He Wants to Forget Clay

By Robert Ecksel on August 25, 2012
He Wants to Forget Clay
Certain things seem to never go out of style, and believing our own lies is among them.

I wish I had a time machine to zoom far into the future or shoot back into the distant past. The future, riddled as it is with uncertainty, is the place where wise men fear to tread. The past by contrast is well charted terrain and holds charms of which we might be aware but failed to experience firsthand.

Looking back rather than ahead also affords us the luxury of hindsight. The old verities, truths to which we cling the way a barnacle clings to the hull of a ship, are often less true now than they ever were. That applies to the world at large, no less than it applies to the repository of truth we know as boxing.

Someone recently gave me a copy of The Ring Magazine dated September 1967. Aside from having ads and eloquent prose, a rarity nowadays, the writers were in an uproar over Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the U.S. Army. Nat Fleischer wrote about it twice in the issue; in his monthly “Nat Fleischer Speaks Out!!!” and in an article titled “Clay’s Title Still Rests with the Courts.”

Despite his insistence on referring to Ali by his “slave name,” which looking back appears petty beyond belief, Fleischer is remarkably sane and evenhanded when it comes to the subject of Ali being stripped of his title by the New York State Athletic Commission.

A third section of The Ring also addresses the subject. Called Punch Lines, it’s where readers can write to the magazine in order to vent to their heart’s content—and vent they do.

A letter from Frank Allerdice from Tarrytown, New York titled HE WANTS TO FORGET CLAY is a fair reminder of how far we’ve come and, yes, how far we still have to go.

Messrs. Ring editors, please do me a big favor. Forget Cassius Clay, his Muslim pals, and all the rest of that stupid bunch.

I am sick and tired of seeing Clay’s picture on your cover. I am tired of reading about him. He still can’t fight and if he has fast hands, what else has he got, tell me?

This guy hits going away, he makes sure he isn’t marred, and that pretty face of his isn’t scarred.

Clay is over-rated. His connections nauseate me. He did a lot for boxing when it needed a clean fighter whose history was not mixed up with Frankie Carbo, the early connections of Liston and the Philadelphia mob. But now he’s smeared.

Well, Clay’s day has passed. The history of boxing will call him the biggest sucker who ever held the heavyweight title. And a sucker for a gang like the Black Muslims, who took his dough and left him carrying an evil smell.

There is so much in boxing which is clean and deserves words and pictures. Drop Clay. Drop anti-Americans in all classes. If an American called to the colors can’t fight for Old Glory, boxing and The Ring should consign him to Hell.

We don’t know if Mr. Allerdice is still with us or not, but we bless his soul nonetheless. His letter to the editor, however forceful and articulate, proves that it was as easy to be wrong yesterday as it is to be wrong today. But certain things never go out of style, and believing our own lies is among them.

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  1. gconey 10:34pm, 12/19/2016

    Ali never was a perfect individual. but some wise guy once said, don’t look for perfection..because it don’t exist.  Ali had a child like innocence about him, and while he took up the faith of the Black Muslims, I had my doubts about him being a real racist.  I know how hurt Joe Frazier was by Ali betrayal of his friendship, and it was very sad to see Joe….a great champion in his own right, take this bitterness to the grave.  But its very conceivable Ali didn’t have the heart to fight all out against someone who he considered a friend, as fighters once in the ring..if honest must do.  the FBI concluded Ali’s conscientious objector filing was made in good faith.  This important fact however was dismissed by those in the status quo who would quickly judge him wrongly.

