Excerpted from Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, and Foreman—and an America on the Ropes.
The fight crowd did not particularly care where it was. It was a movable mob, circulating here and there, reconvening at assigned sites, resuming old narratives. Location was of little consequence. Just so there was a gym, a hotel lobby, a bar, and some kind of atmospheric window to accommodate a satellite signal. Anyplace would do. All the regulars were showing up in Kingston this time. Here was Red Smith from the New York Times, George Plimpton from Sports Illustrated, even Howard Cosell from ABC.
Once again, Cosell had been overlooked for the closed-circuit broadcast (those duties went to Don Dunphy once more, although this time his color commentator would be singer Pearl Bailey). But he would provide his braying expertise for the Wide World of Sports delayed telecast and would inform and annoy his print brethren in the meantime.
“Take a gander at these limbs,” Cosell commanded Plimpton, the two of them enjoying a drink on a hotel balcony during the week before the fight. Cosell was not often in Bermuda shorts and seemed delighted at the chance for such exposure. “At the PSAL [Public Schools Athletic League] championship held in 1931 at the 168th Street Armory in Manhattan, these legs carried me to a second-place finish in the standing broad jump.” Plimpton made no record of a reply.
Others were making this scene for the first time. Don King, a man without apparent portfolio, busied himself in both camps, striking up friendships, making acquaintances. Among them was Roy Foreman, the fighter’s 17-year-old brother, who’d tagged along with the rest of the family for this strange road trip. Once King recognized the connection, he latched on to him, started introducing him to his new friends, even Pearl Bailey. Suddenly, he was appearing at George’s training.
Roy, who was largely agog at his first international experience, met someone else, and it was even more unnerving. He was trying to negotiate passport control upon arrival when he received a horrifying jolt, recognizing his brother’s opponent in line with him. “Joe Frazier, sharp as a razor,” the man said, shaking young Foreman’s hand, just going up and down the line, greeting everybody. Whatever camp confidence had existed vanished in that instant. Foreman struggled for a proper description, running through a number of geological properties. Finally, he hit upon one. “He’s like a boulder with a head!” This was just awful. He’d had no idea what they were up against. “What’s one loss,” he thought. “Lots of great fighters have one loss.”
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