GOTR 1: Scenes 12-17

The Truth About Muhammad Ali and the Draft - WSJ

Scene 12

Tulsa / a public rally of the Nation of Islam / Elijah Muhammad steps up to speak

Elijah Muhammad
As-salamu Alaykum, my people
My brothers, my sisters, my family
Our Nation of Islam is now thriving
Allah is all powerful, praise Allah
& praise, too, Muhammad, his apostle
Whatever did the white Christian god
Give the blacks in this heathen-haunted land
The enormity of the slaver’s trade
When a hundred million Africans
Were murder’d, so that fifteen million
Could be dragg’d across the ocean in the hulks
Lost are the names of the Tribe of Shabazz
Blown unto the west by the White Man’s winds
O, I wish that it would be possible
For me to show you all the sea-bottom
In those days; the black bodies & the blood
& bones bash’d & broken by boots & clubs
Those pregnant black women haul’d overboard
If they were sick, into the shivers of sharks
Who’d learnt these ships held frequent easy & prey
Was the way to get fat on our flesh, ours!
& on those very ships began the crimes
Of white man taking the sacred lily
Of the feminine body sensual
Never caring if she was menstrual
Twas just more blood congealing in the pools
No, my brothers, my sisters, what happen’d
In those dire & desperate centuries
When an orgy of greed, lust & murder
Created what we call America
The Land of the Free – what hypocrisy
From the cotton fields of Carolina
To the ghettos of Houston & New York,
For the black man, the American dream
Is a nightmare, but one from which they won’t
Allow us to wake up from, we’re still slaves
They say, in secret ministering rooms –
Brother’s & sisters, I’m here to tell you
I charge the white man… I charge the white man
For being the greatest mur’drer on Earth,
Being the greatest kidnapper on earth
There is no place the white man can go to
Saying ‘here I created harmony’
Saying, ‘here I brought you peace,’ – everywhere
He goes he wreaks havoc & destruction
Life’s vile, kleptomaniac enslaver,
He’s the planet’s biggest eater of pork
It’s biggest drunkard & it’s biggest curse
But now there is consciousness awaking
The black man has transcended to a state
Up in the noble overdome, we’ve seen
How the white man poisons this perfect world
& now we say we need to be better
Be no more hamper’d by his sewer’d brain
& build a life of reverence to God
For in his love we’ll mold our better souls
Be a nation of blacks in a nation
Of sins, in this we’ll show this flailing land
How, Allah, most merciful, flows thro man
& when he does perfection can be found
I call upon the negroes of the world
To form a solid front against the wall
These rough white devils built against the truth
That is the black man’s destiny to be
The most noble of all his creations
All thoughtful white men know this as the truth
Hide feelings of inferiority
Anyone who has studied genetics
Knows that white is considered recessive
While black is the colour of dominance.
Yet, in this land a negative is shown,
As if it were proper photograph
Inverting into White Supremacy
Preserving chronic phantasies thro’ schools
Perpetuating lies, validating crimes
The white man is the devil in this land
Violence, lying & brutality
Are the three intrinsic hate-seed fibres
Of these racist embarrassments to God,
Who have always hated & oppress’d us
But, now I can reveal his deeper ways
Allah has allow’d all this to happen
So that our race of Blacks would realise
Humanity’s innermost potential
For evil, then to discover the ways
Of how we can defeat it, enabling
Our true capacity to realize
Divinity; brothers, sisters, listen
In the Nation of Islam we shall thrive
In the Nation of Islam we’ll know truth
In the Nation of Islam we shall be
Proud to be black, when we shall never say
The white man is our brother, no he’s not,
A brother would cry of our condition
& a brother would not lynch a brother,
Cut off his privates, put them in his mouth
Tie his limbs to horses, pull him apart
& burn him up, a brother would not kill
Your pregnant wife before their babes were born
But now there is a babe that has been born
The new & mighty black man of this land
Who, united by Islam, knows new names
& loves one another, there’ll be no more
Drunken cutting of the flesh in nightclubs
When brothers kill each other over girls
& no more drugs, nor thefts to fuel the craze
& most of all there’ll be no more licking
The boots of old slave-masters, begging rights
Our natural liberty should command
Brothers & Sisters, praise be to Allah,
The greatest handicap of the black man
Is that the love of self has been batter’d
To cankers attach’d to our spirit-roots
From which has grown disunity, fighting,
Quarrels & killing; how can you be loved
If you have no love for self – love yourself
& love your kind – know your black skin is best
& let us fine a separate heaven
For integration means self-destruction
Across the Earth, black people are seeking
A happy independence of their own
Not with the enemy amalgaming,
Nor listening to the propaganda
By White Man long-design’d us to divide
But recognizing that he is the foe
He can no longer use his trickery,
His promises, lies & hypocrisy,
& evil to keep you deaf, dumb, blinded!
No longer can he fill our thoughts with fear
& cowardice & laziness, no more!
When you have recogniz’d your enemy,
No longer can they pull deceitful wool
Over our brainwash’d eyes, so we won’t see
We are living in a pure Hell on Earth,
Our aim is to establish, on our own,
A territory separate from whites
Either on this continent or elsewhere
We of the Nation of Islam believe
That our former slave-masters are oblig’d
To provide us with such lands, them fertile
& minerally rich, four hundred years
Of blood & sweat we gave them, just reward
Is due, our contribution acknowledg’d
Of how this land was builded by us, too,
& all the suffering forced upon us
Justifies our separatist demands,
Brothers & Sisters, Allah has reveal’d
The message of our destiny to me
Our future is a glory, let us pray.

