More than their boss, members of Frazier’s camp silently felt hurt and mad with Muhammad Ali’s teasing, taunting, insulting and calling his challenger names.
One of them, sparmate Joe Gholston couldn’t take it anymore, gate-crashed into one of Ali’s press conferences and confronted the defending champion on the issue of the name ‘gorilla’ Ali continued calling Frazier from the time the final chapter of their three-fight confrontations was announced all the way to their two-week stay in the country for their preparations for the “Thrilla in Manila.”
The presscon had barely started at the Philam Life auditorium and Ali hadn’t spoken yet when Gholston stood up, grabbed the microphone and asked the host on the ‘gorilla’ issue.
Ali was temporarily stumped by the unexpected development and for a while could not answer the then world’s 15th-ranked heavyweight contender’s question.
He recovered though and told Gholston, “I’ll talk to you later, man.” He then added several seconds later, ”the reason I call Frazier gorilla is because since I beat him (in the Super Fight II), he never respected my name. He never respected my by calling me Clay (Ali’s birth name), a slave name. So I’m calling him a gorilla.”
Gholston was finally talked to by the hotel security to sit down but at the Hyatt Regency Hotel coffee shop later that day, in a talk to media men, he spoke about the two men whom he referred to as his close friends.
“It’s unfair, “ he told his audience. “His name was Clay and he said it was a slave’s name. But all of us in America were, for one time or another, slaves. (President) Washington’s name was a slave name. Frazier’s was, mine was, and even great American name are slave’s name.”
“If Joe calls him Clay, it’s just because Joe want him by that name. I don’t begrudge him for being a Muslim, for preaching Muslim teaching and I don’t even dispute his claim of helpin’ the black people, “ he continued.
“He might really be helpin’ them or he may not. But to call a person a gorilla is a sin, and that I know, Gholston stressed
“Joe is a nigger, but to us his people, he’s as great as Ali is to his. Joe helps us. He helps a lot of people, black or white. Only he doesn’t want to brag about it, “ he added.
“Why, Joe even helped Ali when was under suspension and wasn’t fightin.’ Joe sent him money for his family and so he can travel for his speakin’ engagements. Not everyone knows that but Ali knows that,” he exclaimed.
“To preach good things is one thing and to do what one preaches is another. Ali says he’s great cuz he helps his people, that’s good. But greatness is not calling a person, a fellow black, a gorilla,” Gholston remarked.
Frazier took Gholston, a promising pro, as one of his sparring partners for his Ali-style of fighting in his preparations to win back the world heavyweight crown he lost to George Foreman a year ago.
Frazier plucked him from inactivity after amassing an impressive 18-7 win-loss record, 11 of them via short route.