Floyd Patterson’s wearing black shorts. The defending heavyweight champion of the world Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) is in white. That is the battle in 1965. Black against white. Good against evil. Christianity against Islam. America against the world. These two gladiators are fighting for more than the Heavyweight Championship of the World. They’re fighting to see who’s going to be a player in the new world order. Patterson is the good. He’s is a Christian, follower of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and an hope of the new Black American world- an integrationists’ dream. Ali (who commentators as well as Patterson still refer to as Clay) is evil. He hates America. He hates whites. He follows Elijah Muhammad and is in the Nation of Islam. He’s a proud big mouth who’s braggadocio is going to get him in trouble. He’s too proud and too cocky. He must be defeated. That will be the only way to shut this kid up. The crowd boos every punch he lands. Needless to say the Las Vegas Convention Center is a cacophony of boo’s this evening in 1965.
Ali eclipses Patterson. The power of his left hand is only matched by the playfulness of his right. The calm on his face is that of a Zen master. Patterson is only one in a line that will lose this eternal battle. The righteous vs. the unrighteous. Which one is which is unclear contextually in 2002. Ali is the star. Patterson is only a rung on the ladder to greatness. Ali is The Greatest. His punches are like the waves in the ocean. Patterson is a man drowning in a sea of uppercuts. He throws wild shots that seem to glide off of The Champ. Round 8- Patterson is looking to get leverage. Even when he gets inside he’s ineffective. By round 9 the commentator slips and gives Muhammad Ali his proper respect and call him by his chosen name. The name of his adopted faith. It’s a fight to get the respect given any other man in simply being called by his name. Patterson stands his ground. He must defeat this kid. His back is bothering him. He’s not as young as he used to be and Ali moves like the ether. The eleven thousand strong in the convention center can’t muster enough cheering to encourage Patterson to a win. They seem to not be able to convince themselves that Ali is evil but they must continue trying. Patterson can’t seem to get off a punch. He’s trying to stay away from Ali who runs out at the beginning of Round 12 anxious for battle. Patterson’s confused and on the receives the message of every hook Ali delivers. Ali hits his mark every time. The referee Harry Krause ends the fight. Patterson concedes to the 24 year old- Muhammad Ali. Winner and still the heavyweight champion of the world.
After the fight Ali thanks Allah for his supreme boxing wisdom and gives thanks to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad for his prayers.