By Scoop Malinowski
While recently interviewing someone for a tennis related feature about his friendship with Don Budge, this person randomly revealed that he had a close encounter with Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, in New York City in 1961 or 1962.
“We were living in New York City and I was 26. We lived in New York City in 1961-62, Ali, then Cassius Clay, was shadow boxing with another guy in a subway stop where I happened to be. He, his buddies and I got on the same train, and they were flirting with some girls. Suddenly, as I was standing watching and holding onto a pole, he rushed up to me, face to face, and gave me one of his classic threatening looks. It was chilling. I didn’t know who he was until a week later when I saw him fight on TV. I was stunned.”
Research suggests this encounter with Clay happened in May 19, 1962, which was the week Clay fought 16-0 Billy Daniels in a televised bout, won by the 20 year old by TKO 7 (cut over left eye). It was Clay’s 14th pro fight at St, Nicholas Arena on a 99 degree hot May day, said Don Dunphy on the broadcast of Clay vs Daniels. Clay’s first fight in New York City was on February 10, 1962 (TKO 4). But there is apparently no film of Clay vs Banks so presumably it was not on TV.
Clay’s next fight was on July 20 (KO 5 Alejandro Lavorante), then in November he beat Archie Moore (TKO 4 also in Los Angeles). Three more wins in 1963 vs. Charlie Powell, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper, would set up Clay to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964 in Miami Beach.
(Artwork by Scoop Malinowski)