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Boxing fan has 'Greatest' moment

A cold, blustery wind blew across the schoolyard playground in early February 1964.

Two of my more boisterous 8-year-old compadres were debating in a rather heated manner who was going to win the fight that night for the heavyweight championship of the world.

"I say Clay's gonna win!"

"No way! Sonny Liston is the Champ!"

I sidled up to my pint-sized partners, and, with an air of complete ignorance and innocence, uttered, "Whatcha talkin' about, guys?"

Bruce Grendahl pressed me with, "Just say Clay! Just say Clay!"

Then Brian Jones hollered louder, "Liston! Say Liston!"

Against my better judgment, I squeaked out, "Liston … I guess!"

But, in my heart, I somehow wanted to say "Clay."

Cassius Clay soundly thrashed Sonny Liston that night in 1964 and then went on to become Muhammad Ali, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to Oct. 2, 1980, and I had now become a staunch Ali fan since that chilly night in 1964, so much so that I even patterned my own feeble amateur boxing career around "The Greatest," complete with a swift left jab, lead right cross, a reasonable facsimile of "The Ali Shuffle" and an oratorical barrage that would humble the Champ himself! (If that was possible!)

By then, Ali had retired, come back, retired, and come back again to fight Larry Holmes in Las Vegas, so I dug deep and got a ticket to Caesar's Palace.

That afternoon, I was above Caesar's on a tramway, when I heard the shrill cries of "Ali! Ali! Ali!" I looked below me to see the great champion in the flesh as crowds of onlookers and well-wishers pressed to get close to him.

His handlers and bodyguards were having none of that, and he soon disappeared down the street headed to the Dunes Hotel.

I ran down the street after them, but, when I got to the entrance of the grounds, a burly security guard jumped out of the bushes and yelled, "Stay away from Ali!"

Another young man had arrived by then, so we sat chatting about the fight. When we looked up, and, lo and behold, here came the Champ with his entourage with the security guard looking the other way.

We leaped in amongst the bruisers totally oblivious to possible bodily harm and yelled, "Can we get your autograph? Can we get your autograph?"

I sat there waiting my turn totally mesmerized as my idol slowly turned to me and, in that unmistakable deep voice, said, "Whatcha want me to say?"

- Scott Taylor

Wolf Point