  2. sbaldwin 08:27am, 08/27/2012

    All the comments concerning Ali are neither here nor there for most, however, the majority of youths back in his time needed a person to say no and stand up for certain issues that needed to be addressed, Vietnam, race oppression, racial pride and more important someone in the limelight to make the masses read or listen to media (written, spoken and visible).
    I remember Ali as a rather loud person but who did not back up, watching and listening to others around me (all cultures) I noticed with a couple of my friends the change in attitude in our fellow students, friends of color, poor white youths, hispanics, etc. a sense of pride was there and discussion was more prevalent than before, we were not afraid to talk about him or if we agreed or disagreed, one area where we were all in accord was in regard to the fact he stood up, when the government did everything they could to try to get him for this, we said no way, even those who were not fans of Ali suddenly turned to his side, the older school people were aghast with our youth movement of support of Ali, which was in short mainly a support of what was & is right & many of these older population stood solid in their ways and thoughts of old school thinking, unable to comprehend that times had changed and would change even more in the near future, that a person could and should stand up for their rights of thought process and be able to desist from any cause if they feel it is against their religious or anyother moralistic, health or other avenue of why they wish to say no, not me! we also discussed the slave name intent and this is a no brainer, who would want to keep a name given to them by their master while in captivity and hand it down to their future generations, this burden of blame has to be shouldered by former slaves and their descendants as they did not look to have personal respect in this. Many today regardless of true or false would say the master was their relative, yes, majority of blacks in North America are descendants of caucasian descent people. Too late now to change and this is what the slave owner desired to happen, as slaves having his name were a sign of prosperity & social standing back in the day. Some media people such as the one in cause here were simply victims of their ignorance, not a bad person just a misguided one who did not understand the importance of “right is never wrong”, I enjoyed his articles on boxing though not always agreeing to them, race will always be a touchy subject for those who have a weakness of knowledge and comprehension while it will be nothing more than informatic knowledge for others,
    Ali has positives and negatives, as all do, regardless of their race or culture, what primes is how he had an effect upon our youth of the time and adults as well.
    In the 70’s we suddenly were brought into the reality of slavery by the Alex Haley television series” ROOTS” -  before that in our white world we would hear that these people are not as good as us, that slavery was not as they say, that we were or had to control them for this or that reason, the word exaggeration was always in the conversations, however “ROOTS” changed all this and brought to light a pride to blacks as now they knew what really transpired and not simply whispered or talked about by elders in private conversations, no longer did they have to walk with their heads down, now they knew also about the heritage they were taken from, famillies, many tribes could read and write arabic, the huts were filled with families that were happy and living according to their culture, that cities did exist, also tribal camps, the same as rich and poor in America. Wow, we as whites were flabbergasted by all of the visions showed on television with this series and were now able to understand that we were wrong and that black communities were held down and the results would take hundreds of years to overcome, we are now seeing more positive results, we still do not know that to-day (in general) that blacks were expected to go to college and/or regular school by their family, That back in slave times the dream was about knowledge , reading, etc. and of course freedom, if we take the time to look we will find that the majority of blacks are good, solid citizens the same as we are, that the hood is not full of bad people but majority good ones with a sprinkle of bad ones, that our own white society of middle class and high have the same problems as these neighborhood, simply that we hide them better but they exist and we all know of the neighbor who is a mafia, who sells drugs to thugs to have them market it on the street, wall street criminels, killers, rapist, thieves, gangs, and more, yes! we know about diversion by creating a thought process upon another to provide a screen for personal use. Ali said no this, was he correct in all of his mannerism, most certainly not, but the legacy and intent left its mark and well worth noting!

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 02:04pm, 08/26/2012

    In my view if that white devil Angelo Dundee wasn’t in his corner for the first Liston clusterfuk and later the Henry Cooper reaming he still would have been Ali but not Ali “The Greatest”.

  4. mikecasey 01:08pm, 08/26/2012


  5. the thresher 12:55pm, 08/26/2012

    One final observation: most boxing writers are petty beyond belief, particularly those of the jock sniffing kind.

  6. the thresher 12:53pm, 08/26/2012

    Much of what Ali did may not have been intended to be cruel, but its impact was llike friendly fire. It still killed you.

  7. THE THRESHER 12:51pm, 08/26/2012

    The way Ali deserted Malcolm X DEFINED TREACHERY.

    Ironically, Ali much later became a Muslim centrist much like X had become. The Chicago muslim sect had Ali bamboozled.

  8. the threasher 12:49pm, 08/26/2012

    Tommy Hauser worships the ground Ali walks on. I wonder how many Nam vets Tommy has interviewed on the subject. Just saying….

  9. mikecasey 08:47am, 08/26/2012

    You and I have written many words on this subject, Ted. Great fighter, not so great human being - especially in those days. Some people now call him a saint - I don’t think so. Journals that should know better still describe Floyd Patterson as ‘The Rabbit’ and Sonny Liston as ‘The Big Black Bear’ - both disparaging names of Ali’s invention. Frazier gave Muhammad money and the hand of friendship during his three years in limbo, and look how Muhammad thanked him.

  10. the thresher 08:36am, 08/26/2012

    You may have unearhed a bucket of worms here, Robert, but I plan to stay out of the bucket. Suffice it to say that not everyone was ok with Ali’s stance on the draft. I was bothered by it at the time, but in retrospect, I can work my way through it now and see the logic behind it. But there are other things that Ali did back then that in my mind were totally awful—if not treacherous.

  11. mikecasey 05:39am, 08/26/2012

    Ah, I have that issue, Robert! Always fascinating to reflect on that turbulent era. Should never be forgotten that Fleischer - for all his eccentricties - continued to recognise Ali as the world champion until Frazier beat Ellis in 1970. Nat was a curiously honourable man. Regarding calling Ali ‘Clay’, Fleischer argued that Muhammad had never changed his name on his passport or driving license. Years later, however, Fleischer’s son-in-law and successor as Ring editor - Nat Loubet - was asked about that. The gist of his reply was: “He (Fleischer) was very old and set in his ways by that time. He just couldn’t be bothered to start calling Cassius ‘Muhammad’ - it was that simple.’

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