

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I was always curious and then...

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This is when I knew something was wrong.

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Won the Olympic gold in Rome, Italy.

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Olympic champion. Russian here and the Pole right here.

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-Is Poland communist?

-Yeah.

-Yeah, I'm defeating the so-called enemy.

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And the flag is going, da da-da da da da...

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Da da-da da da...

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And I'm standing there so proud. Da da-da da da da...

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I'd done whup the world for America! Da da da-da da da da.

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I took my gold medal and thought, "I'm gonna get my people freedom now.

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"I'm Olympic champion. I can eat downtown now."

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I had my medal and I went in a restaurant.

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At the time, black folks couldn't eat downtown.

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I went downtown, sat down and said,

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"A cup of coffee, a hot dog."

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Lady said, "We don't serve Negroes."

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I said, "I don't eat them either! Just give me a cup of coffee!"

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LOUD APPLAUSE

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I said, "I'm the Olympic gold medal!

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"I fought for this country and I'm gonna eat!"

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And then I heard the manager say, "Well, he's gotta go out."

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Anyway, they put me out. I had to leave. In my home town,

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where I went to church and Daddy fought in all the wars.

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And I said, "Something's wrong." From then on, I've been a Muslim.

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-What attracted you to...

-The truth. The teachings of Elijah Muhammad and how black people got brainwashed.

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Taught to love white, hate black. How we were robbed of our names.

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Robbed of our culture and history, it left us a walking dead man.

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Black people in a white country and they don't know about themselves.

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They're just mentally dead. And this is happening all over the world.

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The first place that we will rise will be the black people of America.

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I heard the truth, and when I heard that my name was not Cassius Clay,

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like a black guy named John Hawkins.

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You know, the slave trader from England.

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But the white people, if one had five slaves and his name was Jones, they'd be called Jones' property.

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If you were auctioned to Mr Smith, you'd be Smith - identifying you as property.

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Now I'm free, no longer a slave, I want the name of my ancestors - Muhammad Ali.

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How would a Chinese man look named Robert Smith?

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How would a German look named Edward Goldberg?

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A Jewish name.

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When I heard we don't have our names, we don't speak our Arabic language,

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we were robbed of Islam and made deaf, dumb and blind in slavery...

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Mohammed was taught by Allah, our God,

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to teach us the truth to free us.

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And I've been free ever since - I have no racial problems.

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I'm proud... And Islam did it.

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In church, I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't pinpoint it.

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When I heard the truth that Mohammed teaches, it made me accept it.

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Elijah Muhammad said that white men are devils. You don't believe that?

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I believe everything he preach.

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You think I'd go on TV and say I don't - I'm his number one follower.

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If the white man ain't the devil... He's aiming at American history.

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He never said Sweden or Canada. AMERICA.

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If you can prove he's not the devil, get on the TV and call him a liar!

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No white man says he's not a devil. They don't say nothing.

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Are you saying every white man in America is a devil? John F Kennedy?

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-Who am I to say?

-Was he?

-Who am I to say? I'm not Elijah Muhammad.

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I've heard Elijah say this - there's white men who mean right in their hearts, but so few.

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If 10,000 rattlesnakes came down and I had a door I could shut.

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And 1,000 of them meant right. They wouldn't bite me, they were good.

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Should I let them down, hoping the 1,000 get together and shield me?

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Or should I just close the door and stay safe?

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-I think...

-The Viet Cong aren't all bad but America bombs them.

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In Hiroshima, in Korea, they weren't bad but they still dropped the bomb.

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So I forget 400 years of lynching and killing, depriving my people

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of freedom and justice and equality?

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So I see three white people doing right,

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and don't see the other million trying to kill me?!

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I'm not that big of a fool.

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I believe everything he teach and if white people are not the devil, they should prove it.

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APPLAUSE

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That was our first encounter.

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In 1974, I interviewed Ali twice.

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I went to New York, where, along with the American host Dick Cavett,

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I interviewed Ali with Joe Frazier.

