Boxing is in mourning with the sad news that Muhammad Ali has died.
The Champ passed last night in a hospital in Phoenix after a battle with a respiratory illness. He was 74.
One minute’s silence in memory of Ali, tolled in and out by a ringside bell, was observed at the National Junior Cadet Championships at Dublin’s National Stadium this afternoon.
Ali, then called Cassius Clay, claimed Olympic gold in Rome in 1960 in the light-heavyweight class after beating Polish southpaw Zbigniew Pietrzykowski on a unanimous decision in the 81kg decider in the Eternal City.
He turned professional after his Olympic triumph, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and went on the define pro boxing, and sport itself, like no other.
Ali, then Clay, took up boxing aged 12 because, he claimed, he wanted to find the person who stole his new bike and “whup” him proper.
Thomas Hauser. in his award winning and definitive book on Ali – Muhammed Ali: His Life and Times – established Ali’s Irish roots.
Hauser wrote that Abe Grady was the grandfather of Ali’s mother, Odessa Grady-Clay. Grady emigrated to the USA from County Clare soon after the American Civil War.
In 2009, Ali visited Clare and was named the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis.
After he retired from boxing, expressing his views on religion, racism, anti Semitism, politics, capitalism, communism, poverty, famine and the world in general, he turned to the stunned interviewer and said.
“And one more thing. I’m still gonna find out who stole my bike when I was twelve years old in Louisville and I’m still going to whup him. That was a good bike.”
We’ll never see his like again.
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association extends is deep sympathies to the Ali family.
May he rest in peace.