Scene 13

The same rally / after the speech, Elijah Muhammad is in a room with his son, Herbert, & other members of the NOI / they are eating a small buffet /

This one is so good, father

What is it

This is pomegranate stew with chicken
Its call’d Khoresh Fesenjan in the tongue
Some Syrian-style bread to mop it up

Delicious… this

Indian mustard fish

Excellent, excellent, send compliments
To the chef

I shall father

{to all around}
Help yourselves

Enter Malcolm X with Cassius Clay

Malcom, as-salamu alaykum, welcome
& this man here is your young boxer, yes

Malcolm X
It is… Brother Cassius, this is the
Honourable Elijah Muhammad

{shaking hands}
You are most welcome, I’ve heard many things
About your faith, I’ve even watch’d you fight
From afar, we will not condone bloodsport,
The fight racket is the red light district
Of sports, corruption is its driving force
But you, perhaps, are something different,
As tho’ your gifts were given straight from God
To purify the sport with thy greatness
I hear the voice of Allah in your words
I see the speed of Allah in your feet
& now… Allah I feel within these fists
{they break hands}

Cassius Clay
This is the greatest moment of my days
Thou art a living temple facing God
& all I’ll be & can achieve is yours

Good – would you like some food

Cassius Clay
Yes, I would, sir

Help yourself… so why are you in Tulsa

Cassius Clay
I came to hear you speak, & could not miss
A rally of this size, & then the chance
To meet thy sacred self

You’ve met my son

Cassius Clay
I have… Brother Herbert

Welcome, Brother Cassius
Your next fight
It is important, yes

Cassius Clay
It’s the big one
I’m fighting for the Heavyweight title


Sonny Liston, father

His is a daemonic reputation

It certainly is
But as it is said in the eighth surah
Of the holy Qu’ran, when a thousand
Meccans on Medina march’d, taking rest
Upon the Day of the Criterion
In the valley of Badr, among the dunes,
But happily beside the gurgling stream,
Outnumbering the Moslems three to one,
Who being far from water, on the sand
Did fret about the battle that next day
Despite their prophet being with Allah,
Who then sweet rain provided thro the night
Turning the sand to clay for to support
The dash of arms, the sandy ground made firm
& highest were the stakes upon that day
But animated by the holy zeal
& with the prophet praying in their midst
His little band was sav’d from peris hment
& won the day, a triumph that preserv’d
Islam for the world, yes, praise Allah

You certainly know your scriptures, young man

Cassius Clay
Every day I study the Qu’ran

Excellent, when comes the coming conflict
Let ev’ry doubt be banish’d from your mind
& let the space be fill’d by thoughts from God

Cassius Clay
I shall

So, tell me of your name, young man

Cassius Clay
My name?


