It took George Logan a few seconds to begin to recall one specific bout from 54 years ago, especially one he lost. But considering the opponent, how could the details not eventually come pouring back?
Logan, a Boise native and former heavyweight boxer, was the 13th opponent in the professional career of a young pugilist by the name of Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali. Clay won via technical knockout in four rounds April 23, 1962, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, keeping his unbeaten record intact.
Still a Boise resident, Logan, 79, reflected on that night and his memories of Ali, who died Friday night at 74.
“He was a great fighter, and he had to be, because he got through me,” Logan said with a laugh.
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Against Clay, Logan remembers trying to be proactive against the renowned speed his opponent possessed, “chasing him around” the entire first round. In the second, he forced Clay into his own corner, getting in some solid blows.
“I heard one of his guys kept saying ‘the eye, the eye,’ ” Logan said. “... I would tend to cut easily over my eye, so I knew he’d go for that.”
After that round, Logan said his manager told him to “hit him (low).”
“If I had to fight dirty, I’d just as soon not win,” Logan said.
That left eye continued to swell as the fight progressed, eventually getting to the point where Logan could not see out of it, prompting Clay to win as the bout was stopped after Logan’s corner threw in the towel. Accounts from that night also said Logan bled heavily from his nose after the first round.
Several weeks later, that eye never quite healed properly, so Logan had it checked out. He was told a tendon was stretched, and it was because a foreign object was introduced. The fist was too large, so that could mean the most logical explanation was Clay sticking a thumb in Logan’s eye.
“That fight was televised, but to this day, I’ve never seen any video of it,” Logan said. “I’ve called the production company, tried every way I could, because I want to see when it happened.”
Logan did not see Ali again until 20 years later when the three-time champion came through Boise helping promote another fight. He said it took a few times prodding Ali to ask why he poked him in the eye, finally getting a response. Ali said he heard Logan had used a racial slur during the fight, but Logan laughed it off, saying he never spoke during his fights.
“I called him a damn liar, but that’s about when his bodyguards started to get a little closer, and that’s the last time I saw him,” Logan said.
It wasn’t their last correspondence, however. In 1999, he sent a few posters of their fight to Ali, who autographed them, one which sold at a charity auction (which Ali rarely agreed to), others to be kept in the family.
“We weren’t around each other much, but he always struck me as a pretty nice guy,” Logan said.
I was a little envious to see a guy I fought become so famous, but I knew quite a few black boxers that were good friends, so it was great to see a guy like that make it big when it was tough at that time. In a way, it helped me, too, knowing I was part of his boxing career.
GEORGE LOGAN on Muhammad Ali
Logan had five more fights left in him, with his last pro bout a win Aug. 18, 1965, in Boise. After finishing 25-9-2 as a pro, he spent 33 years as the truant officer for the Boise School District, operating an after-school boxing class. Today, he operates Riverpond Campground in Garden Valley.
Logan vs. Tom McNeeley at the Boston Garden on Dec. 20, 1960. The fight was refereed by Rocky Marciano. McNeeley, who fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title the next December, faced Logan three times, going 3-0.