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Frazier and Ali were to fight an epic battle, which Ali won.

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A year later, he was World Champion and I interviewed him again. I lost - well, it felt like it!

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Whatever happened, both encounters provided evidence

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of Ali's ability to create a circus out of an interview.

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-Why do you insult each other? You insult everybody you fight.

-What's the point of insults?!

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The Garden is sold out, that's why!

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I thought you had more intelligence.

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This is a big man in London.

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You don't know him. Johnny Carson ain't big in London.

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Dick Cavett ain't nothing in London.

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Look, in London, this is Johnny Carson. Every night, Mike Parkinson.

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-I was on his show. How many times did you run it?

-Four times.

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They ran the same show on religion, race, drought, boxing.

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-They ran that show four times.

-They had to so people could understand!

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-And you seemed... You seemed...

-Help me.

-Listen, you seemed...

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You seemed so intelligent that night.

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-Why ask a question like that?

-I'll sue you for that crack about Carson.

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-What crack?

-About me being...

-You're the man over there that everybody knows, right?

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-What happens if you lose?

-Next question.

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-If I lose?

-Yeah.

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-I'd catch a jet to the closest communist country.

-What?

-Communist!

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-Get outta here!

-Really? Why?

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To lose to Joe Frazier after all this talking and acting and names?

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-You'd go behind the Iron Curtain?

-I ain't gonna lose.

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I'm not worried about losing. I haven't made preparations for it.

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I'm down to 210. I'm moving like I should move, I'm no longer playing.

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This man comes in, anybody can hit him, his sparring partners ram him,

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and they're nothing to me - no class, no footwork, no speed.

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When I get those gloves on and get serious...

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-What you gonna put on me?

-All these hooks.

-What gloves am I gonna have?

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-Nobody stops me...

-What kind of gloves?

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-What kind of gloves?

-Same gloves as last time.

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-Sledgehammer or something?

-That sounds silly.

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Everybody knows he's gonna have gloves like me.

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"What am I gonna have?" You're gonna have gloves like me!

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-We always do.

-All right, then.

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CHEERING AND SHOUTING

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Now, now, guys. You could get hurt.

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You'll hurt your hand.

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You could hurt yourself.

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-Get in there, Michael!

-You get in!

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They're coming very close, Michael!

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Don't back out! Put your coat on! Don't back down!

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-You could hit him accidentally.

-What do you think I'm trying to do?

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-Anything you like.

-Trying to hit me.

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I can't wait! I can't wait! I can't wait!

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-I want you so bad.

-You'd better sit down.

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You want me so bad?!

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Boy, you're gonna be in trouble!

0:20:330:20:37

I'd love to see you fight but, er...

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-Your trainer's fainted. You could hurt a finger.

-I'm not driving.

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It'll take you six rounds to get me?

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So you're admitting I'll win the first five?

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-Well, then you've gotta win the next six! Where you going?

-Good night.

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-You can't leave.

-Get him back here.

-We can't leave yet, it's not right.

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-Don't be walking off the show.

-Are they kidding, boys and girls?

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You win a lot of fights outside the ring. You psyche people out.

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You don't really psyche them out. You really make them fight hard.

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It don't put fear in them. That's the thing - they fight too hard.

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It makes them anxious, like George.

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I said, "OK, sucker. Take your best shot," and stood there.

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"Come on! Show me something! You're just a girl. Look at you.

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"You ain't got nothing. Come on, sucker!

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"Show me something, sucker!"

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And... If you think I'm not telling the truth, watch the films.

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I talked him to death and made him so angry, he just beat hisself out.

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He was so tired, he was falling on the ropes.

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I said, "Man, this is the wrong place to get tired!

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"You are in trouble!

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"Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see!"

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I'd tell him this when we got in clinches.

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-It worries a man to beat him and talk to him.

-Do they talk back?

-No.

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Only Joe Frazier.

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I hit Joe with about 90 punches in the first fight, with everything.

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He wouldn't fall and I said, "Are you crazy?!"

