Muhammad Ali: A Memory

Muhammad Ali

We all woke up this morning to the sad news of Muhammad Ali’s passing.

It may have passed some people by, but ‘The Greatest’ once visited the Britannia Stadium.

Back in 2009 local promoter and Stoke fan Carl Holness pulled off one of the biggest coups the area has ever seen by bringing Ali to the Brit to attend a lunch.

There is no doubt that Ali was right up there with the very best of legends in the sporting world- in the same category as the likes of Pele and Matthews.

I don’t proclaim to be a huge boxing fan- although I will watch the odd bout here and there- but Ali is the only person I have ever waited to catch a glimpse of.

I stood outside the Brit for two hours on the day of that lunch, and as his blacked out vehicle rolled up to the doors of the main entrance I got that special buzz.

The great man was helped out- a frail shadow of those glorious days in the ring- to be greeted by Tony Pulis, Tony Scholes and others.

Ali could only manage to walk a short few steps, but for hundreds that had gathered around the stadium, just to see him was a real treat. I can still visualise his huge dark glasses and grey tinted hair glistening in the Staffordshire sun.

Sadly, for myself and people of my generation, memories of Ali will be of a man trapped by the horrible Parkinson’s disease- a permanent scar of his sporting career.

Ali had that charismatic chip on his shoulder that all the best require. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t touch what the eyes can’t see” is one of the all time great sporting quotes.

Ali will be sorely missed, but his legend- as Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali- will always live on in the boxing and sporting world.

And I saw him.

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