“We’re like family,” Dundee told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. “We’ve always been family and we’re always going to be family. He’ll say, ‘Angie, I want to come and train. That’s what I miss the most. Being in the gym. Working up a sweat.’”
“I’ll say, ‘Me, too, kid. Me, too. We can’t do that. But what I can do is make sure you know that I love you.’ “
Ali turns 70 on Tuesday, and the party in his hometown is the first of five planned in the next few months. Not long after Ali’s dramatic appearance on the balcony, the crowd began filing into a banquet hall for the party, which was closed to the public and reporters.
The self-proclaimed “Greatest of All Time” remains one of the world’s most recognizable figures, even though he’s been largely absent from the public eye recently as he fights Parkinson’s disease.
Lonnie Ali said Friday that her husband has mixed feelings about the landmark birthday.
“He’s glad he’s here to turn 70, but he wants to be reassured he doesn’t look 70,” she said.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942, Ali took up boxing at age 12, when his bike was stolen and he wanted to find and whip the culprit. The boy was introduced to Joe Martin, a police officer who coached boxing at a local gym.
Ali’s brother, 68-year-old Rahaman Ali, recalled on Saturday night that the champ was cheerful and happy as a youngster.
“As a little boy he (said) he would be the world’s greatest fighter and be a great man,” he said.
Ali flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medalist. He made his professional debut in Louisville and arranged for a local children’s hospital to receive proceeds from the fight.
Lewis said Ali ranks as the greatest of heavyweights, and he said he was inspired by Ali’s fights.
“I used to get mad if I didn’t see the Ali shuffle,” Lewis said. “So I was always watching him, expecting some type of antic.”
Ali won the heavyweight title in 1964, defeating the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Soon after, Ali who was raised in a Baptist family announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.
While in his prime, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967 for refusing to be drafted for military service during the Vietnam War. He cited his religious beliefs as the reason for his refusal.
His decision alienated Ali from many across the U.S. and resulted in a draft-evasion conviction. Ali found himself embroiled in a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Ali lost his first bid to regain the heavyweight crown when Frazier knocked him down and took a decision in the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Ali regained the heavyweight title in 1974, defeating Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” A year later, he outlasted Frazier in the epic “Thrilla in Manila” bout.
Last year, a frail Ali rose from his seat and clapped for his deceased rival at Frazier’s funeral.
Ali’s last title came in 1978 when he defeated Leon Spinks.
Ali retired from boxing in 1981 and devoted himself to social causes. He traveled the world on humanitarian missions, mingling with the masses and rubbing elbows with world leaders. Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.
First two photos, AP/Mark Humphrey, Third photo ESQUIRE April 1968 COVER
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