I was born Catsius Meowcellus Clay. It’s been years since I’ve answered to that name, and I don’t plan on starting again anytime soon. But for the purpose of a retrospective, it seems important to acknowledge the past. That was my name.
My family thought it was strange that I was born with boxing gloves around my paws. Maybe they were right. Who can say? All I know is that while most cats have to worry about what they want to do with their lives, how to fill all those hours, I didn’t. I had my answer.
I started to notice that I was physically different than other cats at an early age. For one thing, by the time I was 2 years-old I was over 6 feet tall and only walked on my hind legs. This isn’t to say that I couldn’t walk on all fours, but why would I? That’s for assholes and suckers. I’m too purr-ty for that. (Just kidding. I don’t actually talk like that. If I only talked in cat puns, I think I’d kill myself.)
Another weird thing that started happening is that my fur would change colors as I trained. I still don’t know what that was about, but I’m a giant, fast-talking, hind-leg walking, to pretty to be hit, boxing cat. Who am I to question anything’s logic?
Once word got out about me, people obviously wanted to know more. The press descended and nothing was ever the same. The first question was whether I should be allowed to fight people. Answer? Obviously. If anyone was at a disadvantage it was me. My hind legs aren’t built to move the way I can make them move. But then again I could do a lot of things nobody could believe. I am the catsronaut… excuse me… Astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis? Jack Dempsey? They were jet pilots. I’m in a world of my own.
This is me trying to beat the ugly off of Sonny Liston. I knocked him out, but the ugly survived. Ugly is resilient like that. Though I did hear he needed a shoe horn to put his hat on for the rest of his life.
People were shocked. But I wasn’t. I’m not just the greatest. I’m the double greatest. I don’t just knock em out. I pick the round. I said the first round. Down he went in the first round. Double greatest… Also I’m a cat. So maybe triple greatest.
This is me and The Beatles. They wrote a song about me. Maybe you know it? “Something.” George said that he found himself strangely attracted to me. He kept saying that the way I moved in the ring was hypnotizing. I told him that I was very flattered, but that I wasn’t gay. He said he wasn’t either, but that there was just “something in the way I moved.” So I considered it. I mean he was a Beatle. But I couldn’t do it. After I broke the news to him he changed every “he” to a “she” and cut the verse about me knocking out Sonny Liston. We never spoke again. It was the greatest heartbreak of my life. But in this picture we were still happy. That was all still ahead of us.
This was from my LIFE magazine shoot before the Joe Frazier fight. As if that tape could stop me from talking. Though I will admit that after we did this they balled up the used tape and left it out. You could say I did some extra catdio- I mean cardio that day.
When I heard that Joe passed away, I was crushed. We were rivals, sure. And I said some mean things about him. But I think that was because I resented him. When I was drafted to fight in Vietnam, and refused to go (because I had moral issues with the fight, and also because I was a 6 foot 5 cat and felt that camouflage would be hard), I went to jail. Joe took my title. I don’t think I forgave him for that. But once I got out he pushed me. Our fights were the best boxing could be. For those nights we weren’t just a giant cat and a buff black guy beating each other up. We were more. Icons. Bigger than the sport. You learn to love a guy you share that with. I miss him already. RIP Joe.
This is me lighting the Olympic torch in 1996. You probably remember it. It was pretty controversial being the first cat to have that honor. But I’ve spent so much of my life fighting anti-cat prejudices that it felt right to break that barrier. But don’t let that fool you into thinking things are better now. Cats have to put up with being infantilized and laughed at by people everywhere. It used to just be the occasional America’s Funniest Home Video, but now with the Internet it’s grown rampant. Stand up for the dignity of felines. We can spell. We don’t HAZ anything. Except resentment for all of you who use our pictures for a few laughs. We HAZ lots of resentment. Lots.
Concept by Greg Levine