I'll always be grateful that I got to meet Muhammad Ali when he was
still in the full height of all his many powers. The occasion was an odd
one--a 1978 press party at the Warner Communications building on Fifth
Avenue, heralding Superman Vs Muhammad Ali, a special edition "deluxe"
comic book volume that DC Comics produced (in which aliens compel the
two titans to tussle, "to save the Earth")...
But I've also been surprised that what Ali said to me has been lost
through the decades.
All of the major sports TV anchors of the day were there, along with a
few print journalists, and most of them were all giving Ali a generally
hard time. There was no apparent prejudice among that rarified
assemblage, but it was felt by some at that particular time that the
Champ wasn't perhaps appropriately honoring his legacy, at least in the
(Ali had just lost the World Heavyweight championship to Leon Spinks a
few months before, although he would regain it, in a September re-match.
Before the Spinks bout, some also felt that Ali wasn't doing enough to
defend his boxing title (that he was, in their opinion, "fighting
In my youthful exuberance, I certainly felt that "The greatest of all
time" was far more worthy of respect.
At the press conference, I raised my hand, Ali called on me, and I
"Muhammad, does it ever bother you that you seem to maybe be given a
harder time than another champion might be afforded, in your
Ali looked me in the eye, and said something which some might argue,
"No, because this is the first time in America a black man has been paid
this kind of attention."
James H. Burns
||(James H. (Jim) Burns was a pioneer of the second wave of fantasy and
science fiction movie magazines, being one of the first writers for
Starlog(and several other late 1970s publications), and a contributing
editor to Fantastic Films, and Prevue. (He wrote the earliest of thesearticles, when he was thirteen...!)
Jim was also a key figure in
many of the era's North Eastern American comic book and Star Trek
conventions. Burns was one of the field's first writers to cross over to
such mainstream fare as Gentleman's Quarterly, Esquire, and American Film, while still contributing to such genre stalwarts as
Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines.
More recently, Jim has made several contributions to Off-Broadway, and
Broadway productions, become active in radio, and written Op-Eds, or
Newsday, The Village Voice, thesportingnews.com and The New York Times.)