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Muhammad Ali Memories

Reviewing Muhammad Ali’s 1977 Appearance on Johnny Carson-media-1LeRoy Neiman: “I was in the dressing room with Ali before one of his fights. He was laying, resting on a table and I was sketching him as he rested. Then, suddenly Ali asked Angelo to turn out the lights. And Angelo asked, Why? And Ali answered, ‘I want to see if LeRoy can sketch in the dark.'”
Marion Boykin (New York-based boxing TV show host): “I once traveled with Ali on a book tour many years back in New York City. I was glad to be included on the bus of writers and will always be beholden to super-writer, Tom Hauser for making sure I was there. Tom had helped Ali with a big photo book and a book of Ali quotations and thoughts. We were all a part of the push to get the books out there to Ali’s millions of fans. During the ride I spent most of the time in the back of the bus, wouldn’t you know it, with another great champion, Roy Jones Jr. It was fun as we went from school to school for ceremonies hyping the books. But the most interesting part of it was stopping at one high school and having a little lunch. Ali sat with my photographer, Terrence Nelson and I and we shot-the-breeze a bit. He was in the beginning strains of his coming battles with Parkinson’s but he was still very alert and quick. As we ate, the conversation got interesting…I happen to love magic and sleight-of-hand and so, of course, does Ali. He took out a little handkerchief and made it disappear and was quite proud of himself about it. But then I pulled out a few coins and made them go from this hand to that hand invisibly and he was blown away, I had absolutely floored the champ on what was perhaps just another routine day for him – or so he might’ve thought. He immediately asked me how I did that and I responded, ‘Champ, you know us magicians can’t reveal our secrets.’ He bent over and begged me closer, and as I did to hear what I thought would be a secret whisper between Magis, he grabbed me by by my collar, flashed that old Ali battle snarl and said, ‘I said…HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!’ He startled me at first, as I quickly thought I had become Joe Frazier or George Foreman to him but he immediately then flashed his big playful smile as he released me and said, ‘Man, that was a good one…You’re even faster than me.'”
Mrs. Deanna Dempsey (Wife of former Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey): “We met Muhammad Ali in San Juan, Puerto Rico after he beat Jean-Pierre Coopman in 1976. He was young and handsome and vital and so full of life. After the fight, as he was coming down the steps from the ring, Ali spotted Jack and he said, ‘Mr. Dempsey, can I call you Jack?’ Jack said, ‘Everybody calls me Jack.’ Then Muhammad said, Oh Jack, you were the greatest!’ And Jack said, ‘But Muhammad, I thought you always said YOU were the greatest?’ Ali said, ‘Jack. When I say I’m the greatest, it’s all bullshit!'”
Riddick Bowe (Former World Heavyweight champion): “Muhammad Ali is what enticed me to get into boxing. I liked his spirit and I liked his style. And I liked the way he spoke. See, what happened was, I was in junior high school – I was in 8th grade, I was 13 years old – and the reading teacher brought in a tape of Ali. And I just fell in love with Ali from that point on. I said, ‘I wanna be heavyweight champion of the world.’ And in about ten years later it took place and it happened. My teacher, she called around a couple of gyms so I could start boxing. So we finally decided to go to Bed-Stuy Boxing Association Club. And I walked into the gym, fought in the Kid Gloves, the Golden Gloves, the Junior Olympics, and I realized in that time I could be champ. Because I did feel a certain ease, you know? A lot of guys had a lot more experience than I had but I was beatin’ up all them guys like I was there the whole time they were.”
James ‘Buster’ Douglas (Former World Heavyweight champion): “Muhammad Ali made such an impact on boxing and was a beautiful boxer. He had a beautiful jab. I met him on several occasions, kicked it with him, we had a ball. It isn’t like it usually is where your expectations are too high. It wasn’t like that. It was even more than I expected. He said he liked my style. He told me he was jumping up and down, and jumping out of his chair watching the Tyson fight. It was a thrill to bring pleasure to a man who brought so much pleasure to me.”
Bernard Hopkins (Former Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion): “I met Muhammad Ali a few times. He came to Ecuador for my first title fight against Segundo Mercado. Don King brought him. He still had his sense of humor. I had goosebumps. When I started my career I never thought I’d be next to guys like that. Me and his birthdays are a few days apart, we’re both Capricorns.”
Angelo Dundee (Ali’s trainer): “I first met Ali when he was an amateur in 1959. I used to go to Louisville with my fighters – Jimmy Beecham, Luis Rodriguez, Willie Pastrano. In fact, the biggest draw in Louisville was Willie Pastrano. And Willie fought Alonzo Johnson. That’s when I met Muhammad. Muhammad called me from the hotel lobby…’This is Cassius Marcellus Clay. I’m the Golden Gloves champ of Louisville. I won the Gloves in Chicago, I won the Gloves in Seattle. And I want to talk with you.’ I said to Willie, ‘If the guy is some nut downstairs and if you want to let him come up and talk with us?’ And Willie said, ‘Ehh, well the TV stinks. Let him come up.’ And Muhammad came up. Very interesting young man. Kid wanted to know about how my fighters train, how they ran. Because he said he watched me a lot on TV. I had a lot of TV fighters back then in those days. It was a ton of fun. He was a student of boxing. He wanted to know the intricate things about it. I worked with the kid. Showed him the do’s and don’ts. Naturally, he had his own ideas and conceptions on what should be done. But I sort of gave him some advice. That was the first time I met him. And when my fighters would come back to Louisville, he would look them up. A lot of times I wouldn’t be with them. Like Luis Rodriguez would fight in Louisville. Muhammad would go in there and come into the fight with Luis. He grew to love Luis. Because Muhammad got to like all my guys. My guys were easy to like, ’cause they’re good kids. You’ll find out something, by the way, 99% of fighters are good kids. Because of the life they’ve got to lead. It’s a tough life. And nobody has bigger respect for the fistic guys than me. ‘Cause I appreciate what they’ve got to go through.”
Chuck Wepner (Ali opponent): “The Ali fight, that was the best I ever felt in the ring. Going 15 rounds. It’s the only fight I ever trained for full time in my career, my entire career. I got sent to camp by Don King. The other fights I used to have to run in the morning, work in the day, train at night. It’s tough to really get on top of your game when you have to do that. For the Ali fight, I trained for seven weeks and I showed a lot of people I was better than they thought I was. After the fight Ali said, ‘I told you that guy was a tough guy. I would never fight that guy in an alley, he was a great fighter.’ That’s why he never gave me a name (like) the Mummy. He said, ‘I respect Chuck Wepner.’ He was always a gentleman to me and he always respected me and I respect him back. I love Muhammad Ali. It was not only a great opportunity for me but a great honor to fight him.”
Mario Costa (Boxing trainer): “I was in the dressing room with Mike Tyson after he lost his last fight to Kevin McBride in Louisville. Muhammad Ali was there. After the fight, Ali came to the dressing room to be with Mike. Mike wasn’t talking, you could tell he was sad. I remember they were both sitting on a bench together, just the two of them. Two great champions. It was very quiet. And Ali pulled out his comb and started combing Mike’s hair, like to tell him, You’re still pretty like me. He was trying to make Mike feel good at such a down moment.”                                                                                                                          (From my book: Muhammad Ali Portrait of a Champion)

 

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