Day at Night: Muhammad Ali, legendary boxing champion

JAMES DAY: For three years,
Muhammad Ali was the undisputed World’s Champion of
heavyweight boxing. He won the title in a match
with Sonny Liston in 1964. He lost it in 1967, in a bout
with a New York boxing commission, which summarily
removed the title from him when he refused induction
into the United States Army. He won the next round in the
courts. They overturned his conviction. But he failed to
regain the title from the man who had inherited it during
his four years of idleness, Joe Frazier. Their 15-round
bout in 1971 resulted in a decision favoring Frazier. As a
fighter, Muhammad Ali has a style in the ring that is as
distinctive as his theatricality out of the ring.
Both help to make him one of the most colorful and
controversial fighters in the history of the game. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪ JAMES DAY: Ali, what does it
take to be a world champion, other than winning fights? Does
it take something more to be a world champion? MUHAMMAD ALI: That’s a
good question. Whether it’s a world champion in boxer, a
basketball player, or a track star, or a horse — even animals
— I’ve found out that — this Mark Spitz, for example,
he’s a world champion. But what made him the world
champion was that he seemed to, at the right time,
when the pressure’s down, at the last few yards, he can
get that lead, he’s got enough left to make it. I fought
Ken Norton, our last fight. The fight was even up until the
last round, but I had something that he didn’t have — although
I’m much older — and that was the last-minute kick. JAMES DAY: What’s that
last-minute kick? Is that something — MUHAMMAD ALI: Just the stamina,
the strength, the mental — JAMES DAY: It’s more than
training though, isn’t it? MUHAMMAD ALI: The mental
capacity to realize what’s involved, and how important it is, and make your body do
something it’s really too tired to do, your mind makes you do
it. Mark Spitz, this Olympic track star I was mentioning,
he wasn’t that much greater than all the people in the
world, but sometime he won by just that much. And the champion
is just one who can come out at the last minute and close
the show. As they say, the star closes the show. A 14-,
15-round fight, and it’s even, and usually this champion, you
can depend on him to come through at the last few seconds,
and find some energy from somewhere. JAMES DAY: Is that
mental discipline? Is it discipline, or is it… MUHAMMAD ALI: Not only
that. It’s mental and physical. His body’s in physical shape
to do it, plus mentally, too. You know, he’s got himself in
condition, where both fellows may be — sometimes
the will can outdo the skill, and sometime the fellow’s will
is stronger than the man who’s actually better
physically, and the determination and — weakens
the other man, just to see him so determined. JAMES DAY: Well, you’ve got to
have self-confidence. You’ve got to build up your
self-confidence. MUHAMMAD ALI: And you have to
have that, too. And this what Joe Frazier had: a lot of
self-confidence, and my skill outdid his will the second
time. But Joe Frazier takes a lot of punches, and he just
keeps coming, until a man just gets disheartened,
and he gives up. JAMES DAY: Hmm. When you
first began fighting, when you were young, did you have
an image of someone or something that you were
fighting against? MUHAMMAD ALI: No, not fighting
against. I styled myself after– which has changed now, but I
don’t think about it now, because I’ve become much more
popular and wealthier than this fighter — but Sugar Ray
Robinson was one who at that time looked so great to myself,
and I styled a lot of myself after him. JAMES DAY: He was
kind of a hero, then. MUHAMMAD ALI: And a lot
of my moving, to myself in boxing. And everybody who
understands boxing, white or black, or I don’t care
what country or what who, they’ll tell you Sugar
Ray Robinson was the best pound-for-pound, rhythm,
class, footwork, speed, beauty, everything in one. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. Well, I
understand that you took up boxing almost accidentally.
It had to do with the theft of a 60-dollar bicycle,
and your reporting it to a policeman in Louisville. MUHAMMAD ALI: Right. So, I
was at a home show, where they sell cars and display
frigidare’s and stuff, and the kids go to eat the free popcorn
