Q: You kept in shape by slugging carcasses in a freezer and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Are you angry that Sylvester Stallone used that for Rocky and gave you only a cameo?
A: Nah. Stallone didn't steal my life from me. He just kinda got it wrong. I'm not just staying in shape slugging that meat. I'm keeping my southern blood warm in that freezer. Back home, I used to hit a bag full of rags and corncobs.
Q: Ali took from you too. Do you respect him?
A: Hell, yeah. And I feel sorry for him now, but I did what the Lord told me to do. Him going around all "I am The. I am The Greatest. I am The Prettiest. I am The Butterfly." Well, you can't be TheThee is the Lord. Ali even told me in the ring, "You can't beat meI'm your Lord." I just told him, "Lord, you're in the wrong place tonight."
Q: And when you look at him now, suffering from Parkinson's ...
A: Parkinson's? He got left-hook-itis, what he got. To this day, I don't know how this man stood up. All I hit him with, 44 rounds later? I was asking myself: What's holding this dude up? What medicine is he on?
Q: Thirty-five years later, whose punches can you still feel? Ali's? George Foreman's?
A: George's. I feel them every day.
Q: You don't seem to feel bitter about anything.
A: Bitter? Why? I'm blessed. I got the job done and I got paid. Stallone got his done. Ali got his done. So did George. Bless 'em all. So did Don King. Bless him too. People whine about Don King like that? He did his job and got us paid.
Q: If I gave you a time machine, would you go back to the 15th round in Manila when you didn't answer the bell?
A: I don't know. I never looked at it like that. I don't know. I'm not worried about it. I don't lose sleep over that. I'm not ashamed of it. I left that ring and I never looked back.
Q: Really? Ali's in his corner telling them to cut the gloves off, and he's said it's the closest he's ever been to death. Eddie Futch is saying you can't go back in, he's already seen eight men die in the ring. They give Ali the fight and he collapses on the mat.
A: He was out, man, lights out.
Q: And you wouldn't go back there and finish the job?
A: I don't know, man. I just don't know. It was 125 degrees in that ring, dude! Why the fuck would I go back there?
Q: What wisdom did you take from the ring?
A: Stick with the plan. That's you and the trainer. And train every day to make the plan come true. Stay close and when he misfires, Boom. [Imitating Howard Cosell] "Muhammad is down, Muhammad is down." See, the thing no one knew, 'cause I'd never get a license, was I've been pretty much blind in my left eye since '64. Had an accident with an old speed bag and pieces of metal flew into my eye. When my right eye swelled up in Manila, 14th round, and it looked like Ali's beating Joe Frazier up? I was a blind man. That's why Eddie Futch wouldn't let me come out in the 15th.