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The contrast between the two champions does not end with ideology. Ali is the black Adonis on parade—quick of wit, mercurial, explosive, forever turned on. Frazier is awkward and introspective, given to sullen moods that he calls "the slouchies." At home or in the ring, Ali is a klieg-lighted one-man happening. Frazier, who has the sullen glare of the late Sonny Liston (but none of the deep-rooted malice), courts neither the public nor the press. "I'm just me, see." he says. "If some people don't notice me, that's good. I got enough people pestering me. I'm making money, ain't I? That's enough for me." When Ali starts his familiar gate-hypoing routine by calling Joe a "chump," "impostor," "amateur" and "tramp," Frazier mutters something about "childishness" and goes on his way. Joe is proud of his rough skills and his success, proud of being a poor black who made good. "I ain't no Tom," he growls. It nettles him slightly that black celebrities—from Julian Bond to Bill Cosby to Coretta King—flock to Ali's corner. But Frazier also notes: "One thing's for damn sure: they aren't going to get in the ring with him."
The Ali that Frazier will meet in the ring is a different kind of fighter from the man who took Liston's heavyweight title away in 1964. Then he was still calling himself Cassius Clay, and the jaunty slogan of his training camp was "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Now at his headquarters in Miami Beach's Fifth Street Gym. the byword is "He moves like silk, hits like a ton"—and for good reason. Yon Cassius no longer has that lean and hungry look. After 3½ years of exile, he returned to the ring four months ago to dispatch California's Jerry Quarry with a third-round T.K.O. In defeating Quarry, Ali showed that he still had the lightning combinations and darting moves. But there were two marked differences in his attack: he was a shade slower and a lot stronger.
Never a devastating hitter, Ali always scored his knockouts—apart from the "phantom punch" of the second Liston fight—with cumulative volleys rather than one deadly shot. Now he seems to set himself more. Trading on 10 to 15 more Ibs. of bulk and 1¼ more inches around the biceps, he hits like a true heavyweight. The seemingly indestructible Oscar Bonavena got that information the hard way in December, when Ali exploded a ripping left hook in the 15th round and dropped the blocky Argentine in a heap. Oscar wobbled up only to be decked again and again, giving Ali a T.K.O. victory. It was the first time that Bonavena had been stopped in his 54-bout career.