and peanuts. And there, my bicycle was outside. I went out,
it was raining that night, and somebody stole it and I
reported it. And there was a policeman, they told me it
was in the basement of the same building where the home
show was. Joe Martin, he told me to fill out
a boxing application, and he’d look for the — JAMES DAY: He was a
policeman and the man who instructed in boxing? MUHAMMAD ALI: Right.
He had about 60 boys, and he had an amateur show
called Tomorrow’s Champions in Louisville. I fought on this
show about 35 times. JAMES DAY: You made
your debut on TV, then. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, Tomorrow’s
Champions. As strange as the name of the show was, T– the
first fight I was supposed to have, was with a fellow named
James Ellis, who was also once the heavyweight champion,
but he lost it. And the two fellows from Louisville,
Kentucky, owned this show, and the name was Tomorrow’s
Champions, and we were world champions; it’s
really strange. JAMES DAY:
How old were you then? MUHAMMAD ALI: I was about
12, and he was about 14. JAMES DAY: So, you started
boxing, then, when you were 11 or 12. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes,
I’ve been boxing probably since I was 12. JAMES DAY: Now, you hadn’t
thought of taking up boxing before this. MUHAMMAD ALI: No,
no. I didn’t — JAMES DAY: You came from a
family — you’re father was, what? A commercial
artist, wasn’t he? MUHAMMAD ALI: A good sign
painter. Made good money. My mother was just
a housewife. JAMES DAY: And he didn’t
grow up in any kind of poverty, or the kind of grinding poverty
sometimes is the case — MUHAMMAD ALI: No, we — you
know, we could always use money, you know, same as
Rockefeller and all the rest, they can always use money…
But we weren’t actually in poverty, but we were scuffling
and we made it. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. There were
two boys in the family, is that right? MUHAMMAD ALI: Right. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. And,
your — your name, Cassius Marcellus Clay, you —
you abandon, because it was a slave name. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, this is the
name given to my — this great, great grandfather, or
somebody, by his master. And — JAMES DAY: So, actually it
was a slave name. That is, Cassius Marcellus Clay
was the name of — the master of — MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, he was a
— happened to be a rebel. He was a bad slave fighter, they
say. Fought against slavery. And after claiming the teachings
of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and getting the
thorough knowledge of myself, then it was kind of embarrassing
calling yourself after a slave name. Like to see — I
mean, just if you saw a black fellow in Dashiki in a robe
and an afro — afro haircut, and you asked him his name, and
he says, “George Washington,” it just don’t go. All people
have their names. Chinese have Chinese names, the Germans have
Germans names, so I said become Weinstein or Goldbridge and you
know it’s a Jew, here come Whitecloud or Silvermoon and you
know it’s an Indian, but if I said here comes Jones, Clay,
Washington, you don’t know what color, so I wanna be
Elijah Muhammad, our religious leader, teaches
us that we must go back into the names of our ancestors,
to be respected worldwide. And it made sense, and
since I’ve accepted the name Muhammad Ali, I’ve been invited
to probably sixty-something Islamic nations that don’t
recognize nothing. No sport. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. Your
brother, his name was Rudolf Valentino Clay. Obviously
not from a slave master in this particular case. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, it was a
— it was a Caucasian name, and probably not from that
master himself, but it is of that — everybody black today
that have white names, they are not names probably that
their great, great grandfathers give them, but it
is a particular name of a master or somebody. JAMES DAY: You graduated
from high school in Louisville, where you were born. Had you
any thought then to what you might become, other
than a fighter? MUHAMMAD ALI: No, my purpose,
at the age of 12, was boxing. And I was real lucky that —
I’d made my mind up then. Every kid at the age of 12
should find out what he wanted to do and start,