Cassius Clay
Cassius Marcellus Clay

& what do you think of this name

Cassius Clay
It’s good
It sounds like a Roman gladiator

It sounds like you are still a slave

Cassius Clay
A what

You never were descended from a Clay
I mean, the very name still sounds like dirt,
Whose lineage once held yours in bondage
& made them work until their usefulness
Was all worn out, thoroughly in the fields
Then blood & flesh dispos’d of like refuse

Cassius Clay
I’d never thought of my name in that way

I have a name for you now, something new
Muhammad means one who’s worthy of praise
& Ali was the name of a cousin
Of the Prophet Mohammad, he was great
In war, a mighty general at arms
Who’d command, one day, the third Caliphate,
& now your name is Muhammad Ali
Praise be to Allah

Glory to his name

& now, I need to rest, Herbert, my son,
Will take care of your needs while you are here
Malcolm, well done, he is a fine, fine, soul
The Nation of Welcome is with you now

Cassius Clay
& I am with the Nation of Islam

After you have enriched your soul
To the highest point,
With books, thought, suffering,
The understanding of many personalities,
The power to interpret glances, silences,
The pauses in momentous transformations,
The genius of divination and prophecy;
So that you feel able at times to hold the world
In the hollow of your hand;
Then, if, by the crowding of so many powers
Into the compass of your soul,
Your soul takes fire,
And in the conflagration of your soul
The evil of the world is lighted up and made clear—
Be thankful if in that hour of supreme vision
Life does not fiddle.
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?
be eloquent in ideaology
An omnivorous student of islam
aving a ready insight into and understanding of things.

Exit Elijah Muhammad

Cassius Clay
Phew – he is, something else

Malcolm X
He’s a prophet
& leads his people as in days of old
When heathens saw the light of divine love
Was shining to them from a mortal lamp

Cassius Clay
& I have seen the light

Malcolm X
Praise to Allah

Brother Cassius, eat

Cassius Clay
Thank-you, this food
Who makes it

Well, we have our own kitchens
In the Nation of Islam, our own schools
Our own doctors, our own, well, everything

Cassius Clay
I am glad to be a part of it all

So, Sonny Liston, how will you beat him

Cassius Clay
With Allah’s help, he came to me last night
& told me I most agitate the mind
Of my greatest foe, make him furious
Make him obsessive for killing me
Before he fights me, so he’ll lose focus,
Control, those key components of boxing,
I’m on my way to see him

You are what

Cassius Clay
I’m heading out to prod that big, bad bear
Once we have departed Oklahoma
We’ll pass thro Kansas, up thro Wichita
& west along interstate seventy
To Denver, Colorado, where he lives
& spread a mayhem salad on his lawn

That plan comes from no ordinary source
The blessings of Allah descend on thee
Go easy, Brother Cassius, stay sure
& all shall from thine instincts safe transpire

Cassius Clay
Brother, I’ve got this

Hah – I’m sure you have

Scene 14

Denver, outside Sonny Liston’s house / Cassius Clay pulls up in his motorhome blaring his horn / he is with Bundini Brown

Cassius Clay
Let’s go get the big bear

Bundini Brown
That’s why we’re here

Cassius Clay
You knock on his door

Bundini Brown
I aint doing that
I will do anything that you ask me to
But I aint waking up no angry bear

