Muhammad Ali was reported yesterday as canceling a five-round exhibition scheduled Saturday night in Springfield, III, "after conferring with doctors who said it could endanger his health."
The report drew mixed reactions from the former heavyweight champion's former ring physician, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco of Miami; trainer Angelo Dundee and Richard A. Passwater, Ph. D., of Silver Spring, a nutritionist.
Pacheco, who was not in Ali's corner for the first time in years in the loss to Leon Spinks, said from Miami, "He'd be foolish to get back in the ring so soon; he took a terrific thumping to the body. I said he should retire after his bout with Ken Norton (which Ali won on a disputed decision on Sept. 28, 1976)."
Trainer Dundee was asked if Ali could come back to fight again and said, "I don't know. Who knows?"
Nutritionist Passwater, called in to correct Ali's low sugar level and iron deficiency before his bout against Jimmy Young at Capital Centre on April 30, 1976, said, "I could guarantee to get Muhammad back in the shape he was at age 34 (after he stopped Joe Frazier in Manila and before he fought Jean-Pierre Coopman in Puerto Rico).
"He has to get lean and clean . . . lean by losing flab and clean up his bloodstream by chemistry. We (those in the nutrition field) can do that quite easily; improve his condition by 10 percent very easily with a high protein - not predigested - diet."
Pacheco elaborated, "After exertion such as in the bout against Spinks the kidneys work overtime; there is wearing away of heart tissue. He should take two months off to rest. This was one of the few times he took a thumping in the face."
Dundee was asked about the Spinks fight.
What happened, was Ali exhausted?
"No, he was in fine shape."
Was he too beaten up?
"No, he just had a black eye. I chalk it up to just being one of those nights. It was Spinks' night. I thought Ali would get him out of there in the 15th round."
When he was first brought in by Ali, Passwater was told that the former champion felt unaccountably lazy and did not feel like training for his bout with Young.
"He was craving more and more things with sugar in them," Passwater said of Ali's weakness. "We got chelated (iron into him real fast and vitamin B15 to correct his blood sugar level and he trained better and felt better in the two weeks before the Young bout.
"It carried him through his next bouts against Richard Dunn, (wrestler) Antonio Inoki and Ken Norton, but he stopped the routine after that.
"About a month before the Spinks bout Ali was considering the routine again, but decided it was too late. He was afraid it would weaken him. He tried his way and it didn't work. Knowing his life style. I figured he was eating blintzes malted milks, pancakes and syrup, all carbohydrates. They wanted me to get his weight down.
"I would have prescribed protein milks with his regular meals, something like Metrocal, a one-meal substitute instead of having him eat his usual one big meal. It overloads him and makes his system too busy digesting it. I wanted him to lose flab but keep lean tissue, so he wouldn't lose strength.
"Most diets take off flab and lean tissue. The idea is to lose inches, not pounds. From watching television, his legs and abdomen looked in better shape than a year ago. I was waiting in the 15th round for him to reach down into a reserve of energy, but it was not there. I read that he did not spar for the last 10 days of training. His arms were either tired in the 15th or lacking strength from being hit on them (as Spinks' trainer advised the challenger to sap the force of Ali's jab)."
Passwater explained that when a person uses his muscles he produces lactic acid and the object is to get rid of the acid faster so that the body does not tire so fast. "Using bloodstream chemistry to expedite that removes fatigue,' he said.
Passwater said that because of poor nutrition a person 35 to 40 can look like 70 years old, or someone 70 can look like 35. 'Usually, the athlete gets the most of himself in that respect and that's why improving Ali's condition by 10 percent is a lot."
The nutritionist said he understood that Ali "wouldn't listen to advice this time. He got rid of his physician (Pacheco). He didn't have his regular handlers in the early part of his training and that can make a difference.
"It's hard to change a winning way."
The fight people think that Ali still may float like a butterfly, but no longer can sting like a bee.
Passwater talks as though he can fool Mother Nature with his modern techniques.