because life is real short. JAMES DAY: That’s
very unusual, at the age of 12, to know what you want to do. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, I really
knew that I wanted to be a fighter. Be a fighter, not only
a fighter, but a fighter who stayed with his people, married
his own race, and didn’t sell his people and forget them,
because he could get rich, like many of them. Many
celebrities, and black and white women, and — and movie
stars, that marry out of their own race, and seem to feel
their own people are not good enough after they get rich, and
this is a thing among black people, how we’re known for
leaving once we make it in Hollywood, a movie, or
whatever we are. So I wanted to be one world — JAMES DAY: You felt
this way at that very early age? MUHAMMAD ALI: With 12 years
old. Yes, this didn’t just come up. These are things that
I’ve stood for and represented, it was always in me. And the
Honorable Elijah Muhammad and hearing the teachings of
Islam brought it out, but this has always been
in me, freedom for my people and standing up, being
independent. JAMES DAY: And you were
going to be a champion, from the very beginning. MUHAMMAD ALI: I didn’t really
know, but I was determined to. And usually when a person is
drunk with the wine of success, if 99 times they fail, the 100th
time they’re gonna succeed, and I was drunk with the
wine of success. Had a few failures, even after they took
my title for three years for the Army. I still didn’t
give up. And I’m back now. It’s like old new to the draft
case. I’m here, everybody calls me the name “Muhammad”;
they didn’t want to at first. The draft — JAMES DAY: Why do you suppose
they resisted that? All the press said, you know,
“Muhammad Ali, also known as…” and so forth. MUHAMMAD ALI: Some had
different reasons. Some didn’t wanna wake up the masses of the
blacks, like Lew Alcindor, his name was now Kareem Jabbar,
big basketball — Joe Tex, his name was Yusuf Hazziez, a
great rock and roll singer. Walt Hazzard, great basketball
player, I forgot he’s got another name. Abdul-Rahman
or something. And many black people find after they
have white names and they’re waken up, and they don’t want
a white name; it’s so true. So, a lot of them didn’t
wanna call me this, I guess, because they didn’t want the
name to spread, and a lot of them did it out of ignorance,
and a lot of them did it because they were just so used
to Clay and didn’t wanna change it. Like, most movie
stars and people I find, don’t have new names because
they changed them before they got real big. JAMES DAY: Yeah. Budd Shulberg,
in his book about you, says that thinking is the key to
the ring. What goes through your head in a fight? Is it
— are you concentrating on the fight itself? MUHAMMAD ALI: I’m
concentrating — JAMES DAY: On the opponent? MUHAMMAD ALI: Round by round.
I take it round by round. I watched a man to
see how tired he’s getting, how much stamina he’s got. JAMES DAY: But it’s more
than instinct, it’s more than training. Your mind is working. MUHAMMAD ALI: Oh, yes.
Boxers are some of the most brilliant people in the world.
Whether they can read or write or know how to speak, because
you’re in the ring, and you’re being hit at, and you have to
sometimes just assume the man’s gonna punch a move before
you do, because sometime you’re that close, and it’s hard
to wait for him to do it and get away. And it takes a lot of
thinking to come out of the ring. Like myself, I mean, like,
I have no scratches or marks, really. There’s no real features
turned, but I’ve been fighting now for 20 years, and I’ve
been in a ring 180 times, plus, I mean, there’s thousands of
times, with the training and getting ready for each fight.
And if you look at my face, you don’t see nothing. JAMES DAY: Do you — do you have
mental preparation for the fight as well? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well,
you have to be ready. If your body’s ready physically,
you have to realize what’s involved, how much
can be lost if you lose a fight. Like, I was lucky to get another
shot at Norton; I was lucky to get another shot at Frazier.
You have to realize what’s involved, and losing sometimes
make you get your mind ready. My mind wasn’t ready for the
first Frazier fight, or the first Norton. Second time, I got
