I FIRST met Muhammad way back in 1959 and he was 16 or 17 years old. I was with [future world light-heavyweight champion] Willie Pastrano while he was preparing to fight Alonzo Johnson in Louisville, Kentucky and I got a call: “My name is Cassius Marcellus Clay and I’m the Golden Gloves champion of Louisville, I won the gloves in Chicago, I won the gloves in Seattle and I’m going to win the Olympics.” This was him; the energetic kid who wanted to talk to me because he had seen me on TV because I had about six fighters who would fight every other week on CBS back when we had public television. He wanted to talk to me because he was curious how I trained my fighters.
He came to the hotel and I was staying in a room with Willie. I had to keep my eye on Willie and keep him on the straight and narrow because he had an eye for the women. So anyway, I say to Willie, “There’s a kid down there, some nutter who wants to talk to us.”
I had no idea who he was because I never paid attention to the amateurs. I let him come up to the room and he came up with his brother Rudy and we had a conversation and it was beautiful. It was like a kid at school who wants to learn more, and Muhammad wanted to learn more about boxing.