To Wingmaster: You know, I've often thought about how great it would have been to get Joe Frazier & Muhammad Ali together for a night of fun & memories. It took a lot of work on my part, especially getting Joe to agree, as the bad feelings he had towards Ali ran very deep. going back to before their first fight.
To get Joe to agree, it took more work than you can imagine. I had to play on the religious side of him, the side which tells a man to "turn the other cheek." And after all the work--the visits, the phone calls, the letters--there was the paycheck. Both guys were going to do this, but there was money to be earned from this, too.
Ali was no problem. He and his wonderful wife, Lonnie, accepted both the idea of the event and the money--$150,000 per man--right from the start. Frazier didn't. The mental anguish and verbal beating he took for years from Ali during the time of their three wars left long, ugly scars in Joe's memory. No matter what money I offered Frazier was not going to be enough. I had to convince Frazier that, by standing in front of Ali, and, instead of wanting to hit him with that big left hook, extending his right hand and shaking Ali's right hand, then following that with the biggest hugging clinch you've ever seen--and doing it on national TV--would make him bigger than life and more popular than ever.
Now, remember, each man was going to get $150,000. Then there were celebrities who were going to be invited. Personally, I wanted Lou Gossett, Jr., to be the emcee. And I wanted a ton of celebrities on the dais: Billy Crystal, Diana Ross, Gene Hackman, Eddie Murphy, and many, many more. The bill would have been well over $1 million. But remember, I was working for Foxwoods, then. It was going to be from their checkbook that all these people were paid. That was in 1997. Who is going to pay these people today? That's the problem.
Frazier has shown signs of forgiving Ali, and I know Ali has nothing but love for Joe. It would be nice to see both of them hugging each other and mugging for the cameras, but those images are only played out in my mind.
But what great images they are!