Once Rebel saw he was going into all the smells and noise he was into it. He dragged Doug through the door then followed him onto the ring and in front of the audience, which he loved. He knew what applause was.
The next thing I remember was Muhammad standing on the other side of his ring telling Doug not to bring the cat into his arena. Doug completely ignored both of us and dragged Rebel under the ropes into the ring.
Rebel got right into the scent; he was activated by the feel and the general vibrations of the ring along with the smell. He went into a crouch; started twitching his tail, put his nose on the mat, started to breathe deep and lick the mat. Doug had no idea what energy he was generating. I tried to get him to hand me the chain leash. He saw me as being interference to his PR plan…
These two photos are a beautiful study of the moment. I saw it happen from a slightly different angle. I was more to the back side of Rebel and couldn’t see his face. I was watching his hind legs start to quiver and twitch getting ready to move or spring.
You can see in the photo, where Ali is behind the photographer in the ring, how Doug is struggling to keep Rebel under control. I can make out the cat’s fur bristling, he was getting ready to spring. If he had had front claws he would have torn up the mat. You can see Doug is off balance with only one foot on the ground. Rebel dragged him into the center of the ring. Ali is not happy and is asking Doug to take the cat out of the ring. A second later the cougar turned on the photographer in front of Ali and made him scramble. Ali was not happy with the surprise; he did not want a mountain lion in his ring.
In the second photo the cat is calmed a little so he decided to help Doug out and played along a little. Notice how Ali is cautious around Rebel. He covered his body before he would come out of the corner. See how he protects his hands and keeps his robes in close to his body. He would not touch the animal.
You have two predators in close vicinity to each other, and there is no clean escape route for Ali. Rebel was born in captivity but he was still a wild animal and he was wily, a natural hunter. Ignore the prey until it thinks you aren’t paying attention, then strike. Ali knew this and kept his eye on the cat.
He walked by me in his white robe while I was trying to distract Rebel…This is how I had the unique occasion to have Muhammad Ali look at me with his bowel movingly frightful ‘killer’ face and say “get that cat out of my ring!!!”. He was surprised, pissed off, scared and under control…all at the same time. He was within arm’s reach of me, and Doug would not listen. I’m at the end of the ring off camera, you might be able to see my feet.
Muhammad was appealing to me, his eyes very wide, his face very set, his teeth showing…Doug telling him it was alright and he had control of Rebel…as Rebel was dragging him across the ring…Rebel liked to be in the spotlight and he was getting lots of response. I was hoping like hell I could get him out before he urinated on the ring mat.