The Muhammad Ali-Larry Holmes intrigue, the acrimony, the spying on each fighter's camp, the battling among rival promoters reached a new level today when Bob Arum said from his New York City office that the technical side of Don King's promotion was a disaster.
Arum, of the Top Rank Inc. promotional firm that specializes in closed-circuit telecasts, said that 50 of the locations that King has arranged for his telecast Thursday night have no equipment, some have only apparatus for black and white projection where color has been promised, and ticket sales are not doing well.
Arum said the ABC network has paid a record $2 million to tape this heavyweight championship bout and will show excerpts Saturday and all of it on Friday, Oct. 31.
Holmes, odds-conscious as he conducted a news conference while shooting craps at Caesars Palace, said of reports that he had a serious eye injury from being thumbed on Sunday while sparring, "I can't see, I have an injured left arm, a sore right hand, two legs without endurance, and a sore throat. That makes the fight even."
He was wearing tinted glassed but let media representatives look at his eyes, and a reporter, learned that previous reports listed the wrong eye as being thumbed.
"Ali has lost so much weight (from 252 to 220) because he can't sleep, and he keeps watching films," Holmes said.
Ali said he watched films of the Holmes-Weaver fight at 5 a.m. today and fell asleep watching the 13th round of his third bout with Joe Frazier, in Manila.
Holmes was up early, too, and took a walk. He dropped into the Tropicana Hotel casino and lost $1,000. He also lost money rolling the dice at Caesars.
Angelo Dundee, Ali's chief second, conducted a group interview in place of the challenger after accusing fight publicist Murray Goodman of trying to destroy Ali by asking him to do more for the media than Holmes.
Dundee said Holmes did not know how to win at dice and that Ali's camp also was better than the Holmes entourage at gambling. This prompted the question, "Is Ali going to roll the dice on Thursday night by trying to knock out Holmes early, in view of Ali's saying on Monday he might take the champion out in the first round?"
"Ali doesn't gamble," Dundee said, in a double entendre. "He doesn't have to because he's in the best shape since he beat George Foreman in 1974 in Zaire and Joe Frazier in Manila in 1975 (on Sept. 30, just five years ago). I'm thrilled by his condition.
"Ali will win because he is Ali. Those layoffs of three years (after being stripped of his title for refusing induction into the armed services) and two years (since he regained the title from Leon Spinks on Sept. 15, 1978 in New Orleans) helped him.
"That takes five years off altogether; that makes Ali 33 years old instead of 38."
Some experienced observers wonder if Ali hasn't mortgaged some of his strength for Thursday's bout by taking off so much weight, and even for his future health.
On the plus side, it is speculated that it will take brave officials to vote against Ali as a 38-year-old sentimental favorite of millions around the world, if the bout goes to a decision and is close.
On the other hand, there is curiosity about whether there is anyone in Ali's corner who has the temerity or the power to stop the bout if Ali appears to be in danger of being seriously hurt by Holmes.
Ali rarely has paid serious attention to anyone in his corner in recent years, so confident is he of knowing his ability and capacity for taking punches.
Though Dundee's authority has been eroded over the years, Ali is well aware that Dundee is a quick thinker in an emergency and has been credited with saving him from losses at least three times.
As to 10-to-1 underdog against champion Sonny Liston, Ali was ready to abandon his challenge for the title after five rounds when he was handicapped by a foreign substance in his eye that blurred his vision. Dundee shoved him off the stool and he went on to knock out Liston in the 11th round on Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami Beach.
When Henry Cooper knocked Ali down on May 21, 1966, in London, Dundee covertly cut Ali's glove with a razor blade and had the referee stop the bout while a new glove was substituted. It gave Ali time to recuperate from the knockdown and he knocked out Cooper in the sixth round.
In Manila against Frazier, Ali was just about ready to give up after the 11th round, but Dundee conned him into continuing and he stopped Frazier in a bout of which Ali said, "It was like being near death," because of the punishment both fighters took.
Old heads contend that Ali hasn't fought at his peak since.