PAUL RODRIGUEZ, actor/comedian: “Ali wasn’t well liked by everybody in the Mexican community at first, that’s for sure. Especially later, when guys like me who served in the military weren’t happy during those Vietnam years when he refused to report for the draft. But his personality always had a real magnetism. Up to that Liston fight, what you heard was stuff like ‘he’s a credit to his race,’ which was code for a guy who didn’t make waves. Ali was different. He was articulate, outrageous, a braggart, a wildly unpredictable guy. He just insulted Liston and Frazier to sell tickets. I met him during the movie [Ali]. He kept saying he was sorry that his body wouldn’t let him be how he used to be.”
PAUL RODRIGUEZ is a comedian and actor. He was cast as Dr. Ferdie Pacheco in Ali, which starred Will Smith.
RON SHELTON is a filmmaker whose work includes the boxing film Play It to the Bone and Tin Cup.
BILL CAPLAN is a publicist and a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
MURRAY OLDERMAN is an acclaimed journalist and cartoonist. He attended both Liston-Ali fights, including the 1965 rematch in Maine.
BOB HALLORAN was a Miami television sportscaster. He covered the fight.
ROY FIRESTONE is a television personality and entertainer. He grew up in Miami.
RON SHELTON, filmmaker: “The fight took place on the night of my last game for the freshman basketball team at Westmont College in Santa Barbara[, Calif.]. So we couldn’t get reports on it until our game was over. I wanted Liston to kill him. Years later, I wanted Frazier to kill him. I was the only guy I knew whose politics were liberal who rooted against Ali. I thought he was a hypocrite for his racial taunting.”
BILL CAPLAN, publicist: “We booked the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to show the fight. They used to hold the Academy Awards there. I ran into the actor Glenn Ford and invited him to come see the fight with us, which he did. We had a completely full house.”
MURRAY OLDERMAN, journalist/cartoonist: “I have never seen an athlete in a greater state of hysteria than Cassius Clay when he arrived for the weigh-in before the first Liston bout. His head was bobbing almost uncontrollably. His eyeballs were rolling. He was frothing at the mouth. He kept lunging toward Liston and had to be restrained by Angelo Dundee and other handlers. I was standing next to Frank Gifford, who was evolving as a TV sportscaster even though he still had a year to play with the New York Giants. ‘That kid’s scared to death,’ Gifford whispered to me. I thought so too.”
BOB HALLORAN, TV sportscaster: “I met Ali when he was 19. He’d just come out of the Olympics, and I was in the sports department at WTVJ [in Miami]. I went to the 5th Street Gym where he was training. You had to go up rickety stairs to the second floor and a hot, sweaty gym. Liston was training at the Americana Hotel in a beach club, jumping rope in air-conditioned comfort.”
ROY FIRESTONE, TV personality: “So I’m about 10 years old when, suddenly, these two gigantic events converge on my town. The Beatles arrive to do The Ed Sullivan Show live from the Deauville Hotel, five blocks from my house. And then this giant prizefight eight or nine days later. I’d see Ali run by on the beach, his sparring partner Jimmy Ellis by his side. I’ve got my friend Johnny Pollak telling me I can’t come over because his family’s got guests. I ask who. He says, ‘I’m not allowed to say.’ It turns out the Beatles are at his house, swimming in their pool. They posed for some famous pictures there. And then the publicist Harold Conrad realized he’s got this double phenomenon in his lap, so he takes the Beatles to meet Clay. But they wanted no part of Clay. They thought he was a clown.”