Cassius Clay
Alright, I’ll do it, but you stay right there

Bundini Brown
I aint going anywhere, Cassius

Cassius Clay
Well, I’m going bear-hunting, right, here goes

Cassius Clay
{knocking on Sonny Liston’s door}
Come on out, I want you right here, right now
I’m gonna whup that big & ugly bear
Listen, Liston, you aint no champ, I am,
Let’s settle it tonight upon this lawn

Sonny Liston
{opening the door in his bath-robe}
Silly mother fucker, whatcha doing
Here, in Denver

Cassius Clay
I’ve come to take what’s mine

Sonny Liston
Get your goddamn ass off my property

Cassius Clay
Even your house is ugly, when I’m champ
I’m gonna build me a house just as big
As a nest of Bald Eagles, swimming pool
& cadillacs on the lawn

Sonny Liston
Look, you schmuck

Cassius Clay
Sonny Liston aint nothing, to fight me
You will need to take up boxing lessons
But you’re also gonna need falling lessons,
Cos I’m wanting me nice, new, bearskin rug
To look good on my floor

Sonny Liston
Hey, blabbermouth
You fuckin’ nigger faggot – I’ll drag
That tongue from your mouth, stick it up your ass
& if you don’t get off of my property
I’m gonna shoot you dead, as is my right

Cassius Clay
Man, that’s the only way you’d defeat me
I’m by far the superior fighter
I aint joking

Bundini Brown
He aint

Cassius Clay
I’m serious

Bundini Brown
He’s as serious as a heart attack

Cassius Clay
I am the greatest, tell me what I am

Bundini Brown
You are the greatest

Sonny Liston
Fuck this

Sonny Liston re-enters his house

Bundini Brown
Where’s he off

Cassius Clay
Hey, why you running, Liston, come & fight

Sonny Liston returns with a gun

Bundini Brown
He’s got a gun

Cassius Clay
Quickly, back to the truck

As Cassius Clay & Bundini Brown flee, Sonny Liston fires his gun

Cassius Clay
I’ll see you in Miami, where you’ll fall
In eight, to prove I’m great

Sonny Liston
Get out of here

Sonny Liston fires another shot / Cassius Clay & Bundini Brown drive off laughing / Sonny Liston’s wife, Geraldine, comes to the door

Geraldine Liston
Baby, what’s going on, yo gone scared me

Sonny Liston
That was Cassius Clay

Geraldine Liston
Cassius Clay
What the hell is he doing in Denver

Sonny Liston
I do not know, but I do know one thing
That’s one crazy cat, oh, my fucking god!

Geraldine Liston
Don’t let him get to you baby

Sonny Liston
I won’t
My only worry is how I’ll get my fist
Outta his mouth, it’ll be ramm’d so far
Down his throat, it’ll take me a whole week
To pull it out again – he’ll hurt so bad
He’ll never want to step inside a ring
Again, for evermore, that boy is mine.

Geraldine Liston
Come on, babycakes, let’s go back inside

Geraldine leads Sonny Liston in their house – the door closes behind them

Scene 15

Cassius Clay & Malcolm X are enter a diner

Good morning, boys, what ya’ll wanting today

Malcolm X
I’ll have coffee & waffles


Malcolm X

Cassius Clay
I’ll have an order of veal, green salad
A bowl of chilli & some wholewheat toast
Two t-bone steaks & a baked potato
& orange juice.. & coffee, & some waffles

Alright, so veal, salad, chilli, toast, steaks
Baked potato, juice, waffles & coffee
Is that right

Cassius Clay

Comin right up

Malcom X

Cassius Clay
Always – I’ll have five dips of ice cream too
{An awkward silence}
Y’know that I adore you, Malcolm, right
But this aint good, there’s serpents in the grass

Malcolm X
I know, I know

Cassius Clay
How did it come about

Malcolm X
It began when the President was slain
In Denver, the dubious back-story
Of some single assassin in the news
Firing some sort of a magic bullet
Masking the covert, fungal CIA’s
Disgusting hands all over this vile deed –