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And he said, "Yessir, I'm crazy, just keep 'em coming."

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And I laughed. The biggest fight in history and I was in tickles.

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I said, "You've got to be crazy!" And he said, "Yeah, I'm crazy."

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I often wonder how much - I've seen you do this to Frazier -

0:22:530:22:58

I wonder how much you mean it. You've called Frazier all sorts.

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-Dumb nigger or...

-I didn't say that.

-Something like that.

-YOU said that.

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-Something like that.

-You call me a nigger?

0:23:080:23:11

No, I said that...

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-So you're calling...

-I didn't call you a dumb nigger, no!

0:23:200:23:24

No, you... You call...

0:23:240:23:26

-You said Uncle Tom.

-Yeah.

-You said he was stupid.

-I said ignorant.

0:23:260:23:32

-Ignorant. All right.

-He is.

-Same thing.

0:23:320:23:35

-You called Foreman "The Mummy".

-He was.

0:23:350:23:39

Now do you really mean that? I don't think you do, you see.

0:23:390:23:44

Naturally he wasn't a mummy. But he moves like one.

0:23:440:23:48

George Foreman - the way he fights.

0:23:480:23:51

APPLAUSE

0:23:570:24:00

By the way, I said, "I can't see no mummy whuping me."

0:24:020:24:06

Do you ever watch these horror pictures? People believe this stuff.

0:24:060:24:12

Here's a fella in the spooky woods and here comes the old mummy...

0:24:120:24:17

He sees the mummy and starts running at 1,000 miles an hour...

0:24:170:24:22

Here comes the mummy...

0:24:220:24:25

He just can't get away from that mummy!

0:24:270:24:30

All of a sudden, he's run 20 miles at a speed of 50 mile an hour,

0:24:320:24:37

trying to figure out where to go...

0:24:370:24:40

And... The mummy gets him! Man!

0:24:400:24:43

Don't you believe them stories, man!

0:24:430:24:47

This is a book written by a friend of yours, Bud Schulberg...

0:24:490:24:54

-Associate.

-All right, associate.

-I've got a lecture on friendship.

0:24:540:24:59

Friend is a big word. You're an associate.

0:24:590:25:03

I can't say you're a friend. You're an associate.

0:25:030:25:07

-But he's known you a long time.

-For the few minutes he's around me.

-He wrote a good book about you.

0:25:070:25:14

-Who?

-Schulberg did.

-I've never read the book.

0:25:140:25:17

Well, it is a very good book indeed.

0:25:170:25:20

He points out, interestingly, all the contradictions in you, that are fascinating.

0:25:200:25:27

-Can I just put one..?

-Yeah, put one.

0:25:270:25:30

"He's devoted to a religion that sees the white race as devils.

0:25:300:25:35

"And yet he keeps in almost daily touch with white friends.

0:25:350:25:40

"In fact he's got more white friends than any black fighter I've ever known."

0:25:400:25:46

Isn't there a contrast there? Your faith teaches separatism.

0:25:460:25:51

We discussed it before on my programme.

0:25:510:25:55

And it's true. I've seen it. You have white friends.

0:25:550:25:59

You say friends. I say associates.

0:25:590:26:02

-You don't have a white friend? What about Angelo Dundee?

-Associate.

0:26:020:26:07

A friend is someone who wouldn't consider giving his life for you.

0:26:070:26:13

The one who won't think about it.

0:26:130:26:16

He always has the desire to give and keep back nothing.

0:26:160:26:21

Give and not look for nothing in return.

0:26:210:26:24

Everybody will whup me for money, what they can get. Not friends.

0:26:240:26:29

I wrote a poem - # Friendship is a gift That can't be bought or sold

0:26:290:26:34

# But its value is greater Than a mountain made of gold

0:26:340:26:37

# Gold is cold and lifeless It can't see nor hear

0:26:370:26:40

# In trouble it's powerless to cheer

0:26:400:26:43

# It has no ears to listen No heart to understand

0:26:430:26:46

# It can't bring comfort With a helping hand

0:26:460:26:49

# If you ask God for a gift Be thankful if he sends

0:26:490:26:52

# Not diamonds or pearls But the love of real friends. #

0:26:520:26:55

So what I'm trying to say is this...

