Although he now has books and uniforms and continues to out-perform his peers, Mathabane still doesn’t understand the point of his education. He wonders if it truly is just a tool to make black people more like white people so they can be their servants. One afternoon, Mathabane sees a chanting crown marching down the street, shouting “ALI! ALI! ALI!” He goes to investigate and some of the marchers tell him about how the black boxer Muhammad Ali just beat a white boxer in America. People talk of nothing else, and all week boys pretend their Ali. Mathabane dreams of being such a fighter and beating “all the white men I could lay my hands on.”
Muhammad Ali’s victory brings joy to black people in South Africa, since it proves that a black person can compete and succeed over white people. This suggests that for black people under apartheid, sports victories like Ali’s represent black capability, which apartheid’s defenders deny. However, in spite of this great victory, Mathabane’s vision of beating every white person suggests that he carries a deeply-rooted hatred and rage inside of him, directed at all white people.
Mathabane and his friends find a boxing club in Alexandra and tell the owner they want to learn to box. The owner starts by having Mathabane box an older, experienced boy. Although all his friends call Mathabane “Ali” and chant encouragements, Mathabane is beaten badly. The club owner tells Mathabane that he fought well and should come back again, but Mathabane decides, “To hell with Ali.”
Although Mathabane winds up in fights a few times throughout the story, his aversion to boxing suggests that he is not naturally inclined to violence. Although violence might provide an outlet for his anger, Mathabane decides it is not for him.