Cassius Clay
It’s got Klu Klux Klan stamp’d all over it
& Denver, a temple to their vices

Malcolm X
Whatever are the details, my response
Preaching up at Temple Number Seven
It seems, was an ill-inform’d comment

Cassius Clay
What did you say

Malcolm X
I said that the chickens
Were coming home to roost, as a farm boy
Chickens coming home never made me sad,
They’ve always made me glad, a folly phrase
In hindsight, but all of us are human
& make our caustic comments in the heat
Of powerful emotions mixt with life

Cassius Clay
For that you have been banish’d from the tribe

Malcolm X
So says the honourable Elijah

Cassius Clay
This is a most extreme response

Malcolm X
There’s more
For in this world a minor fault in one
Becomes th’excusic scapegoat for to mask
A major fault one holds oer the other

Cassius Clay
So, what, there’s more to this than fills my ears

Malcolm X
There is, alas, a barrel know of things
About our leader… he…

Cassius Clay
Spit it out, man

Malcolm X
He’s not the moral paragon you think
Less upstanding & more the hypocrit
He reels in extramarital affairs,
Serial womaniser who’s father’d
Numerous children with his secretaries
Denying, each time, his paternity
Then barring the women from the Nation
For sexual conduct premarital
But they’d done it with him – it’s disgraceful
I’d made my first tentative inquiries
Into these godless infidelities
Which have, I now believe, forcefully led
To this expulsive blast from the Nation
A ninety-day suspension, as I’m told

Cassius Clay
Oh man, this is a mess, what can I do

Malcolm X
He knows our closeness, Cassius, let’s say
On beating Sonny Liston in the ring
If you command the title & the crown
Your value to the Nation will erupt
& thro’ our friendship, & deep promises
Of loyalty & fealty from me
Unto the sacred Messenger on earth,
Let reconciliation sooth the storms

Enter waitress with coffee

I got your coffees boys

Malcolm X
Thank you for that

Exit waitress

Cassius Clay
I love you brother, & I cannot bare
To see such sorry schisming, I swear
I’ll try & do my best on both accounts –
To beat the bear then help you make amends
With Elijah Muhammad, I promise

Malcolm X
Thank-you, my brother

Cassius Clay
So, how was Mecca

Malcolm X
A revelation, an extra layer,
I expect, to the rift, I saw such things,
Relay’d them to Elijah Muhammad,
To stony-surfac’d silence

Cassius Clay
What were they

Malcolm X
The Nation says the White Men are devils,
But not in Mecca, the core of our faith,
I saw in brotherhood, the world entire,
Throngs of people, all races, all colours
Hugging, embracing warmth & friendliness
There was a feeling that really struck me
It was like I’d just stepp’d out of prison
To liberty & uncomplexive peace
Where equal all in the eyes of Allah
In Mecca, his marvellous miracle!
Humanity’s haven, Heaven on Earth!

Cassius Clay
What are you saying, man

Malcolm X
I believe, now
The nation’s taking a dangerous path
The White Man’s not all bad, integration,
If perfected, can lead to paradise

Cassius Clay
Woah, woah, woah, I ain’t listening to that
You cannot convince me to go against
The Messenger, his teachings are divine

Malcolm X
This, once, I would have easily agreed
Sweeping indictments of the White Man prais’d,
No more shall I be guilty of such spite
I no know some White people are sincere
Are truly capable of brotherhood
With me & you, I mean, there’s Angelo,
Your trainer, he’s white

Cassius Clay
That is different

Malcolm X
How, how is that different

Cassius Clay
It just is
I cannot go against the Messenger
As you once told me you did play the pimp
Some junkie hustle slurping scum from streets
Elijah found you, saw your potential
Clean’d you up, taught you how to love yourself
& then all others with a sable skin
All of your noble essence comes from him
He is the wisest man on Planet Earth
& all you vocal powers emanate
From him, the source of all your powers, man

