Saturday, June 04, 2016
Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016!
So many words have been -- and will be -- said about the life and times of Muhammad Ali. I have decided that this will be a rememberance, not an obituary.
I can remember four times where Mr. Ali came to the Beltway area and touched my life and many, many others.
1. April 30, 1976 -- Mr. Ali defended his heavyweight title for the first time in the Beltway when he defeated Jimmy Young at the Capital Centre in Largo, MD. The bout wasn't one of his best outings but he did get a knockdown as he went on to a 15-round unanimous decision. Even though, this was nowhere near the prime Ali, to have him compete in my home area was a thrill.
2. May 16, 1977 -- Mr. Ali made his second defense of his world title at the Capital Centre against Alfredo Evangelista. One of the most special days of my life. I was 13 years old and my father picked me up from school and said "I have a surprise for you." As we were driving, I noticed we had past our house. Next thing I know, we are at the Capital Centre and I remember the fact that Ali was fighting tonight. Again, Mr. Ali was nowhere near his prime but to see him in person -- in my first live boxing card ever -- was a thrill that has stayed with me always.
3. October 11, 1995 -- Another special night for me personally, my very first Fight Night -- Fight For Children, the annual charity event that takes place at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. There were legends galore that night -- Carmen Basilio, Joe Frazier, Kid Gavilan, Jake La Motta, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson, Ingemar Johannsen, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler. I had the pleasure of interviewing most of those legends.
However, I will never forget what ring announcer Michael Buffer said after announcing all of those legends to the packed ballroom that night -- "And there was another."
As Mr. Ali made his way to the ring, the crowd exploded with the familiar "Ali, Ali, Ali" chants. I get chills to this day just thinking about this. What a fantastic moment.
4. June 11, 2005 -- This was the night at the MCI (now Verizon Center) where Mike Tyson fought his final bout. However, Laila Ali was on the card and she stopped Erin Toughill in the third round. Mr. Ali was in attendance that night and was so proud of his daughter. The packed house once again, shook with the "Ali" chant after he was introduced to the crowd.
We should all feel very blessed that we got to share the same universe at the same time with this wonderful man. Although I have written this through many tears, I know full well that Muhammad Ali's life is TRULY one to be celebrated! Rest well, champ.