NFL great Jim Brown quickly gave up idea of fight with Muhammad Ali

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix wrote a wonderful profile of Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who will turn 81 on Saturday. That's the same day that Arum promotes the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, one that is expected to generate at least 1 million pay-per-view sales.

Mannix's rollicking piece is filled with anecdotes from Arum's 46 years as one of boxing's leading promoters.

The best, though, details the time that NFL great Jim Brown decided he wanted to fight then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

Brown is one of the greatest players in NFL history and is regarded by many as the finest athlete of the 20th century. In addition to being a dominant NFL player, Brown is also arguably the best lacrosse player who ever lived.

He also had a legendary reputation for his toughness. Given that Brown had introduced Arum to Ali, it was hard for Arum to say no without at least checking. Brown figured it was a slam dunk massive payday.

Brown had retired from the Cleveland Browns after the 1965 season, while Arum began promoting in 1966. Ali was the heavyweight champion and entering his prime, while Brown was becoming an actor. Arum felt indebted to Brown, so he decided to see if he could convince Ali of the merits of the idea.

"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.'"

Brown was far superior to Ali as an athlete and probably could have beaten him at any game they might have played. In boxing, though, not even the great Jim Brown was in Ali's class.

Mannix's piece is meticulously researched and marvelously written and well worth checking out.

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