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Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay)

D.O.B. 1942-01-17 | Boxer
Best known for:
  • Three time World Heavyweight Championship
  • "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated
  • "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC


I Took A Punch Square On The Jaw From The Greatest Ever

I met Mohammed Ali on a flight from Germany several years ago. I was about 15 then and I went to ask him for an autograph when I saw him standing in one of the aisles.

He couldn't talk at all (because of his sever Parkinsons) and he basically just scribbled on the paper - like 3rd grade level scribbles - and I looked down on the scribbles, confused, and then I told him "It's an honor to meet you, sir," and he attempted to smile and give me a kind of faux-punch on the cheeks, but because he's jittery as hell it actually was like a semi-real punch.

My face in moderate pain and shock, I stared at him for a couple seconds and just walked away. I still have that scribbled paper, too, all these years later.

I took a punch square on the jaw from the greatest ever. No regrets.

Cool Ali Story From The 1980's

My Dad has been a huge Ali fan since his early days. One time in the '84 or '85, Dad was on a plane flight with my older sister (who was a newborn).

He hears someone say" You have a beautiful baby girl" from the aisle.
Lo and behold it's Muhammad Ali.

Apparently Ali asked to hold her and kissed her forehead.

'96 Olympics In Atlanta

Met him by chance during the '96 Olympics in Atlanta. We were walking down the street behind a hotel, can't remember which one, and he pops out of this side door with a few guys in tow. We were the only ones on the street. I immediately recognized him and we stood and talked to him for a bit. He asked how my grades in school were and if I was a good kid.

Asked if I was enjoying the olympics and all that. He was well into Parkinson stages, so it was obviously hard for him but he seemed genuinely interested in how I was doing in school and the other stuff.

Eventually one of the guys he was with told him it was time to go and he left after shaking my hand. Really cool guy.

Working In A Magic Shop...

Working in a magic shop in my 20s, Muhammad Ali came in. My boss (huge Ali fan from back in the day) was visibly staggered. I guess Ali was his idol when he was younger.

Ali hung around for a couple hours, we did some tricks for him, he did some for us (pretty good, too, considering his hands trembled and he didn't talk). He was totally beyond cool with us taking some pictures (he posed my boss punching him in the chin), and wrote a "thank you" post card to us a week or so later...

...he signed it "Cassius Clay, oops, I mean Muhammad Ali"

A Great Man

1992 met Muhammad Ali at a book signing in Leeds (Austick's). He had been out of the public eye for a while but even so there was a huge queue all the way round the block and also all the builders opposite were hanging on the scaffolding to get a peak.

I bought the book and took my turn to meet him with my friend from University. When we got to our turn I was trying to take pictures (in the days when cameras had a thing known as 'film' in them...) and Ali was letting me know that the lens cover was on. It was an automatic thing so it came off but it was nice of him to notice and inform me. Anyway as it turned out when I got back home I discovered that there was no film in the camera !!!! The memory will live forever though.

PS/ I should point out that Ali who was scheduled to stay for just an hour chose to stay for more than 3 hours meeting every single person who had queued to see him whether they bought the book or not. Truly a great man and among the most humble I've met - he made everyone feel special.