serious and did a lot better. JAMES DAY: Yeah. MUHAMMAD ALI: But mental —
mental ability plays a lot, knowing when and what to do. JAMES DAY: What about the
theatricality? It’s made you both colorful, and also
controversial. The — the poetry, all the theatrics.
Do you regard fighting as essentially
show business? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, it’s kind of
hard for an ordinary person to do both. I’ve been blessed
to have the natural ability to write poems, predict
rounds, and create things that people like to hear. JAMES DAY: Did you predict
rounds, or simply fight to end it in that round? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well– JAMES DAY: You couldn’t very
well predict it, could you? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, all
tricksters, again behind something, move their hands
faster than I, and I — I predicted 15 times when I
would stop a — knock a man out, and about twe–
eleven of them was right. And even one time, a funny
thing happened with Archie Moore — he was an old man
at the time, you remember Archie Moore. JAMES DAY: Yes. MUHAMMAD ALI: And — hey,
I’m not saying that you’re an old man, but Archie Moore,
around your time. He must be in his 50’s now, Archie. And
I predicted round 4. I said, “when you come to the
fight, don’t block the aisles and don’t block the door, for
you all may go home after round four.” And Moore was
falling in the third round, and I grabbed him. I said,
“don’t you fall, don’t you fall.” And the fourth round,
I got him. But there have been a few fights where it
seemed like I may have gotten the man earlier, and I lightened
up just to wait for the next one, this happened. But
this is not carrying a man, some will say, it’s just up to
me. If I’m taking the chance on losing myself, if I don’t
get him now, but it’s up to me to do it if I wanna. JAMES DAY: Well, you’ve been
pretty flamboyant outside the ring as well. Colorful,
flamboyant, outspoken. The Louisville Lip, you were
called for some time. You’re a very quiet man. Now. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well — JAMES DAY: And I think
you’re probably a quiet man most of the time. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, you
know, I do a lot of campaigning. Like president Nixon,
any president- JAMES DAY: It is campaigning. MUHAMMAD ALI: When he’s —
when he’s trying to get in office, he walks the streets,
he goes to the — to taxicab drivers, and he goes to the
factories and the hardhat men, and he picks up the babies,
and once you get in office, you need a necktie, and a
government apartment to see him. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. MUHAMMAD ALI: But pamphlets say
“vote for me,” and “how you doing, fella?” And after he
gets in office, you don’t have to do that no more. JAMES DAY: I see. MUHAMMAD ALI: So, all
the talking about how. But I’ll think up something
for the next fight, like Frazier fight, we got in a little
floor scuffle. That just comes. These things come. I don’t
know who the next fight might be. George Foreman. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. But
that’s good for business, so to speak. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes. I have
something for George Foreman. JAMES DAY: You do? MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes.
I gotta get George Foreman. I have a new one to promote
that fight. I’m gonna get him, because after he was in that
Olympic games, John Carlos and these black brothers
who was holding up their fists, he was going around carrying
the American flag, and no flag-waver will whip me.
Don’t you think that will sell the fight? JAMES DAY: I think so. And
selling the fight’s important. Ali, you take — despite these
tossed-off little couplets of yours, you do take
poetry seriously. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes, I wrote a
poem about this show. JAMES DAY: You did? MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes,
we were coming over, and I asked her what was the
budget. I had to come all the way from south side of
Chicago to here to fight, so I wanna rest. So, she kept
saying, “we have no budget, we have no budget.” And I sees
her — and then I was gonna get a couple cups of coffee, and
I had to even buy the coffee. JAMES DAY: You did? MUHAMMAD ALI: Terrible. So
I wrote a poem. I said, “I love your show, and I admire
