Muhammad Ali Celebrates 70th birthday!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 17, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Muhammad Ali
Saturday, in a celebration of his 70th birthday at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY, along with a combined fund raiser for the center Muhammad Ali attended a private party in his behalf. His birthday is today January 17th. The former Gold Medalist Olympian from the 1960 team and 3-time world heavyweight champion ended his career 30 years ago with a 56-5 (37) record.

Suffering from Parkinson’s decease since 1984, Ali recently gave his wife Lonnie (53 and married to Ali since 1985), family and fans a scare when passing out. Who would have thought he would have outlived “Smokin” Joe Frazier who passed in late 2011?

Ali is considered one of the most colorful athletes in the history of sports, let alone boxing. To see his decline since being diagnosed is sad, but he is still a fighter. He has helped people behind Islamic countries borders who were from the United States get released on several occasions. Upon winning the world title in 1964 he announced his conversion to the Nation of Islam sometimes known as the Black Muslims.

Like too many former boxers Ali lost most if not all of his earnings from the ring. Some point to Islam and others to the 4 marriages as well as being too good of a person to have those who stole from him convicted. He “sold” rights to 80% of his name for an estimated 50 million in 2006 which should allow him to live comfortably financially.

This writer first met Ali in April of 1973 at 16th and Chestnut Streets in center city Philadelphia. He had moved out of the 70th and Overbrook area of west Philadelphia and was then living in Cherry Hill, NJ. I noticed a crowd across the street and upon seeking what was going on there I saw Ali surrounded by a large crowd of people. He had just lost the second fight of his career, this time to Ken Norton and suffered a broken jaw. That didn’t stop Ali from talking!

Ali was being addressed by an elderly gentleman of color who said “next time you fight Norton be a man, not a boy!” Ali answered with “did you call me Roy?” All but the man addressing him laughed. Ali was known for his many rhymes. Again the man said “I said be a man, not a boy!” Ali’s response was “play with him like a toy?” Even the man had to laugh at that one. Several weeks later after seeing a picture of his former Philadelphia house and the one near the Cherry Hill Arena I found the house there and knocked on the door. His second wife Belinda answered and I asked “can I speak to the champ?” She said “just a minute” and closed the door. A minute later I was invited in. There are 100’s of stories like that one and I happened to be one of them.

Having served in the US Army in from1965 to 1967 myself most of us were disturbed about Ali’s refusal for induction into the Army in 1967. Professional football players like Joe Namath were getting passes for induction due to knee injuries though playing in a brutal sport. Ali would have served in a way Joe Louis did during World War II in the entertainment field I am sure. He stood his ground for a religion of peace that was in question itself back then, let alone today.

Ali was not licensed for 3 years though having some exhibitions. One was in Williamsport, PA, where a friend Joe “Shannon” Schabacker was the referee. As Ali and his sparring partner were entertaining the crowd in a local gymnasium a fan in attendance from the top row of the bleachers yelled out “you should have gone in the Army!” There was a silence.

Ali got hold of a microphone and stated “when I was a young man in Louisville we had a horse farm. One day a mule came on the property and bothered the horses. I took a big rock and killed that mule! (Then pointing in the direction of the accuser) Now today he is back to haunt me and the jackass is right up there!” The roar of laughter from the crowd was from all but one. The man’s head had almost dropped between his knees. “I never saw anyone so quick with a reply like him,” said Schabacker.

There was a time in Newark, NJ, when two black gangs were fighting each other. Ali got out of a limo and one of the gang members spotted him. They all stopped fighting one another and ran over to Ali. He had a magnetic power with people from all walks of life. While living in Philadelphia he would walk the neighborhood where he lived and joke with the kids. Like him or not, if you were around him he would have you laughing. Proof of point was one of my many visits to Ali’s Deer Lake, PA, training camp to witness how he entertained visiting fans.

It was during a workout preparing for the Norton rematch. He was stripped to the waist and from the side view I could see he had something in his left hand that was cupped that looked like a black pen. Here it was a wand from a majic kit. Ali loved majic. Suddenly, out of no where came this approximate 12” wand in his hand. “That’s how fast I am you Norton spies. You can’t say I had it up my sleeve since I don’t have a shirt on. You go tell Norton what you saw!” Of course he was addressing his own fans that had come up by the bus load to see him. The laughter in that gym was instant! I believe that was the day I first saw the legendary Cus D’Amato there.

In my opinion there was and will never be another Ali! Many have tried to immolate him like Holmes, Greg Page and even the one he called “Jughead” in Will Smith who portrayed him in an Ali movie. Remember when you see him in person or on the news try to flashback to the one who many times called “the round” that his opponent would fall. He will go down as one of the greatest if not the greatest heavyweight champion that ever lived! Happy 70th birthday champ! .

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