Skip to main content

Book Excerpt: Muhammad Ali: Champion

Muhammad Ali: Champion

Written by Arlene Schulman
Published by Lerner Publications

They would sit at night, and he would tell her that he was going to be the champion of the world. In their ramshackle house in Louisville, Kentucky, when the sun had set and the lights were out, 12-year-old Cassius Clay told his mother of his dream. He would knock out opponents one by one, raise his hands in victory as the ring announcer introduced him as the new world champion, and become rich and famous.

"One night I heard (heavyweight champion) Rocky Marciano fighting on the radio," he said. "It sounded so big and powerful and exciting."

Cassius Marcellus Clay was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville. The first of two sons born to Odessa Clay and Cassius Clay Sr., Cassius Jr. demonstrated his fondness for attention even at an early age. Mrs. Clay, exhausted from a difficult delivery, could hear her young son cry and scream and wake up the other babies in the hospital.

"Gee-gee, gee-gee," were Cassius's first words, his mother said. He later claimed he was trying to say "Golden Gloves", the name of a prestigious national boxing tournament that he won twice as a teenager. "When he was a child, he never sat still," his mother recalled. "He walked and talked before his time."

Black Louisville was divided into three sections - East End, the California area, and West End, where the Clays lived. Like most of the families in the neighborhood, they were poor. The family car was always at least 10 years old with worn-out tires. The house always needed painting. The front porch sagged, and during rainy weather, water leaked through the roof and walls. Many of the children's clothes were secondhand. Once in while, the Clays were able to afford a new shirt or a new pair of pants for Cassius and his younger brother, Rudy - but not often.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Year (or so) with the New York Yankees

...At the old Yankee Stadium, the press box rose high up above home plate and over to the left side and consisted of a few rows of countertops, outlets and chairs, with broadcast booths, and a smaller press box where I sat with the men of the Black and Hispanic press and TV and radio reporters. The Yankees official box sat off to the left, and Eddie Layton’s Hammond organ called outCharge!from the far right. This was the generation of technology that followed the electric typewriter and before cell phones, email, texting and the Internet. The state-of-the-art computer at the time was a heavy black Radio Shack laptop with a tiny screen of four or five lines. One older sportswriter still used a typewriter, and the clickety-clack of the keys made me think of the movie,The Front Page.

Most of the older men—and almost everyone was older then me—wore plaid short-sleeved shirts under tweed sport jackets, even during the warmer weather. They reminded me of Oscar Madison. At least these men had…

NYPL: Bridging Our Stories - Detective Thomas Troppmann of the NYPD's 34th Precinct

Meet Detective Specialist Thomas Troppmann of the 34th Precinct, which covers Washington Heights and Inwood.

Detective Troppmann has spent his entire 30- year career on patrol in uptown Manhattan, a  rarity for one officer to remain on patrol for that long AND in the same precinct. He was a rookie police officer the same year his new partner, Detective Specialist Edwin Rodriguez, was born. These two have partnered up for the NYPD's newest community based policing program, Neighborhood Coordination Officers, a more high tech and targeted brand of beat cop.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Detective Troppmann talks about  the changes he's witnessed in "MY neighborhood", how he feels about body cams, changes in technology since he came on the job,  his relationship with his partner Rodriguez, being mistaken for Police Commissioner James O'Neill, corruption, getting older, and how the jocular relationship of the locker room evaporated into a silent, sad stillness fol…

Steve Bonano of the NYPD: 1961 to 2015

Sometimes people bond over the smallest things.
     Sitting behind his captain’s desk covered with files, complaint reports, and official NYPD notifications along with my Timberland boots perched at the edge, Steve Bonano and I discovered that we had the same sophisticated culinary palate. It was uncanny. We both dined at the same establishment but at different branches and knew the menu as intimately as the chef. We ate there more than we cared to admit, which likely accounted for his slightly chubby physique and as I call myself, svelte with a twist.
     “I always order at Taco Bell”  my sentence began and Steve chimed in at the same time. “Combo number three!”
     We both laughed and exclaimed, “Three tacos and a soda!”
      Each time we saw each other we called out “Combo number three!” I can still hear his laugh.
     Many people knew him better than I did. My time was spent sitting in his office chatting about life on the job. During my two years embedded in the 23rd P…