0:26:550:26:58

I got a lot of white associates. Elijah Muhammad preached that the white American man is the devil.

0:26:580:27:05

He's never mentioned English people.

0:27:050:27:08

The English people never lynched us, castrated us, stuck knives in us,

0:27:080:27:14

enslaved us, robbed us of our names...

0:27:140:27:18

Elijah preaches that the white man of America -

0:27:180:27:21

God taught him - is the blue-eyed, blond-haired devil.

0:27:210:27:26

No good in him. He's gonna be destroyed.

0:27:260:27:29

He is the devil!

0:27:290:27:31

Elijah Muhammad preaches that. I follow him, and white Americans

0:27:310:27:36

know him and tap his phone.

0:27:360:27:39

They know we're there - we're 2,500,000-strong.

0:27:390:27:43

We're all over America and nobody yet attacks us as being liars.

0:27:430:27:47

No white man says, "We are not a race of devils."

0:27:470:27:51

Now he's telling me that I believe that the white man is the devil.

0:27:510:27:57

We do believe that... No, we know it. You understand?

0:27:570:28:01

Now, since this is true, we are in the country.

0:28:010:28:05

We serve people, we're intelligent, we're civilised.

0:28:050:28:09

Our goal is to separate, have our own country, clean up, quit fighting,

0:28:090:28:14

quit killing one another, quit disrespecting.

0:28:140:28:17

We're the most respected people in America, we're the cleanest -

0:28:170:28:22

this is women and men - we wanna be righteous, we're tired of begging.

0:28:220:28:28

We wanna have our own country, have our own land, and rule ourselves.

0:28:280:28:33

Quit forcing ourselves on people that don't want us.

0:28:330:28:37

Just because I'm in a civilisation, and have an associate who's white...

0:28:370:28:42

White people don't love black people. They hate black people.

0:28:420:28:46

-It's not true.

-What do you mean?

-It's not true.

0:28:460:28:50

-You're the biggest hypocrite.

-I don't dislike black people.

0:28:500:28:56

I know you're all right. I mean the others.

0:28:560:28:59

I'm not saying you dislike them but white people give black people jobs,

0:28:590:29:04

black people are dying in hospitals, white people give black people jobs.

0:29:040:29:09

We've been there for 400 years and white people feed us, they clothe us.

0:29:090:29:14

We totally rely on the white man and the white man is good to us.

0:29:140:29:19

He's doing a lot to help us but it's the same white man.

0:29:190:29:24

Talk about us, don't like us.

0:29:240:29:27

Castro gets on with other countries.

0:29:270:29:30

The Catholics and Protestants are fighting, but you try to negotiate.

0:29:300:29:35

Can I say you're a hypocrite, doing business with a Protestant?

0:29:350:29:41

Whoever it is fighting round here, if you do business together, it don't mean you're a hypocrite.

0:29:410:29:48

Nixon went to see Mao in China - his enemy who wanted to blow up America.

0:29:480:29:53

But they still do business.

0:29:530:29:56

Now I'm a hypocrite because a white fella works for me!?

0:29:560:29:59

-Because I've got white fans?

-No, no.

-Then why read this?

0:29:590:30:03

-You're missing the...

-No, I ain't.

0:30:030:30:07

-You did, you...

-I came on. You ain't using no blackmail.

0:30:070:30:11

Making out I ain't got no sense. I'm taught by Elijah Muhammad.

0:30:110:30:16

Oxford University offered me a professorship.

0:30:160:30:20

I'm not just a fighter. I can talk all week on millions of subjects.

0:30:200:30:26

You do not have enough wisdom to corner me on TV.

0:30:260:30:30

You do not have enough. You're too small mentally to tackle me on what I represent.

0:30:300:30:36

I'm serious.

