News & Politics

Cassius Clay No Nostradamus


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March 21, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 22

Cassius’ Feat of Clay

By Lawrence Alson

Boxing, like the theatre, has been suspected for years of being ripe for dying. Where postwar drama has had life pumped into the corpse by Genet, Beckett, and Ionesco, now the last-minute miracle of Cassius Clay has come along to postpone the final rites for boxing. Clay whips up the fierce reactions as a one-man theatre of the absurd, billing himself as poet, prophet, and pugilist. He talks incessantly and always for publication. he congratulates himself for being the writer’s and publicist’s dream.

Last Wednesday Cassius Marcellus Clay was to meet Doug Jones in a ten-round heavyweight boxing bout at Madison Square Garden. For the first time in the history of the Garden there was a sell-out the week before the fight. Many of the 19,000 partisans who packed the arena had come to see just how good Clay was (one newspaper had quoted Jack Dempsey as saying, “He’s great for the fight game, but can he fight?”). Others were there, it later turned out, hoping to see the young man get his block knocked off…

Now came the round everyone had been waiting for, the fourth. This was the round when Cassius had prophesied that Doug would fall, and while what they had seen up to now could not convince them that would happen, still there was implicit a powerful, mysterious force in the prediction…

At round’s end the boos were deafening. Jones still stood on his feet, and Clay’s best punches had caught only air. Worse, Cassius’ status as a prophet had sharply diminished…

The rest of the fight passed swifly. It was still Jones who was moving forward and hitting harder and making the greater contribution to the entertainment, but Clay with his light jabs was landing six times as many blows and scoring points…

When Johnny Addie announced Clay’s victory, the Garden exploded with sound. All 19,000 seemed to be on their feet, bellowing, booing, jeering, hooting, screaming. From the balcony and from the mezzanine, from the side arena and from ringside, programs and crumpled paper cups came flying and whirling through the air toward the ring. A well-dressed gentleman in the third row of ringside stood up on his chair and, waving his arm, led a chant, a single word intoned over and over again in miraculous unison…

“FIX! FIX! FIX! FIX! FIX!” roared the crowd.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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