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Cassius Clay Enters Poetry Competition

Mar. 7, 1963 - Cassius Marcellus Clay took a coffee-house break from his training today to read poetry. The heavyweight contender recited in competition with several opponents at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. The victor was Clay. The 21-year-old boxer from Louisville gave the verdict himself. “The winner by unanimous decision,” he proclaimed, as he held both hands above his head. The women and one male contestant who had been his opponents crowded about him and applauded. There wasn’t a dissenting vote. “I’m the greatest,” Clay kept repeating, while his 36-line ode reflected that he would beat Doug Jones at Madison Square Garden next Wednesday night in six rounds. The brash young man said he composed his poetry “while on trains and in camps.” Clay was polite but critical of those selected as his poetic rivals. As each recited, he sat in a chair at one end of a small platform. When Howard Ant, who wore a beard, led off with “Sam the Gambler Talks to a Losing Horse,” Clay listened intently. “He’s a four-round poet,” the fighter remarked. Clay’s poem, called “Ode to a Champion: Cassius Marcellus Clay, by Cassius Marcellus Clay,” concluded this way: “Marcellus vanquished Carthage, Cassius laid Julius Caesar low, and Clay will flatten Doug Jones with a mighty muffled blow. So when the gong rings and the referee sings out ‘the winner’ and Sonny Liston will fall, Cassius Marcellus Clay will be the noblest Roman of them all.”


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