February 9th, 2011 By Pedro FernandezTRAVELING WITH THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME
San Francisco, CA- Harold “Ross Fields” Smith was a promoter so big that in the early 1980s he had more talent on contract than Don King and Bob Arum put together, took a select crew of individuals and Muhammad Ali on a six-city tour of the Peoples Republic of China in August 1994. This trip included writers like the late Jack Welsh of Las Vegas. But on the inside, it was Ali, wife Lonnie, promoter Smith, Ali photographer Howard Bingham and yours truly.
SMITH MADE MACAO HOTEL BRING IN AMERICAN CHEF
Smith promoted the first boxing event in China (March 1993) since Mao Tse Tung’s Communist takeover in 1949, dubbed the “Brawl at The Wall” in Beijing. As for the cuisine, the Chinese had no concept of cooking American food (think of runny scrambled eggs) and referee Gino Rodriguez, the Floridian almost died after eating uncooked pork. But one year later on this trip to Macao, Smith made sure we had an American cook.
GUMBAI WAS THE WORD OF THE NIGHT!
When we all piled into two buses and left Macao for a number of Chinese cities, the food was not quite as good as Harold’s Yankee chef. That being said, I bring you five days prior to our cross country trip when on one of our first nights in Macao we went to a party with some Chinese politicos. First of all, let me set the table for you. I was sitting at the table next to the Ali’s, Harold, the then Governor of Macao, and a number of Chinese guys who all liked to drink.
NOT HARD TO REMEMBER WORD OF NIGHT
With the Chinese breaking out some of the world’s finest cognac, they kept calling for a toast. Each time we downed a shot, we all yelled “Gumbai.” Look, I’d never thought I’d get into a drinking contest, let alone in China. I lost count at 14, but I think we did 16 shots. In no condition to do anything but sleep, Muhammad’s wife Lonnie, seeing I was drunk as a skunk wanted to make sure I made it to my room at the Oriental Mandarin Hotel.
MAID REPORTED PEDRO TO SECURITY AS A CORPSE!
Having always dressed like few others over the years, I laid down on top of my bed with my Italian suit still buttoned. Some hours later, the maid comes in, sees me laying there stiff as a board and thinks I’m dead. According to the next thing I remember, there are two security guys standing over me when I opened my eyes. Besides scaring the snot out of me, they freaked out when they thought an assumed dead body was asking them what were they doing in my room? It turns out, my drinking was a running joke for the duration of the trip, and i didn’t touch a drop for months. In closing, all you have are your memories, and this one was priceless!