0:30:360:30:38

This show's nothing to Muhammad Ali! If you've got questions, ask them.

0:30:380:30:43

I'll eat you up! There ain't no way you can tackle me.

0:30:430:30:47

All of you are tricky. John Hawkins tricked us to America. You get me on your show,

0:30:470:30:54

-and you ask these tricky...

-What are you talking about?

0:30:540:30:58

You got a big bomb for me - "Bud Schulberg says white men work for you and you say they're the devil!"

0:30:580:31:05

I'm supposed to be trapped now? How you gonna trap me?

0:31:050:31:10

You're a white man. How you gonna get me on a TV show and trap me?

0:31:100:31:15

You can't beat me, physically nor mentally.

0:31:170:31:21

You are really a joke. I'm serious. This is a joke!

0:31:210:31:25

You can read this book all you want.

0:31:250:31:28

Elijah Muhammad preaches the doom of America,

0:31:280:31:31

and the biggest white people in America, they don't tackle us!

0:31:310:31:37

How you gonna get me on a show and get this for me?

0:31:370:31:41

You planned it. I didn't know you were gonna ask me this!

0:31:410:31:45

Behind stage, he's so nice and...

0:31:450:31:48

Oh, a nice talk and then, this is a serious thing you've got me with!

0:31:480:31:53

You contradict... You tackle my religion, you're saying I think white associates are devils.

0:31:530:32:01

And you got me on a serious TV show and this is the death question.

0:32:010:32:05

-Suppose I couldn't answer that and you had me cornered?

-A likely story!

0:32:050:32:11

-I caught you!

-It was a good question. You've talked for 15 minutes.

-I'll talk for 20 more.

-I know that.

0:32:110:32:18

APPLAUSE

0:32:180:32:21

Sometimes you take your life in your hands in this job!

0:32:260:32:31

The last time I interviewed Ali was in 1981.

0:32:310:32:34

He was on his way down. He'd had a fight or three too many.

0:32:340:32:37

I found it a sad experience. It was like talking to his shadow.

0:32:370:32:42

-It's good to see you.

-I'm glad to be here.

-You are.

0:32:420:32:46

I'm getting old now.

0:32:460:32:49

-Do you feel old?

-Yeah, I feel like I'm about...about 73 years of age.

0:32:490:32:55

-Do you?

-No, I feel pretty good.

-You do.

0:32:550:32:58

It's good to see you looking good.

0:32:580:33:01

There's been speculation about your condition after the Holmes fight, particularly here.

0:33:010:33:08

-There was a suggestion of brain damage?

-I'll tell you what...

0:33:080:33:13

Your brain controls what comes out of your mouth.

0:33:130:33:16

During this interview, you check me out and after you tell me if I have brain damage.

0:33:160:33:21

I'll let you know at the end, OK?

0:33:210:33:23

I went to the world's best clinic,

0:33:230:33:26

and there were reports about me having brain trouble, kidney trouble

0:33:260:33:32

and speech defects, so I went to the clinic and got a physical.

0:33:320:33:37

I stayed there about two days.

0:33:370:33:40

And, er... A 100% check-out.

0:33:400:33:43

So all these local doctors - them one-horse-town doctors -

0:33:430:33:48

they can pack up because I got an OK from the best clinic in the world.

0:33:480:33:53

The question people ask themselves about you, out of love for you...

0:33:530:33:58

-Yeah.

-Is that they don't want you to keep getting hurt in the ring.

0:33:580:34:03

-I've never got hurt.

-You must have.

-When?

-I saw you fight Joe Frazier.

0:34:030:34:08

-I didn't get hurt.

-You didn't? You did a very good act!

0:34:080:34:13

-Are you calling me a liar?

-No, no!

0:34:130:34:16

-If I had a lower IQ, I'd enjoy this interview!

-Yeah, yeah.

0:34:180:34:23

-No, you know...

-I've been hit but never knocked out.

0:34:260:34:30

I've never been stopped like Joe Frazier, George Foreman,

0:34:300:34:34

Ken Norton or Leon Spinks.

