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Remembering Alex Haley’s Interview With Muhammad Ali

4 June 2016 No Comment

A show of vulnerability in an interview speaks to authenticity.

No one ever accused Muhammad Ali of being soft. Eight months after becoming the World Heavyweight Champion, Ali sat down with Alex Haley on assignment for Playboy magazine. The twenty-two-year-old boxer [born Cassius Clay] opened up. He dared to be himself, here we see the essence of the man being mourned today.

Playboy: There was another controversy about the honesty

of your failure to pass the three Army preinduction qualification

tests that you took shortly after the fight. Any comment?

Clay: The truth don’t hurt nobody. The fact is I never was

too bright in school. I just barely graduated. I had a D-minus

average. I ain’t ashamed of it, though. I mean, how much do

school principals make a month? But when I looked at a lot of

the questions they had on them Army tests, I just didn’t know

the answers. I didn’t even know how to start after finding the

answers. That’s all. So I didn’t pass. It was the Army’s decision

that they didn’t want me to go in the service. They’re the boss. I

don’t want to say no whole lot about it.

Playboy: Was it embarrassing to be declared mentally unfit?

Clay: I have said I am the greatest. Ain’t nobody ever heard

me say I was the smartest.

—Muhammad Ali with Alex Haley, Playboy, October 1964

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