Malcolm X
But, Cassius…

Cassius Clay
I’m Muhammad Ali
Now, you know that,

Malcolm X

Cassius Clay
I have to say
You’ve sewn the seeds of your own destruction
Remember when you’ve oftenly declar’d
If someone ever dares to stand against
The Messenger, for them death is too good,
That you would act to burn their rotting bones
In the painful pits of a triple hell
Persisting in this spirit can’t be good
You might be squandering away thy life

Malcolm X
We’ll see, my friend, but I now see the truth
He uses Islam as a galleon
With scare a hint of knowledge how to sail
The prayer ritual he does not know
The Nation seems to me a private cult

Cassius Clay
A cult, what are you talking about, man

Malcolm X
Sorry, sorry, I got carried away
Forgive me, please, breathe deep & free your thoughts
From all of this, let’s focus on your fight
How feel you now

Cassius Clay
In truth, I’m terrified

Malcolm X
But fear is what engenders our defeats
If to thought we allow its attachments
Our spirit shall be fragmentized, our soul
Conflicted then shall be, our source of strength
Constricted, from a state of fear we’ll fall,
But when the human mind is free of fear
When to its guiles obedience has gone,
There’s nothing unachievable, you’ll win
This fight, if you believe you will, my friend

Cassius Clay
I had an inkling before, but now I’m sure
As ever I shall be, I’ll win this fight

Malcolm X
It is hard to discern any merit
In Liston, the country don’t want him
As champion – a sinister creature
Full of hatred for himself & the world
The man is America’s worst nightmare
Revil’d, admonish’d & disrespected
The stage is set for some brave knight of arms
To charge right in & save the maiden fair

But I’ll be riding a black stallion

Enter Waitress with the food

Here are your waffles & everything else

Cassius Clay
Thank-you… I’m so hungry

Malcolm X
Bon appetit

Scene 16

Las Vegas – Sonny Liston is training – medicine balls are being thrown against his chest / enter journalist with a cameraman

Well, here I stand within the training camp
Of Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston, the heavyweight
Champion of the world & reputed
To be the division’s hardest hitter
At least since the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis
Was around, so, Sonny, ehm, do you mind
If we ask a few questions

Sonny Liston
Go ahead

I’ve watch’d you work out for about an hour
You look like you’re ready to fight giants
How do you feel

Sonny Liston
I’m feeling very good

How much, eh, roadwork have you been doing

Sonny Liston
I’ve been doing six miles

Six miles a day

Sonny Liston

You think that’s enough

Sonny Liston
Well – I only
Wanna catch him, not set an track record

I see – well, some of the things Cassius
Clay has been saying – well, for example
Yesterday he said when Sonny Liston
Fights Cassius the Great, everyone will
Complement him for dropping you in 8
Do you have anything to say on that

Sonny Liston
The only thing I’ll say is do not get
Your tickets later, because if you come
Later than the first you might miss the fight
Unleashing Saratoga’s on the boy
You can bet your life it won’t get to four

I’d like to get your opinion, Sonny
What dya feel Cassius Clay possesses
In the field of boxing ability
How does he compare, let’s say, to Cleveland

Sonny Liston
Well, I can’t compare them yet
I’d have to fight Clay, but upon that day
{pointing to fists}
Let’s just say it’s these who’ll do the talking

Enter Joe Louis

Hello Joe Louis, how are you

Joe Louis
I’m good

Sonny Liston
Nice to see ya Joe

Joe Louis
You too Sonny


Ladies & gentlemen, this is Joe
Louis, former heavyweight champion
Of the world, reputed to be among
The finest fighters in the history
Of the division – so Joe, have yo seen
Cassius Clay fight

Joe Louis
Yes I’ve seen him box
Once in California, once in New York

& you’ve seen Sonny Liston fight

Joe Louis
I have seen him box also

May I get
Your opinion on what might just happen
On the night of this upcoming contest