your style, but your buzzard is so cheap, I won’t be
back for a while.” JAMES DAY: I’ve been
knocked out in the first round. You — you’ve been invited
to be a professor of poetry, have you not? MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes, I was invited
— I thought it was a joke at first, but they’re real serious;
they wanted me to teach poetry at Oxford University… JAMES DAY: Did they? MUHAMMAD ALI: …one of the
highest seats of learning in the world. I’ve read a lot of
poems. JAMES DAY: Serious poems,
in this case. MUHAMMAD ALI: Yes, I got one, I
like it here, entitled “Truth”. It says, “the face of truth is
open. The eyes of truth are bright. The lips of truth are
ever closed. The head of truth is upright. The breast of truth
stands forward. The gaze of truth is straight. Truth has
neither fear nor doubt. Truth has patience to wait. The
words of truth are touching. The voice of truth is deep.
The law of truth is simple. All you sow, you reap. The
soul of truth is flaming. The heart of truth is warm.
The mind of truth is clear, and firm through rain and storm.
Facts are only its shadow. Truth stands above all sin.
Great be the battle of life. Truth, in the end, shall win.
The image of truth is Elijah Muhammad. Wisdom’s message
is his rod. The sign of truth is the crescent, and the soul
of truth is God. Life of truth is eternal, immortal is its
past. Power of truth shall endure. Truth shall hold to
the last”. That’s the type of stuff that gets me in Oxford
University. But these poems, I don’t have for boxers. Like,
for boxers, I give them what they wanna hear. Like, I
have a lot of speed and a lot of endurance. If you’re
signed to fight me, increase your insurance. JAMES DAY: Yes, I
remember that one. MUHAMMAD ALI: Stuff like that,
you know. Somebody told me Joe Frazier was awful
strong; I told him to try Ban roll-on. Stuff like
that, you know. JAMES DAY: Ali, what strength
do you get from Allah, from your Muslim religion? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well… JAMES DAY: You do get —
you draw strength from it. MUHAMMAD ALI: Allah is the
term that we, throughout the world, which in numbers, some
probably 800 million, is the proper name for the divine
supreme being, which many say God, we refer to him as
Allah. And all the strength — just the remembrance of Allah
is great; just praying, if we can, five times a day.
At least in the mornings, and when I wake up and when I
go to bed, and in a taxicab, or just every moment I
have before a meal, helps you. And all strength and all power,
everything, comes from Allah. We have in our prayer,
my sacrifices and my prayers, my life and my death, all
follow. And so everything, I go with Allah in mind, and
the freedom and the justice and the equality of 40 million
black people in the country and everything that I do,
everything that I’m saying now, this is on my mind, I’m
hoping that somebody can be influenced. JAMES DAY: I thought that the
black Muslims did not believe, or, did not approve, of
boxing, of fighting. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, we
don’t use the word, number one, black Muslim. It’s Muslim.
The Islamic teachings has no color distinction. We
actually have white Muslims, brown Muslims, red
Muslims, yellow Muslims, and black ones. So I wanna get
that clear. It’s up to Allah, God and his messenger, to decide
who’s true or not. But the Honorable Elijah Mohammad
and the religion of Islam, we do not promote and do
not back sports. But I was a minister at the time that
I was boxing, and I was expelled by the Mohammad,
and told if I weren’t boxing, to get it out of my system, and
when I’m finished with the job I had to do, and things that
we’re obligated to, then he’ll consider me back. JAMES DAY: I see. MUHAMMAD ALI: So, I’m
standing, as soon as I can — JAMES DAY: So you’re no longer
a minister, but you — you may be accepted back as a minister. MUHAMMAD ALI: As soon
as I’m finished with the title, I’m gonna do all I can, if it
means get on my knees and crawl to him, and ask him to
allow me to represent him. JAMES DAY: When — you lost
your title, of course, when you refused induction into the
draft. What went through your mind in that day in Houston,
when you did not step forward, and you knew that — MUHAMMAD ALI: Before
I stepped forward? JAMES DAY: No, you did