0:34:340:34:36

I mean, the guys were knocked out...

0:34:360:34:39

I mean, they'd be out for a count of 25 if they counted that long.

0:34:390:34:44

Ten's the limit but some go down for a count of 100 and go to hospital.

0:34:440:34:49

I've never been hurt. I broke my jaw once,

0:34:490:34:52

but otherwise, I've never been beat. Even the Holmes fight, I wasn't bad.

0:34:520:34:58

They stopped it because I wasn't feeling right.

0:34:580:35:01

-Are you serious about fighting Holmes again?

-I shall return!

0:35:010:35:05

-You shall?

-You heard me.

-I heard you. Indeed I did.

0:35:050:35:10

First, I'm gonna take on a couple of title contenders, not Holmes.

0:35:100:35:15

I'll take a couple of contenders and show them that I'm not hurt.

0:35:150:35:21

And then, Holmes has said that if I can prove myself qualifying...

0:35:210:35:25

I looked so bad that night.

0:35:250:35:29

I couldn't fight no more. I couldn't move, I didn't hit him.

0:35:290:35:33

The first round, I was dehydrated.

0:35:330:35:36

11 rounds and 110 degrees heat, and no sweat came out of my body.

0:35:360:35:41

-But will it be different next time, Muhammad?

-We'll see. That's why I'm going back.

0:35:410:35:48

If they say I don't do it, then I'll just have to admit that I'm finished.

0:35:480:35:53

Why do you need to go back again? You've done more than any boxer.

0:35:530:35:58

I realise that I have more fans than I had before... The Holmes fight.

0:35:580:36:04

But it's myself... I wanna show to myself...

0:36:040:36:09

That I can beat Holmes and win the title for the fourth...

0:36:090:36:14

I'm the only man to have the chance. No man has won it three times, so...

0:36:140:36:19

Why do we go to the moon? Because it's there. Why Mars? It's there.

0:36:190:36:25

Columbus discovered America by taking a risk.

0:36:250:36:28

So he who is not courageous will accomplish nothing in life.

0:36:280:36:34

I'm the only man who's got close to a fourth championship.

0:36:340:36:38

It's something I gotta do.

0:36:380:36:41

But you're taking a risk with more than your physical wellbeing.

0:36:410:36:45

You're taking a risk with the fans, with your reputation,

0:36:450:36:50

with the love you feel wherever you go.

0:36:500:36:53

They don't want you badly beaten.

0:36:530:36:56

Badly beaten...? ONE PERSON CLAPS

0:36:560:36:59

-You got one fan over there!

-No, no, no.

0:36:590:37:03

Just one person agreed, I suppose.

0:37:030:37:06

-The Holmes fight, I wasn't badly beaten.

-No?

0:37:060:37:09

I saw the film. I watched it. I didn't get badly beaten.

0:37:090:37:14

I took a few punches but not badly beaten.

0:37:140:37:18

Look, if a guy's flying a plane through a thunderstorm,

0:37:180:37:22

I can't tell him, "Go this way."

0:37:220:37:25

He knows what he's doing.

0:37:250:37:28

I've been fighting 27 years so I know more about boxing than you.

0:37:280:37:33

-That's true.

-Right?

-That's true.

0:37:330:37:36

-You have been...

-Look at my face. I can't see the camera.

0:37:370:37:42

-You're still pretty good.

-Almost as pretty as you!

0:37:420:37:46

You've been in the game 27 years. One last point and we'll move on.

0:37:480:37:53

You've seen what can happen to fighters.

0:37:530:37:57

You see the shambling wrecks going round at every boxing occasion.

0:37:570:38:02

And people don't want that to happen to you.

0:38:020:38:06

-What? A shambling wreck?

-That's right.

0:38:060:38:09

-I'm a long way from a wreck.

-No, people are scared that might happen.

0:38:090:38:14

Well, let me tell you why they're frightened.

0:38:140:38:18

Some people can see further than others.

