Jim Brown is one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, a multi-sport star that dominated in football, baseball, track and lacrosse. He was also notably fearless, never backing down from a challenge. Muhammad Ali included.
In a recent SI profile on Bob Arum, who turns 81 tomorrow and is one of the most famous boxing promoters ever, Arum recalled to Chris Mannix a story about the time Jim Brown wanted to box Muhammad Ali. Brown, as you may or may not know, actually was the person who originally introduced Arum to Ali. So when Brown came to Arum with the idea, he brought it up with Ali.
Take it away, Mr. Arum:
“‘So I went to talk to Ali,’ Arum recalls. ‘He says, ‘Jim wants to do what? Bring him here.’ So I took him to Hyde Park in London, where Ali used to run. Ali said, ‘Jimmy, here’s what we’re going to do: You hit me as hard as you can.’ So Brown starts swinging and swinging, and he can’t hit him. He’s swinging wildly and not even coming close. This goes on for, like, 30 seconds. Then Ali hits him with this quick one-two to his face. Jimmy just stops and says, ‘OK, I get the point.””
That even Jim Brown would back down from Muhammad Ali should come as no surprise, because, well, it’s Muhammad Ali. But that he could take a one-two to the face and live to talk about it, that has to be worth something.