not step forward. MUHAMMAD ALI: You mean
after I didn’t step forward? JAMES DAY: After you didn’t step
forward. What went through your mind? What — you knew
that there was quite a bit at stake, on the one hand, and you
knew that you had convictions on the other. MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, I have
to tell you, what happened after that really don’t mean too much.
It’s what happened before when I was standing up, waiting for
the man to call me. JAMES DAY: That’s what I mean. MUHAMMAD ALI: Oh. JAMES DAY: What — what went
through your mind, before you — MUHAMMAD ALI: Well, I thought
about all the black people that’s been here for 400 years.
The lynching and raped and killed, by the Americans, who
the only enemy we’ve actually knew. No Japanese, no Vietcong,
no Chinese. And then I saw this little young white fellow,
my age, acting as though he was God, telling me to step
forward, to go to Vietnam to shoot some Asiatic people
that never called me nigger, never lynched me — this is
in my mind — never put dogs on me. I’m going to make — to
think of something to make me strong. Never — I fought
in the Japanese war, my brothers fought in the German war, the
Korean war, we still, the Chinese, the Vietcong, the
Japanese, are more citizens than American to us, and there
I’ve got all these black people waiting to see what
I do, and they’re waiting to be slaughtered. And the white
ones, too. For nothing, unjust now that they see,
which it was. Now I’m gonna be called to step forward,
like God told me don’t kill nobody, and now here was
a man telling me to step forward because the flag’s over
his head, and he’s not God, so what do I — and I
really believe in God? Allah? Do I really believe the truth
that Elijah Muhammad teaches? And when he asked me to step
forward, I just stood there. And with time I thought about
that, and I — I was — the two men before he called me, I was
just anxious. I just couldn’t wait until he called me,
just to say no. And then I knew that it was wrong, and
it was against my beliefs, I would rather went to jail
and the Supreme Court and they saw that I was serious, and they
gave me justice and let me go, on the belief that I was
serious in what I believe. JAMES DAY: Mm-hmm. Does
patriotism mean anything to you, out of allegiance
to a nation, or… MUHAMMAD ALI: My allegiance, I
think, should be — and this is me speaking, not as a
representative of Elijah Muhammad, because I don’t know,
uh, what he himself will say, or anybody that represent
him. But me, speaking individually, patriotism,
I would just — obeying the law, as long as it don’t conflict
with my religious beliefs. And obeying God’s law, which
should be satisfactory to any country. No stealing,
no killing, no outright misusing people, and you treat those
like you wanna be treated. So, when you say “patriotism”,
I don’t know what American patriotism would mean. You know,
like, if they say, “stand to salute the flag,” I do that out
of respect, ’cause I’m in the country. And like, this nation
goes to other countries, they stand and salute the flag.
And I would do that. But in my heart, I wouldn’t say
I love the flag. As a matter of fact, I don’t love the American
flag. I’d be crazy to say I love a flag that’s brought my people
here, and the same flag that’s mistreating our people,
and poverty, and the same flag to respect everybody,
even — I bet you today, I can say on your show, two
ordinary black men can go downtown in a city and open
a coffee shop or a clothing store. If two Vietcong,
can go and open, and they’ll do better business than the
black Americans. It’s a shame to say, but it’s true. So,
I’ve been here 400 years, and fought in all the wars,
and serving so faithful as a slave building the country.
And the day the enemy, the so-called enemy, who was
out to destroy you yesterday, and did destroy you, he’s freer
than the poor slave. So we have a write to protest
a lot of these things that we’re supposed to
be so patriotic. JAMES DAY: Do you think the
fact that you have been world champion, that you are
very much in the public eye, that you are a personality,
puts a greater responsibility upon someone like you, for
the — for your part in the struggle, for — MUHAMMAD ALI: Right,
that’s a good question. Now, the reason is…I was
awful — I’ve been to all these black movies they’re making,