0:38:180:38:21

Some people are... pressed with limitations.

0:38:220:38:28

We live in a world of limitations and some can see further than others.

0:38:290:38:34

When people judge what I do with their logic,

0:38:340:38:38

it can't be done.

0:38:380:38:41

There are reasons it can't be done.

0:38:410:38:44

Their knowledge of history says that.

0:38:440:38:46

Their reason, knowledge and logic clashes with my superior belief.

0:38:460:38:52

The result is, they don't believe.

0:38:520:38:55

My thinking is so superior, my knowledge is so positive

0:38:570:39:02

and my logic is so wise that it clashes with their mentality,

0:39:020:39:07

which is down here, and I'm up here.

0:39:070:39:10

Being so high, I can see further than you.

0:39:100:39:14

And you're looking up saying, "Ali, don't do it. Ali, don't do it.

0:39:140:39:19

"Ali, please stop. You'll get hurt!"

0:39:190:39:22

And you're on a job making £60, £70 a week, whoever this guy is.

0:39:220:39:27

Never been out of the country, not known in his own neighbourhood.

0:39:270:39:33

"Ali, don't do it!"

0:39:330:39:35

I'm such a high level, I don't think like you.

0:39:350:39:39

-Not you, I mean the other person.

-But you know why they say that?

0:39:390:39:45

-For the best reasons.

-They're wary. It looks dangerous to them.

-Right.

0:39:450:39:50

It's not dangerous for me. It's another day...

0:39:500:39:54

-It's affection. They've never felt about a boxer like you.

-That's nice.

0:39:540:39:59

Let me say... Take this interview as an example, look how we're talking.

0:40:060:40:10

Look at how I'm handling you!

0:40:100:40:14

You're a wise man.

0:40:140:40:17

Boxers can't do this!

0:40:170:40:20

Even young boxers.

0:40:200:40:22

Knowledge, wisdom. Look how we're talking. This looks like my show!

0:40:220:40:28

APPLAUSE

0:40:280:40:31

He had one more fight and he lost.

0:40:350:40:38

Shortly after that interview, in 1981, his boxing career had ended.

0:40:380:40:44

He who'd given so much was finally defeated.

0:40:440:40:47

He who'd floated like a butterfly was brought down to earth.

0:40:470:40:51

There's a moral but I'm not sure what it is.

0:40:510:40:54

But when I think of him, I smile with pleasure.

0:40:540:40:58

I - we - were lucky to have made his acquaintance.

0:40:580:41:01

-I have a poem.

-Ah.

-One minute. The poem goes like this.

0:41:010:41:06

Here's how the Joe Frazier fight is gonna sound on the radio for the people who can't afford the seats.

0:41:060:41:13

The fight goes like this -

0:41:130:41:15

Ding, Ali's out to meet Frazier But Frazier starts to retreat

0:41:150:41:19

If Frazier goes back much farther He'll wind up in a ringside seat

0:41:190:41:23

Ali swings with the left Ali swings with the right

0:41:230:41:25

Look at the kid carry the fight

0:41:250:41:27

Frazier keeps backing But there's not enough room

0:41:270:41:30

It's a matter of time Before Ali lowers the boom

0:41:300:41:33

Now Ali lands with the right What a beautiful swing

0:41:330:41:36

And the punch lifts Frazier Clean out of the ring...

0:41:360:41:40

APPLAUSE

0:41:400:41:42

Frazier's still rising But the referee wears a frown

0:41:500:41:55

For he can't start counting Till Frazier comes down

0:41:550:41:59

Now Frazier disappears from view

0:42:010:42:04

The crowd is getting frantic

0:42:040:42:06

But our radars have picked him up

0:42:060:42:09

He's somewhere over the Atlantic

0:42:090:42:11

Who would have thought When they came to the fight

0:42:110:42:15

That they'd witness the launch Of a coloured satellite?

0:42:150:42:19

APPLAUSE

0:42:280:42:31

Good night.

0:42:310:42:33

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