Muhammad Ali

Somewhere in The World

March 24, 1979

Dear Champ,

I want to tell you what Bill Daly said. Daly is the old guy, 82 now, who used to tell Jack Dempsey how to fight. He was working with Jaws Ocasio the other night for the Larry Holmes fight. Holmes destroyed Ocasio in the seventh round, and here's what Daly, who has been around, said about the fight:

Ocasio tonight fought a party that is as great as any heavyweight that ever came out of this country."

By "party," the old guy meant Larry Holmes. He said Holmes "has everything."

The old guy is right. Holmes is a kid. He's 29 years old and as strong as he's ever going to be. He's as tall as you, Ali, and at 214 he weighs-what? -25 pounds less than you right now. He has this jab that reminds me of yours-yours 10 years ago-and his right lands heavier than yours ever did.

Right now, Holmes officially is half a champion. The World Boxing Council says he is the champ. You're still the champ in the World Boxing Association, but if you don't announce a fight by Sept, 15, the WBA will take back the title.

I know you don't expect anyone to take your "retirement" seriously. Mickey Rooney gets married; you retire. It's a habit.

But now is the time to make it stick, champ. Holmes is too much. He would hurt your. You're 37 years old and can't do it anymore. At Providence, R.I., two weeks ago, people booed you during a three-round exhibition with Jimmy Ellis.

Boos, Ali.

I don't want to hear them. It has been too good to end that way. The first time I saw you was in 1966 in Miami Beach's Fifth Street Gym. You were 25 years old and had a body. Vince Lombardi said you could have been the greatest tight end in history, you were so quick, so strong and so good with your hands.

For a long time, it was beautiful. We were privileged, the paying customers and the itinerant typists, to see a wonder of nature do work no one ever did better. You danced in the ring, gliding in circles, throwing that snake-lick jab. You were a gift to us.

I suppose the memories will be just as sweet even if you do not retire. I'll play the films of the Joe Frazier fights - "Lawdy, lawdy, he is the greatest," Joe said after the Thrilla in Manila-and I'll forever see the artwork that was your knockout of Cleveland Williams.

A lot of people ask me what you're going to do. I tell them you will fight again. I tell them you will fight because you think you need to fight to get attention, to say nothing of a few million dollars. Those are foolish reasons to do it. Quit now, today, and you are forever the champ. That is your passport to the world.

Money? You've made $60 million in purses in 19 years. Unless you've lied to us for a long time, a considerable portion of that money is invested well, making more money. A Muhammad Ali that goes gracefully into retirement will forever be a hero who can make money.

You don't need the attention, because you already have it, and you don't need the money, and there is no need to prove anything anymore. I talked to John Thompson, the Georgetown University basketball coach, about you one time. This was after you lost to Leon Spinks, and the coach said you wouldn't retire then.

"Ali is a competitor and an athlete, and an athlete has been taught from the time he started that it is his job to overcome odds and adversity," Thompson said." "Ali won't retire. The athlete in him won't let him. He has to beat the odds, because that's what being an athlete is."

You have done it all.You have climbed the higheste mountains. And now, as athletes go, you're an old man. The body is gone. The those ribs are shot. You let Joe Frazier pound on those ribs, and you let George Foreman pound on them. Nowadays, you cover those ribs with your elbows. And people hit you in the face, which, 10 years ago, nobody ever did. The ribs are why.

The utterly amazing thing, I always told people, is that your body is gone but you're still the best.

Well, not anymore. Holmes is efficient and powerful. You've been beating people with your brains for five years now. Not this fellow. He is making every fight seem a mismatch now. No one belongs in with him.

And that is why the big-bucks boys will come to you with millions of dollars. I've seen $12 million in the papers. Holmes said you could have most of it, he just wants to get rid of you for good. "I'm going to be the champion for the next five years," he said the other night. He might be right.

Somebody asked Holmes if he thought you would fight again. "If he do, it'll be me," Holmes said. "And if he do that, it'll be a mistake." He is right about that, too.

People asked me if you will fight and I said you will fight until they carry you out of a ring. It was a flippant answer, half-serious at best, but I believed you wouldn't quit until beaten decisively, maybe beaten twice in a row by somebody.

Pogo, the title guy in the comic strip, once said, "I have met the enemy and he is us." You are your only enemy now. You don't need Larry Holmes beating on your face.

It's been fun, champ, and I never wanted it to end. Now the thing to do is make sure it ends nicely.

See you in the movies.