Ali’s “Father” – Gorgeous George

Except for me, just about everyone I knew hated Muhammad Ali. He was loud, conceited, and obnoxious.  While the good “colored” boxers like Floyd Patterson spoke quietly and acted like gentlemen, Ali was jumping around the ring screaming “I AM the GREATEST!” I figured he was just acting.

He learned the act from wrestler George Wagner.

George was a mediocre wrestler in the dull 1950’s.  Although fixed even then, wrestling matches basically consisted  of two heavy guys in black briefs sweating from rolling around on the mat.  Arenas were half empty.  Then along came “Gorgeous George” to brighten things up.  He became a “cheating, dirty villain.”

People started coming through the turnstiles just to see him get his ass kicked.  And if he did lose (rarely) he’d cry, complain, and say the other guy cheated and should be disqualified! The “perfect” sore loser.

George was an anathema to wrestling fans,  He dyed his hair blond, wore a glitzy-elegant robe, had his own valet, and told referees to “keep your filthy hands off me.” George started acting effeminate in an age when gay people were officially deemed “sexual psychopaths.”

Thousands of fans filled the auditoriums with their hatred – and their money – just to see him get beaten.  And Gorgeous George (like Liberace) cried all the way to the bank.

Word of the day: Anathema (a-NATH-e-ma) noun. A person or thing hated or loathed.

4 Responses to “Ali’s “Father” – Gorgeous George”

  1. Bill says:

    When Ali fought Frazer the first time I was in a crowd of maybe 30 guys listening to the fight. I and one other guy were rooting for Ali; the other 28 were for Frazer.

    By the time he came to speak at Oswego State, he had gained somewhat in popularity. He is such an iconic hero to the masses now that younger people just don’t understand how much he was hated back in the day.

    While I was an Ali fan primarily for his boxing prowess, he did have a mean streak in him. He was unreasonably cruel to both Ernie Terrell and Floyd Patterson during their bouts.

  2. paolo. says:

    I think it may have been Terrell who refused to call him ‘Ali’ and kept referring to him as Cassius Clay. During the fight, while Ali was smashing Terrell to the canvas, he kept yelling, “What’s my name?! What’s my name!?”

    Floyd Patterson was probably the last “good Negro” heavyweight champion. Whites liked him like they liked Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Ezzard Charles. (Nobody liked Sonny Liston.)

    Had Ali not have been an obnoxious asshole, he may not have been given a shot at the title. I remember when Patterson fought Liston for the crown, Ring Magazine asked Ali who would win? Ali said, “Doesn’t matter – they’re fighting each other so they don’t have to fight me!” I think he was 21 at the time. He could sure sell tickets.

  3. Joseph Belle-Isle says:

    He was supposed to be in Basic Training with me-we all hated him-suddenly got religion. BUT he kept the religion long after it kept him out of the Army, all his life, I give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who has put gloves on with a heavyweight “Just for lessons,” will tell you-It’s just a fact that smashing someones face is a mean thing to do. They are ALL mean. I asked my buddies brother why the hell did he have to knock me out three times in a row with one punch, I’d thought he was going to teach me to Box!!” He said with a mean look on his face, “THAT’S HOW YOU LEARN!”

  4. Bill says:

    Yes, most professional boxers are pretty mean guys. You learn that pretty quickly just by talking to a few of them. Patterson had ducked Liston for many years; Floyd was afraid of the guy and for good reason. Liston was feared by all the heavyweights and should have gone down in history as one of the all time greats, but he got the royal shaft.

    You’re right about Ali’s shot at the title. He had fought a great many has-beens and never-wases and was a 7-1 underdog going into the first Liston fight. Liston took a dive in the first round of the second fight on orders from the mob. He didn’t even make it look good.

    I never doubted Ali’s conversion to Islam, but how many Muslims refuse to fight in wars due to religion? Give me a break.

Leave a Reply