When We Were Kings

(Ceremonial band playing)
(Mailer) 'The heavyweight
championship produces an excitement

'that's unlike
almost any other spectacle.

'It's almost physically unendurable
'to wait for that bell
to ring for the first round.

'In 1974 in Zaire, the fight started
at four in the morning,

'in order that it could be shown
on TV in America

'at a reasonable hour like 10.'
Boma ye! Boma ye!
(Mailer) 'Before the fight,
I saw a scene that was incomparable.

'Ali's dressing room
was like a morgue.'

It was like The Last Supper.
And at a certain point Ali said,
"Why is everyone...
"so unhappy?
"What is the matter with all of you?"
The sense was that we were watching
a man who was going out to be...

going out to the gallows.
They all believed he was gonna get
defeated and they were terrified.

They thought that with his pride
he would take one of the world's
worst beatings ever

and he wouldn't give up.
And he was gonna be destroyed.
Killed or maimed, they knew not what.

But they were deeply frightened,
as if they were taking whatever fear
Ali might have had and absorbing it.

After a while he looked at Bundini
and said,
"We're gonna dance tonight."

They said, "You're gonna dance!"
Muhammad Ali was so funny
repeating this.

"What am I gonna do?!"
They said, "Dance!"

He said, "Yes!
And that man's gonna be bewildered!

"I'm gonna dance and dance!"
And they said, "You're gonna dance!"
I swear they were all crying.

And he built them up to a degree
so that for him
they became half-happy.