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Patterson Offers to Fight Clay for Free

Mar. 7, 1964 - Former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson offered today to fight for free against new champion Cassius Clay in order to wrest the title from “Cassius X” and the “Black Muslims.”

Patterson, the only man who won the heavyweight crown twice, declared in his written challenge: “I disagree with the precepts of the Black Muslims, just as I disagree with the Ku Klux Klan — in fact so much so, I am willing and desire to fight Cassius X to take the title from the Black Muslim leadership and will do so for no purse whatsoever, whenever and wherever they might desire.”

Bill Faversham, Clay’s business manager and a spokesman for the Louisville group which holds the fighter’s contract, said Clay is not interested in fighting Patterson, adding: “Why should we fight for nothing?”

Early in the challenge, 29-year-old Patterson explained: “I have made the statement that I felt I should work my way back to the top of the list before fighting again for the title, but after what was a shocking revelation to me — in that Cassius Clay turned to the Black Muslims, gave away his name, and took the designation Cassius X — has made me make this challenge in this open letter to the world.”

Later in the challenge, Floyd, a Roman Catholic, said: “Cassius, I have admiration for you as a boxer and feel that you should be a symbol that all Americans should look up to. However, I don’t honestly believe you know what the Black Muslims portray. I am proud to be an American and proud of my people, and no one group of people could make me change my views. Therefore, I challenge you not only for myself but for all the people who think and feel as I do.”

Meanwhile, the champion returned home to Louisville, Ky., to find that he had been given a new name — Muhammad Ali — by Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad. Clay, who heard the news on the radio, said he was “honored.”


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