View From the Attic

It'll definitely get prominent play in the next Koran Allah commissions.

And King James, were he here today, would find it hard not to stick it into his version's script.

Another age's epic-chroniclers, myth-makers and storytellers for sure wouldn't pass it up--they knew good stuff when they saw it.

But you can depend on the Bud Collins's, Howard Cosells and David Frosts to dissect and dessicate it today, tomorrow and next week, into just so much printed copy, dead airtime, dry commentary, insipid television footage. They couldn't do justice to good stuff if Ali gave it to them every night.

The night before last, as if he hasn't given us enough sublime moments in the last 15 years, the Louisville Lip served up his best stuff yet. Right, right, right, left, right into George Foreman's face. He could have hammered a few more chops into the lumbering oaf's slow-motion descending bulk. Instead, he stood off and let the fallen False One find his own center of gravity in the middle of the canvas.


It was, after all, not so much different from dropping logs at his Pocono Mountains training camp--work on them in the right place, use their own weight against them, step away at the "timber" point and enjoy the scene.

What was different, the new dimension of the new Ali that Angelo Dundee had never unveiled to us before, was that oaken-sturdy trunk on top of the old dancing legs. foreman flailed, Foreman pounded, Foreman launched everything short of inter-continental ballistic missiles, Foreman failed to move that torso from the earth it stood on.

"I'm a pro, I'm a champion, and I told you he has no power. I didn't even have to start dancing. I stood on the ropes for him. I have a radar belt inside me. Did I not look stronger than him? Am I not the greatest of all times?"

Muhammed Ali had the radar belt, alright. And the anti-ballistic missiles. But most of all that stomach wall. At one point in the sixth, for a minute and a half, the Master Boxer even covered his face with his gloves and let the titan of punch, the heavy of heavies, the world champion as they once called him, swing at will at that stomach wall.

Of course, they said Ali couldn't stay in the ring with the champ for five minutes. They had 4-1 odds on it and they were running around with color reprints of Foreman's fist obscuring Frazier's entire face.

Jimmy the Greek, word had it, was taking 50 to 1 odds that Ali wouldn't leave the ring alive.

If America reeked of infidels, closed-circuit audiences of the faithful, from the Convention Center back in Ali's old West End neighborhood to Hynes Auditorium in the city where he dropped off his appendix more than a decade ago, rocked uneasily in their chairs.

The festive occasion that was Madison Square Garden in 1971 had become serious business for Ali's legions in 1974. After all, the Man is 32, he did weigh in at 216.7 pounds, ten or so more than he promised.

The long wait, complete with Frost and a tour of the streets of Zaire's capitol, brought a spree of fights. One dead and two wounded back in Louisville, and a handful bounced out of Hynes.

The early going left us doubting, more out of confusion than anything else. What was the stinging butterfly doing sticking to the ropes?

Gradually, it all became clear. The professor of psyche had turned the tables. The 85-per-cent humidity was nothing next to running the track back to Central High School near the Ohio River in the muggiest heat anywhere.

Why work up a dander when the behemoth was sweating himself to death? From there the magic returned, the faith restored, Foreman's end stood at Ali's beck and call. It came quickly, too. In a second or so. Allah's justice is not just and swift retribution. For those in Ali's fold, it took a long time.

But it is sweet. Real sweet.