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Morning Briefing

Ali's Remark Ended Wilt's Ring Career

January 15, 1989

In 1971, Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain came close to meeting in the boxing ring. Promoter Bob Arum, who writes a regular column for the Las Vegas Sun, recently recalled what happened.

According to Arum, Chamberlain agreed to the fight despite objections from Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke, who was offering Chamberlain a record-setting contract on the condition that Chamberlain agree to give up what Cooke termed "this boxing foolishness."

Wrote Arum: "Nevertheless, the lure of the ring appeared to win out. Chamberlain agreed to terms for a non-title match against Ali to be held that June in the Houston Astrodome.

"A contract was drawn up and approved by Chamberlain's lawyer, but not signed. Wilt agreed to come to Houston with his lawyer for a press conference to announce the fight, at which time he would ink the pact.

"I cautioned Ali that he should do nothing to disrupt the giant, at least until after Wilt signed the contract."

So what happened when Chamberlain, bending to get through the door, arrived in an office at the Astrodome?

Arum: "Unable to control himself, Ali shouted, 'Timber! The tree will fall.'

"Chamberlain and his lawyer excused themselves, went in the next room and called Cooke in Los Angeles and quickly agreed to the terms of the basketball contract, thus ending Chamberlain's pro boxing career before it even started."

The Cincinnati Bengals' last-second, 27-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 1987 is going to be talked about more than once leading up to next Sunday's Super Bowl.

It was one of the most amazing finishes in National Football League history and started Cincinnati's slide to a 4-11 season.

The Bengals were trying to run out the clock with a 26-20 lead. They had controlled the game, only their second against the 49ers since playing them in the 1982 Super Bowl.

With fourth down and just 6 seconds left, Coach Sam Wyche called for a sweep by James Brooks, rather than take a safety. Brooks was thrown for a loss at the Cincinnati 25-yard line with 2 seconds left, giving the 49ers a chance to run a play.

Montana then lobbed a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice in the end zone. The second-guessing started as soon as Rice jumped for joy after the catch.

Wyche, reminded of that loss, said recently: "It is too bad that one ballgame is tagged with one ballclub. Every team in the NFL--just pick your city--goes through a game where they lose a close one at the end. It's happened a dozen times, maybe more, this year, and it happened a dozen times a year ago."

Not quite in the same manner, though.

Hearty breakfast: Randy Barnes, 290-pound shotputter, having breakfast with track and field promoter Al Franken the other day at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, asked the waitress about the breakfast specials.

"One," she said, "is eggs and bacon with toast and orange juice. Two is sausage with a pancake sandwich. Three is steak and eggs."

Said Barnes: "Bring me one of each and three glasses of milk."

Quotebook

Indiana basketball Coach Bob Knight: "If I live long enough, what happens next is I outlive my enemies. They'll all be gone, and I'll be an elder statesman and everybody will like me. That's my next step."

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