Here is my first draft of my speech. My first draft was pretty long, so I had to work on shortening it. Enjoy!
It was a bright Sunday morning when my boss from The Sentinel rang me up to cover some guy named Cassius Marcellus Clay.
I asked, “Who’s Cassius Clay?”
“Just some amatuer boxer who talks a lot trash. It’ll make a good story.”
The press conference wasn’t very exciting. When I got there, a 6 foot man comes up to me, saying,
“I’m Cassius Clay and I’m gonna be heavyweight champion of the world!”
I took some photos for The Sentinel, and I was on my merry way. That afternoon, I was drove downtown when I saw him again with his brother, Rudolph on the corner of Fifth and Broadway. I offered them a ride and after running some errands, I showed them around Los Angeles and we had a great time. Growing up in Louisville, the L.A. life was new to him, but he liked it. The next day, the match wasn’t even close. Cassius was dodging all of Logan’s punches, and continually landed his jabs to the head. Cassius ended up coming back to L.A. in the summer and again in the winter for boxing, and he even offered me a job as a press secretary. I helped him out, but I never wanted the money. As far as I was concerned, we were friends. Cassius was the most genuinely, nice guy I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen him turn down a fan, or ignore someone ever. When he asked me to hang out with him in Miami, I was really excited, because that was the first time I ever rode an airplane. We stayed at his training camp in Miami for a while, and ever since then, I’ve been travelling around the world with Cassius. To me, he really was family.
When I got to watch Cassius fight, he was mesmerizing. There was no one like him. Sports analysts criticized Cassius ever since his professional debut, saying he kept his hands too low, and he couldn’t take a punch. Yet, he was so lightning fast, that no one could touch him. He’d dodge hooks and jabs, and nail his opponent in the head with his jabs all night. His unmatched speed gave him 13 wins and no losses. Apart from his unique boxing style, he was getting major publicity for the way he trash talked. I remembered how good boxers like Joe Louis, never talked. All they’d say is “I’m looking forward to the fight, and I’ll do my best. Thank you.” It was boring. Then came Cassius. He was the best at getting under people’s skin. He called his opponents ugly, stupid, slow, and quiet. He constantly taunted them at weigh-ins and press conferences. Then, against his fight against Sonny Banks, his confidence level was so high, he predicted a fourth round knockout, and followed through with his prediction. He continued this trend before every bout, and each time, he would follow through, just like he said. I had no doubt in my mind, one day he was going to become heavyweight champion of the world.
It’s been almost two years since we’ve met, and Cassius was finally going to get his championship against Sonny Liston. I have to give credit to Liston. He was a good fighter. Tough as nails. He took down Floyd Patterson for the title in one round. This was a man who went to prison multiple times, and if he gave you the you-gon-die look, you’d be sucking your thumb like a baby, praying that he doesn’t hurt you. Everyone thought he was unbeatable, and an unorthodox, amatuer boxer like Clay wouldn’t come close to beating him, but I had no doubt Cassius would win. Cassius was confident. He messed with Liston’s mind. One night, we drove up to Liston’s house in Denver, and hollered on his lawn about how Clay would whup him. That was a crazy night. In the months leading up to the much anticipated Clay-Liston match, Cassius constantly studied Liston’s style and messed with Liston during the press conferences, saying,
“He’s too ugly to be the world champ! The world champ needs to be pretty like me!” Tensions were heated between the two. I remember reading the sports section. Everything was about the upcoming fight. Not one sport analyst thought it would be a close match. There was one piece by Robert Boyle that caught my eye:
“Cassius must be kidding. If he isn’t. he’s crazy to consider entering the ring against a virtually indestructible and demonstrably deadly fighting machine.” The fight was only a month away, and Cassius traveled from his training camp in MIami to New York, where he was introduced to the Nation of Islam.
Now I respected Cassius’s religion. I never influenced him into anything. Rather, I just supported what we chose. Cassius travelled to New York to listen to a speech given by Elijah Muhammad, who was the spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam. He told me how Elijah taught him about the Islam. How integration between blacks and whites is wrong. How white people were devils. Soon after he came to New York, the press revealed his involvement with the Muslims. Back then, Muslims were not liked in the U.S, especially in the south. The promoter of the fight, Bill Macdonald, almost cancelled the fight, because the place would be surrounded with black Muslims. The fight continued, because Malcolm X, an influential representative of the Nation of Islam, made a deal to leave Florida until the fight. Representing the Muslims, I could tell when I talked to Cassius, that there was a lot more pressure. If he lost, then the Muslims lost.
The morning of the fight, at the weigh-in, I was taking photos for Life magazine, and even though Cassius was yapping his trap, I knew he was scared. Even though he was full of fear, he did a damn good job of not showing it.in front of the people. Cassius was going insane. I remember him yelling out,
“If you want to lose your money, be a fool and bet on Sonny!” and,
“Round eight to prove I’m great!”
Then came the fight.
Right before the fight, I heard Cassius yell,
“Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee! Your hands can’t hit, what your eyes can’t see!”
Watching the game from the front row, was very intense. From the opening bell, Sonny rushed towards Cassius, trying to end the fight early, but he realized right away, how fast Cassius’s reflexes were. Sonny tried to get him multiple times with the left jab, but everytime, Cassius would move his head to the left, just enough to dodge the incoming hit. Cassius was moving around the ring the entire round, and Sonny only managed to get one good punch in, right under the heart. With 30 seconds left, Cassius started scoring points. As he was dodging, he’d throw a quick left jab to to the eyebrow. Then another jab, and another. He was getting three or four jabs in at a time, occasionally connecting with a right overhand or a left hook. At the end of the round, he managed to land eight consecutive punches to the head. Cassius was looking untouchable. It was now the fourth round, and after circling around, resting, Cassius was screaming at his seat, saying there something in his eye, and it looked awfully painful. Cassius was ready to quit, but Angelo Dundee, his trainer and cornerman quickly rinsed his eyes out, but in the fifth, everyone could tell that eye bugged him. Cassius ran around, taking a lot of hard hits to the body. In the sixth, he was unblinded, and Cassius was throwing flurries of combinations. He hit him with two left jabs, then a right uppercut, followed by a left hook. A right hook, then a straight left. It didn’t matter what he threw, everything connected with Sonny’s face. Even the biggest Clay doubters in the crowd, knew something incredible was happening. When the bell for the start of the seventh round rand, Liston did something no one thought he would ever do in a championship match. He spat his mouthguard onto the canvas, sat on his ringside seat, and quit. As soon as the referee announced what happened, the entire place went into an uproar, yet all I heard was Cassius Clay, cheering with joy, screaming,
“I am the greatest! I am the greatest that ever lived. I don’t have a mark on my face, and I upset Sonny Liston, and I just turned twenty-two years old. I must be the greatest. I showed the world. I talk to God everyday. I know the real God. I shook up the world. I’m the king of the world. You must listen to me. I am the greatest. I can’t be beat!”