Joe Louis
Well, I think it should be a real good fight
Clay’s a good boxer, Sonny punches good
& likes to stop his man all of the time
I think it will be an excellent fight

Do you think Clay will employ the tactics
He’s used on other fighters, when he stabs
& runs & stands & runs & waits & strikes

Joe Louis
I think we’ll see that type of fight from Clay

Sonny Liston
He can run all he likes, but he can’t hide

Do you think he will be running a lot

Sonny Liston
I look for him to run

Well, thank you both
On behalf of all our viewers out there
We look forward to a fabulous fight

Sonny Liston
I’ll do my best, see you all in Vegas

Scene 17

Philadelphia/ Yank Durham & Eddie Futch are in their gym, sat round a table / a Beatles song is playing on the radio

Ladies & gentlemen that was Twist & Shout
By the Beatles – who will be coming soon
To American shores, in the new year –
& now, folks, here is ‘Surfin USA’
By the Beach Boys

Yank Durham
{turning down radio}
Catchy stuff that Beatles

Eddie Futch
Who the hell are the Beatles

Yank Durham
A pop group
They are from Liverpool apparently

Eddie Futch
Liverpool, New York

Yank Durham
Liverpool, England

Eddie Futch
England – they’re making music over there, now
Sounds just like recycl’d rockabilly
Eddie Cochran vibes, y’know, nothin new

Yank Durham
I like it

Eddie Futch
Watcha say this guy was call’d

Yank Durham
His name’s Joe Frazier

Eddie Futch
What makes him special

Yank Durham
Possessing awesome precociousness
There’s something unstoppable about him
This battling pitbull, this threshing machine
That scatters chaff in pieces on the floor

Eddie Futch
Well, I can have a look, for an old friend
It’s the least I can do

Yank Durham
Thank you Eddie

Eddie Futch
Hey, how’s your legs, still getting trouble

Yank Durham
I’ll get a little gyp from time to time
But nothing I can’t live with

Eddie Futch
Man, when I heard
About the day a jeep ran oer your legs
& broke them both in England, in the war
I was genuinely devastated
You could have been a world class contender

Joe Frazier enters

I might have, I might not, but I now know
I’d like to maybe train a man at least
To be the champ, & speak of the Devil
Hey Joe, come take a seat, good to see ya

Joe Frazier
Good to be here

Yank Durham
So, Joe, this is Eddie
Eddie Futch

Joe Frazier
Hey, nice to meet ya

Eddie Futch
You too
Yank, here’s, been telling me you box a bit

Joe Frazier
I like to think so

Eddie Futch
So, where are you from

Joe Frazier
South Carolina, but I live here now

Eddie Futch
Whatcha daddy do

Joe Frazier
He’s a sharecropper
Deep down in ramshackle Jim Crow country
Eking cotton & melons from white dirt

Eddie Futch
Right… & you

Joe Frazier
I work in a slaughterhouse

Yank Durham
The way he bashes cattle cadavers
As if them frozen punching bags is neat

Eddie Futch
You do that

Joe Frazier
Yeah sometimes

Eddie Futch
What trigger’d you
What made you in the first place want to box

Joe Frazier
In the early fifties my daddy bought
A black-and-white TV, a focal point
For gatherings of the community
Fuel’d by his beautiful home-brew moonshine
My momma selling drinks for a quarter
We used to worship the greatest contests
Of sequentially contiguous titles
Keenly witnessing each transmissive bout
As when Amyntor made his famous helm
Casqued with leather braces, white boar’s teeth bound,
From him twas won by Autolychus, who
Gave the spoil unto Amphydyamas
Then Molus & then Merion possess’d
The prize, before twas to the temple press’d
Of Odysseus, we watch’d the belt pass’d
Willie Pep to Sugar Ray Robinson,
Rocky Marciano… Graziano…
One fateful night, my uncle Israel
Pointed at me, remarking to the room,
One day I’d be another Joe Louis
Well, on the morning after the comment
No blacks allow’d to train in Beaufort’s gyms
I fill’d an old burlap sack with rags
Corncobs, a brick, and spongey Spanish moss,
For the next six years, damn near every day
I’d wrap my hands with my dad’s necktie
Or sister’s stockings, & just get to it
Whacking that heavy bag for a full hour

Joe Frazier
This boy can work out, Eddie, he is fit

Joe Frazier
I like to keep in shape, yeah

Eddie Futch
So, Philly
Why here, why now?

