Joe Frazier hid his puffed left eye behind a pair of sunglasses this morning. Caked blood still adorned his swollen lower lip. The local papers were saying he got an early Christmas gift from the judges who ruled his Thursday night 10-rounder with Jumbo Cummings a draw.
But none of it showed any sign of dissuading Frazier from his grand scheme of slowly ascending the heavyweight ranks to reclaim the world championship he lost to George Foreman almost nine years ago.
Frazier admitted this morning that he was too heavy, at 229, for this bout against a 223-pound muscleman. He conceded that "I got shook a couple times" by blows from Cummings. And he allowed it would be "early summer before I get my motor cranked up" to fight again.
But fight again he will. Over and over the 37-year-old Frazier repeated his assertion that the Cummings bout was just a warmup, "just the beginning of what I want to do." He said it reminded him of when he started his pro career in 1965, that he's learning things all over again.
What Frazier seems bent on ignoring is the fact that in 1965 he was watching the dawn of a career, but today the glimpses of inspirational light that come in his best ring moments are the last rays of dusk. After dusk comes dark.
Does he feel at all like a shadow of his former self?
"Your shadow is you," said Frazier animatedly. "You can't separate that. Your shadow is with you everywhere you go. Late in the day it just gets longer."
Frazier did not look good against the tall, lumbering Cummings. He relied on the left hook that was his knockout punch before his retirement 5 1/2 years ago, but the few times the hook landed it did no damage.
Frazier said today that was because Cummings was waiting for the left. "I hit him, but he was pulling away. He would rock back on his right leg. He was looking for the left, so the only time I really caught him was once with a right."
That information goes into the file under things to improve for next time, said Frazier. "It's back to the drawing board and the gym again."
He said he will concentrate on training his heavyweight son, Marvis, for bouts the 21-year-old has scheduled through March. And when Marvis looks as if he needs a rest, Joe will look for a fight and Marvis will train him.
Frazier contends that Cummings, who is unranked by either national boxing organization, is one of very few real heavyweights around. He thinks top-ranked contenders like Gerry Cooney, James (Quick) Tillis and even World Boxing Council champion Larry Holmes are "blown-up heavyweights," better suited to the light-heavy ranks.
"When a truck hits a truck," said Frazier, "he has a chance. But when a truck hits a Volkswagen, he rolls right over him."
But when Frazier hit Cummings Thursday night, all Cummings did was roll his eyes and mock the ex-champion. That happened twice, in the fifth and seventh rounds.
And the only fighter who ever looked to be in danger was Frazier, in the eighth, when Cummings caught him with a combination in midring, then pursued him into a neutral corner and battered away. Frazier covered up and took it until Cummings' arms grew tired.
After the fight Cummings showed no scars or evident bruises, but bumps and blood were visible on Frazier. Both judges scored the fight even and referee Nate Morgan had Cummings ahead, 46-45, making it a split decision majority draw.
Nonetheless, Frazier said today, "I think everything was there. I went the distance and I could have gone two or three more (rounds)."
Someone asked if he felt he could do anything better at 37 than when he was in his boxing glory days.
"Yes I do," Frazier answered instantly.
"I can't tell you that," said Frazier, grinning a lascivious grin.
He let that sink in. Then everybody had a laugh.