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Muhammad Ali Gives Press Conference in Ghana

May 17, 1964 - Muhammad Ali gave an informal press conference this morning while he ate breakfast in the Hotel Ambassador dining room in Accra, Ghana. He revealed that his friendship with Malcolm X, the former Black Muslim who first induced Ali to join the movement and later broke with it himself, may be a thing of the past.

Malcolm X left Ghana this morning for Morocco. Ali, who arrived from New York yesterday, received the following cable from Malcolm X on the eve of his departure: “Because a billion of our people in Africa, Arabia and Asia love you blindly, you must now be forever aware of your tremendous responsibilities to them. You must never say or do anything that will permit your enemies to distort the beautiful image you have here among our people.”

Asked what he thought of the advice, Ali said he had seen Malcolm X this morning, just before he left the hotel for the airport “and he didn’t seem very responsible to me.”

“Man, did you get a look at him?” Ali asked. “Dressed in that funny white robe and wearing a beard and walking with that cane that looked like a prophet’s stick? Man, he’s gone. He’s gone so far out, he’s out completely.”

Ali turned to one of his entourage, Herbert Muhammad, son of Elijah Muhammad, the head of the Black Muslims.

“Doesn’t that just go to show, Herbert, that Elijah is the most powerful? Nobody listens to that Malcolm anymore.”

Today was Ali’s first full day in Africa, where he intends to spend a month touring Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and the United Arab Republic.

Someone asked why he was going to the United Arab Republic.

“Why, that’s a Moslem country, you know,” said Ali. “I’m going to get me four wives and take them back home and put them in a house I’m going to build that will cost $100,000. It’ll be like a castle, and I’ll have a throne room for my heavyweight crown. One of my wives — Abigail — will sit beside me feeding grapes. Another one — Susie — will be rubbing olive oil over my beautiful muscles. Cecilia will be shining my shoes. And then there’ll be Peaches. I don’t know yet what she’ll do. Sing or play music, maybe.”

After breakfast, Ali announced that he had to see his fans. He ran out of the dining room to the terrace, beckoning to waiters, bellboys, hotel guests, and about 50 small boys standing along the driveway.

Soon he was besieged. It was a small-scale re-creation of the scene yesterday when thousands turned out to mob him at the airport.

“Who’s the king?” Ali shouted.

“You are,” said the crowd. “You are.”

“Louder!” cried Ali. “Now, who’s the greatest?”

“You are!” the crowd roared back.

“Okay,” said Ali, “let’s go to the beach.”

A minute later, he sped away in a white convertible driven by a Ghanaian businessman.

The young boys raced behind, cheering, “The king, the king.”

It was plain that whatever some of his former friends might say, Ali’s image in Africa as of today was still beautiful.

Ali is expected to give two exhibition bouts while in Ghana. The first is scheduled for Saturday in Kumasi, 12 miles east of Accra, and the second in Accra May 30.

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