Joe Frazier
Well, I saw no future down in Beaufort
Outside of drudging nothings in the fields
&, after a local altercation
With white folks, mamma said I’d best be off –
So I climb’d on a Dog’s back, left that night
I was fifteen, fresh-faced, & full of verve
& completely on my own, Manhattan
Call’d me like so many chasing vagrants
But, finding not New York to my liking
I came to Pennsylvania instead
& settl’d better, they’re more my people

Eddie Futch
That’s quite a nifty biopic young man

Yank Durham
Hey, Eddie, wait til you see this guy fight
I’d say he owns the fastest & hardest
Left swing I ever seen, & then the way
He just sticks relentlessly to his prey,
To watch is both thrilling & exhausting

Eddie Futch
You’re sure you wanna be a heavyweight

Joe Frazier
Yes, sir, that’s me, I want that world title

Eddie Futch
By the time you are ready I’ll expect
That Cassius Clay will be in your way

Yank Durham
Joe Frazier
You think he gonna get past Liston

Eddie Futch
I firmly do believe his blabbermouth
Has overshadowed his ability
Clay’s style man – unorthodox, rococo,
Hands held low, prancing around opponents,
Picking them off with sharp, rapier jabs
His major occupation’s to avoid
Wearing a blemish on his pretty face
I aint seen nothing like that boy before
But what I have seen are his weaknesses
& we’ver waited for someone to train up
In order to exploit them

Joe Frazier
Well, that’s me
There’s life’s best spirit beating in my chest
& thirsty fury in my flying fists

Eddie Futch
Good man, I’m sure we’re gonna get on fine
As when, at Pittsburgh, the Allegheny
Monongahela meets, & merging forms
The mighty river they’ve call’d Ohio
We’ll work together better for enjoin’d

Yank Durham
I do not consider Clay’s decision
To fight Sonny Liston was very smart
With polish’d skills & power in each punch
Where Liston is an awesome warrior
A deadly, indestructible machine
Whose fists malefic elephants could stun
Clay is only an affable novice
Who has only master’d those ballyhoo
Spittling phrenzies of grandiosity
Skittering like pebbles over water,
I can’t see his punches penetrating
Liston’s armour, he can’t dance forever
With a de-acceleration of speed
Ensur’d in later rounds, Clay cannot win
Nobody will beat Sonny but old age

Eddie Futch
Well, let’s see shall we, hey Joe, I’ve tickets
For Vegas, wanna come down for the ride
Get to know each other, give you a taste
Of what a mighty title night entails

Joe Frazier
That, sounds swell, thank-you very much, really
I’d be honour’d

Eddie Futch
No problem

Joe Frazier
Right then guys
I had better get my ass back to work
It was really nice to meet you

Eddie Futch
You too

Joe Frazier
I’ll see you at the gym tonight, then, Yank
Work harder than the lower Merrimack

Yank Durham
I’ll be there, hey, Joe, you eaten today

Joe Frazier
No – I haven’t had the time

Yank Durham
{handing Frazier money}
Here, take this
Get something in the street

Joe Frazier
Hey thanks brother

Exit Frazier

Yank Durham
So, what do you think

Eddie Futch
He’s special
Tho’ rough, now, like Fort Dearborn’s log stockade
A long, long time before the great World Fair
But, I can see what you have seen in him
As if his life already written out
Tho’ must be play’d out slowly as a film –
What dramas await us with Joe Frazier
Joe… Frazier… that’s a name for the ages!


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