One problem that had to be solved before the departure to Rome: Clays great fear of flying. David Remnick writes in his Ali-biography "King Of The World" that it took Joe Martin four hours to persuade his best boxer that there was no railway connection to Rome.

Finally Cassius gave in and entered the plane to Italy - equipped with a parachute he had bought personally and wouldn't take off the whole flight.

Hardly arrived at the Olympic village he started to boast about the glorious future which was destined to him. With his behavior he attracted many athletes and journalists and soon was considered "Mayor of the Olympic village". But Clay also annoyed some of his fellow athletes because they felt neglected by the media.

He was also successful as athlete. After victories over the Belgian, Russian and Australian participant Clay finally faced the Pole Zbiginiew Piertrzkowski, a veteran with a fight record of over two hundred fights. The beginning of the final saw Clay in trouble. As the bout went on, he became stronger and after the last round Piertrzkowski's and Clay's trunks were covered with the Pole's blood.

When returning to the USA, the gold medal winner - it hung around his neck - was welcomed enthusiastically. Some well-known trainers offered to train Clay who wanted to turn Heavyweight pro. Ex-fighters Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson and also Cus D'Amato were prospects.

Before looking for a coach, Clay signed a contract with eleven millionaires from Louisville, the so called Louisville Sponsoring Group, that guaranteed the young boxer $ 10,000 instantly and fifty percent of his future ring income. This group also arranged Clay's first professional bout against Tunney Huntsinger. Clay won a split decision.

After his non-convincing first victory, Clay and his managers looked for a new coach. Joe Martin had not been accepted by Clay senior. Clay jr. refuged from Archie Moore's camp after a short stay because Moore tried to change Clay's style and made him also participate in the housework, evoking vehement resistance from the youngster. Clay went back to Louisville for christmas and then to Miami Beach to meet Angelo Dundee who he had known for two years. Dundee didn't try to change Clay's style like Moore but helped him to improve it. In Miami, Clay fought his next four bouts which he won by knockout.

The first interesting opponent in Clay's professional career was his ex-trainer, former light heavyweight champion Archie Moore whom he faced in his 16th bout on November 16, 1962 in Louisville. Moore was 48 years old and wanted to succeed over the youth. He had no chance and stood four rounds just as Clay had predicted. It was one of Clay's features to predict the round in which his opponent would fall. He usually wrote a short humorous poem. Moore was the eleventh prediction the "loudmouth" (as many journalists called Clay) had fulfilled.

In March of 1963, Clay's prediction record broke when he failed to knock Doug Jones out. The audience at Madison Square Garden booed Clay down when the result was announced: A close decision in Clay's favor.

In 1963 Clay also met Drew "Bundini" Brown who became his motivator and court jester.

Together they invented the slogan "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!" that perfectly described Clay's style.
mp3 At the end of 1963 Clay had an impressive record: He had won all of his nineteen professional bouts and only three not by knockout. The "Louisville Lip" was ready to achieve the goal for that he had lived almost all of his life:

The Heavyweight Championship of the world.

Copyright 2000 by Johannes Ehrmann
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