The world’s greatest

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It was a cold, crisp January morning as I ran along the icy roads. My breathing got heavier as I came to the big hill at the end of the road. As my legs started to cramp I made one last push and made it to the top of the hill. When I passed the traffic lights I had such a feeling of relief as I completed the twenty mile run. I knew I was ready, I knew it was my time. As I was sitting in my changing room, the only thought going through my head was ‘if I win this I get a shot at the title. I could think of nothing else, and when the knock came on the door I could hear the roar of the crowd as George Foreman entered the stadium and climbed into the ring.

Then the lights went down and the spotlight was on me. As the announcer bellowed out my name I was making my advances on the ring. Whilst I climbed into the ring, we both stared each other until we were to take off our robes and come to the middle for our instructions. As we both went to the centre of the ring, Foreman came over and towered above me like a monster as we both touched gloves. Even his huge fists in his yellow mitts seemed to be monstrous compared to mine.

When we both got back to our corners the bell rang…… I shuffled across the ring as he circled me slowly. I followed him and slipped in a few jabs. Just as I was getting up my confidence and going for an upper cut, he drew out and connected with the top corner of my right eye and sent me seven foot over the ring. I got up after an eight count and just then the first three minutes were over as the bell sounded. I realised that my eye was cut open from that savage blow and the referee said that if the condition of the eye should deteriorate he would have to stop the fight.

I didn’t like what I heard for it meant that I would have to go out in this round and try and knock him out, for if I didn’t I could kiss goodbye to my big title shot. The second round bell went; I stood up, hit my fists together and went for it. I swung with a right hook, I missed but came back with a left jab, and I caught him off balance for he went down for a six second count. He stood up and I could see the anger building up in his face, he didn’t like being tossed by me. He started swinging for me like a mad man, the big left, quickly followed by a powerful right.

He only caught me once in his ten seconds frenzy, but it felt like a demolition ball had hit my jaw, I fell a second time but got straight back up, I had a quick glance at the clock to see how long was left in this round for my eye was really starting to bleed badly. This was it, I had to knock out Foreman, and I only had a minute to do so. I swung four times at his big, globular head and landed each one, then I took in to his mid section and just as I saw red I threw my right fist as hard and as quick as I could up through his jaw and to my amazement he fell straight to the ground like a ‘sack of spuds’.

My heart was in my mouth as the referee was counting, he seemed to take forever to count but eventually and to my joy he finally roared out ‘ten, you’re out’. I collapsed to my knees as I knew all the hard work had paid off, I had my title shot against Muhammad Ali. Later on, after all the commotion and hype was over, Foreman and myself went to the hospital to get stitches and to get cleaned up. He must have known how much winning that match meant to me for he came over to me and said, ‘Well done my friend, now go out and win the title for me! I sat in my bed staring at the blank wall for a while wondering about what George had said to me.

It only dawned on me the next day when we had a press conference, George Foreman announced his retirement and then I understood what he had said to me. When I got back home that night I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t win the belt now I have just ended Foreman’s career for nothing. ‘ Afterwards when a date for the title match was set I was determined to do it, determined to do it for that big, friendly giant George Foreman. The date that my big title match was set for was the sixteenth of July, and the venue was the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

As I woke up on the morning of the twentieth of February I looked at the calendar and realised I had only twenty weeks to prepare for Muhammad Ali. As I done the training from seven in the morning ’til nine at night, I kept pushing myself on for I told myself, this is it, ‘you only get one shot, make it count’. As the sixteenth of July drew nearer I started to remember what I had done to get this far, all the hard work over the last five years all came down to this, fifteen rounds for the title of the world. Once again I found myself in the changing room waiting for the knock to come on my door.

To my surprise when the knock came it was the one and only George Foreman. He came in, he took a chair and started to give me some good tips and pointers. He said, ‘now don’t be worried kid, I stood in the same ring as this man and I beat him. Then I lost the belt to ‘smoking’ Joe Frasier. Now you ended my career with one box, and you could do it again tonight but you have to be careful for he is a dangerous, speedy little demon. So kid, just go out and do your damned best.

Oh and one final thing, you remember what I told you after our match? I nodded earnestly, and remembered what he had said as he walked out of the door. Then the knock for the beginning of the fight came, and I was ready for action. This time I was the first to enter the ring with quite a hostile crowd who seemed to boo me a lot, but I wasn’t going to be intimidated for this was my night. Then as if I wasn’t in the ring Ali entered and started going around the ring as cocky as ever and chanting, ‘two rounds son, two rounds! ‘ I stood solemn in my corner and waited for the referee to call us to the centre of the ring and give us the usual rules.

As we put our gloves together Ali said to me, ‘now listen hear son, you isn’t gonna win this match, so do us both a favour and go down in the first round so I can get home and tend to my missus’. When I heard these words I got vexed and I was going to leave this man in hospital for three months. We went back to our corners and the bell went. Ali was the first to advance and throwing seven punches in the first five seconds knocked me straight to the matt. I recovered and composed myself and made one good connection which punctured his skin under his left eye.

Then I looked into his eyes and I saw fear staring back at me. I kept firing punches and so did he. It was even throughout the rest of the first round and for the second and third rounds, we tossed each other twice each and still were coming back for more. The first real breakthrough I got came in the fourth round, I struck him on the jaw with three heavy consecutive right hooks, he stumbled back and then I followed through with a big left hook, he fell to the ground.

I stood above him and said, ‘come on then son, get up from that, I dare you! although, this wasn’t the smartest thing I could’ve done at that time for I delayed the referee’s count by at least seven seconds for I didn’t get to my corner. Even at that Ali just about got up inside nine seconds. Then the bell came and signalled for the end of the fourth round. As the fifth round commenced, I went for the knock out once again only to be met with rapid fire from Ali, he swung a couple of times and then I realised the tables had turned for I was in trouble now as I dropped my guard and got tossed over the ring like a rag doll.

Ali didn’t make the same mistake as I did by delaying the count but I managed to get up after an eight count. After that the two of us held back a bit for we both now knew what the other was capable of. Once again the next few rounds were quite for a few rounds except for I was flattened one more time in the ninth round. Things took a dramatic change in the tenth round as the two managers told us both to go for it and end this fight. Once again, Ali was the first to make his move, he connected with a few jabs but he missed with his big right, then I pounced.

First I caught him where I did before and his eye stared to bleed again, then I followed up with three big hits with the right before finally cracking him over the jaw with my left. As he fell to the big blue sea of the matt, little did I know what was to happen next, just as Ali got back to his feet his manager threw in the towel and then the bell went, I was the champion of the world. Before I had time to realise fully what had happened I was surrounded by the press, my manager and a load of photographers. The flashes of the cameras blinded me as my left arm was raised as the title rested in my right hand.

The unbelievable had happened, I had shocked the world, I had done the undoable, and I was champion of the world. Two years later I was still the champion of the world, I was the world’s greatest. I went on to defend my title a record thirteen times in two years. In the fourteenth fight, my career was ended at the age of twenty-seven for I sustained un-repairable cell-membrane damage to my left eye when ‘Smokin’ Joe Frasier connected with it in the fifteenth round which left me in hospital for five weeks. The cell-membrane damage meant that if I got another hit on it I would be left blinded and that I could be left brain damaged for life.

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