you know? These low-rating black women, their nude
scenes with white men, and black men in nude scenes,
and showered white women, and selling dope, and
Super Fly, and all these — Cotton Comes to Harlem, even the
titles. Nigger Charlie, and Cleopatra Jones, and
Blackenstein, and Blackula and all these things which are
really pretty much showing the worst of our society. Charlton
Heston wouldn’t do them. Clint Eastwood wouldn’t do
them, Burt Lancaster wouldn’t do them, Anthony Quinn wouldn’t
do them. I turned on these type movies, because of this
image they’re talking about. Cigarettes, whiskey,
partying, women of all kind, mainly white, things that many
of our black men do. Many of our black women,
which the masses look up to, singers like Diana Ross,
The Supremes, or somebody like Leslie Uggams, or
somebody like…we can go on — JAMES DAY: You need good
models. Good models. MUHAMMAD ALI: You know, people
do things that — the masses, are not good for the youth.
It helps them, they think, but it don’t help the masses.
So, anything that’s gonna hurt the little children, like
cigarettes or whiskey, or taking pictures of blonds,
and smiling, or going — you never see me having
parties after my fights, on the bar, set up the bar
up and all that. We go have some orange juice and
say a prayer to Allah and be at my brother’s and that’s
it. But I’m trying to be one who can be not a prosti– male
prostitute like many people have to do. Most black
women get a job downtown, they gotta things they don’t
wanna. Models, black models and movie stars have to do
things they don’t wanna do. A lot of black men have to do
things get hit, they don’t wanna do. I wanna be one
example — I’ve known with Time Magazine, Life Magazine, I
only got as big as you can get in America, I’m on the
satellites, I’m on your TV show, wherever you
want to go, Sports Illustrated, every book, I’m the
highest-paid, and I’m 100% a follower of Elijah Muhammad,
100% free, and I don’t — JAMES DAY: Independence
means a great deal to you. MUHAMMAD ALI: Oh,
yes. To us, black people. To show other black people
coming up, and to show those who are here that you don’t have
to necessarily, you know, do this to make it. And
sell yourself and your people. ‘Cause I’m as old as you can
get. Just my name alone, I followed the oldest most
craziest black man, and I’m totally free and independent.
And I hope some can see this and see that they don’t
have to crawl and kiss people’s boots so much. Just
to make it — JAMES DAY: Ali, your friends
have said about you that you could have become anything
you might have wanted to become. Is there anything
else that you might have wanted to become,
or that you hope to become? MUHAMMAD ALI: Well,
if I was back at 12 years old, and I had a chance, and they
told me I wasn’t gonna make it to boxing…unfortunately, I
didn’t study in school like I should, and I didn’t have
a — I wasn’t enthused to read and write and work. I’d
hate reading. I hated all that book work, I hated all that
studying and tests and stuff. I don’t know what I would have
done. If I had my choice, just to see it, and if that
mean I could have been it, I’d been a doctor. JAMES DAY: A doctor; why? MUHAMMAD ALI: I like to help
people. If I see a man’s sick, just to know that I can operate
on him and help him or a person in pain, I can relieve
them. Or I probably would have been a lawyer, or just
a policeman. I see a lot of things happening today I wish I
was a policeman. I would jump out of a car and stop it.
You see things happening. See a fellow going through the
street doing 100 miles an hour, 50 miles an hour with
their children. You wish you could just pull him over and
lock him up. So — so I would’ve probably been a
policeman. Anything where I can help people. So, when I
fight, my only thought is, “what can I do to help
the black man with this title? I won’t be here long; what can I
say, where can I go, what appearance can I make?
And — so let me — God, let me whoop this man tonight, ’cause
I wanna take this and not sell out my people, and not use
them, or go over with the white people, but I wanna stay
right with my people to help my people, and use this to
influence, to help them. So this is why I fight, just to
help my people. JAMES DAY: Thank
you very much. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪

40 thoughts on “Day at Night: Muhammad Ali, legendary boxing champion

  1. Gotta love Ali. His message probably is more relevant today than then. Now blacks in America don't even seem to realise that they're suffering and why they're suffering. There's no coherent voice or movement to address their problems anymore. People will look at this interview and say, Well, that was then, it's different now. Different, yes, but worse. Worse because the forms of racism are so subtle as to appear non-existent, except when it breaks out brazenly as in the recent plethora of shootings by cops or the Rodney King incident. Even the election of a black president was a false dawn, almost a fraudulent sop to black people to make them think that at last they had a legitimate voice in America.

  2. Colossus figure in sports almost every sportsman is dwarf before him, such is the impact of this Greatest sportsman ever, rest in peace, sir.

  3. One American Jiurnalist with noble quality. He questioned Mr. Mohammad Ali as well as respected and in fact appeared to be ad.iring him too. Mr . James Day is from whom all journalist learn to take interviews. Present journalist do not even respect our president as much as Mr . Ali got respected.

  4. Amazing and inspiring thoughts of Mr. Mohammad Ali.(RIP. )
    Indeed he was the greatest man of his times..He was the crownless King of the people. Always thinking of how to help people. Not just the oppressed 40 million black Afro Americans ,but any body who was in need of help he helped. Best example was that quoted by his financial advisor, Once Mohammad Ali was in his room watching T.V. he saw a Jewish senior citizens home at the verge of closing ,so immediately he ordered his financial manager/adviser , who was sitting next to him, to send 500,000 dollars to the management of a Jewish nursing home., to prevent it from closing This was the humanity in him, at its best. We all black,whites,browns,yellows and red can learn from the Great Boxer and more importantly a great human being. HE read the Quranic. My prayer, my sacrifice ,my life ,and my death are all for God and indeed he lived and died that way. No greater success than that can be achieved in life. I would just editorialize one thing here. I.e. love God and Love people for the love of God. You will never go wrong. The world will be at your feet . You shall stand tall..

  5. ALI is the #GreatestForever #GreatestOfAllTimes. There won't ever be Sumone like him ever, 1000 more years the world will revolve on its axis, and still #MohammadAli will be unmatched. He was a philosopher, a philanthropist ,a thinker, a hero, a Legend and a Proud Black Man.
    He was all for his race and humanity.

  6. I wish he cld be in his 30th and live now in our era. He had No education but so smart , with excellent memory, wrote poems, stood for his ppl, such a great man.

  7. I'm drunk with the wine of success!!! I love it!!! I'm gonna make it. And Mr. Ali I thank you for being such a gift. May you rest easy sir. The greatest to do it how he knew how to do it!!!

  8. What a great interview.. Excellent questions.. Unlike many others that had rascist overtones.. This guy got to the very essence of Ali..

  9. 20 peoples like young bush,the one that lies at the nations and bagun a war. Shame and shit on him and them.

  10. One of the best and most honest interviews made to the greatest Mohammed Ali. Love & Respect you will never be forgotten

  11. I don't always agree with him, but he was without question his own man. Much respect to Ali, long live the all time champ.

  12. It was a hard struggle for black people in USA in them days and it still is at some places but to stand up in them days being a black person was hard.
    Muhammad Ali showed tremendous amount of courge to stand up for his belief's many lessons to be learnt here for black people.
    I'm not trying to offend any one here but he spoke the truth black people roots are in Africa along with the true muslim names also muhammad Ali rightly said theirs no black muslim islam isn't one colour all kinds of people are Muslim's.
    Respect muhammad Ali RIP GOAT


  14. They gave Ali his fight license back because when he was banned he was speaking publicly to be another Malcolm X with twice the popularity. Give him his damn license Now!!

  15. As Dundee said, ' The world never saw the BEST of Ali " – during his prime,; the 3 1/2 years he was exiled. Ali made up for it later though. The 1st Frazier fight would not have gone that way had Ali been fighting from '67-701/2. The best boxer and I give thanks that I saw him and learned about human care, as a child, from him. R.I.P. Muhammad.

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