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Rowand44, June 4, 2016 in A and J's Olde Tyme Sports Pub
Had the chance to see him from a far when I was covering a Kentucky Derby one year and the other time was just very special.
I'd like to pass that along.
In 1980 he was fighting the "South American Champ" basically as an exhibition in Louisville so we drove over from Lexington to cover it. We were wearing our white satin "ABC Sports" jackets. Sorry I don't remember the name of the guy he fought.
After the exhibition we headed over to the locker room just to see what was going on when Bundini Brown saw us and saw the jackets. When he saw "ABC Sports" on the back he thought it was "Howard Cosell's ABC Sports" out of New York and let us into Ali's dressing room! He didn't realize it was simply the ABC affiliate in Lexington, WTVQ.
When we got inside we were able to get an interview with him. I was just shooting it but it was incredible something I'll never forget. Before the lights were turned on and the interview started he was very quiet just relaxing but as soon as the lights came on, he "became" Ali...loud, brash, talking about how he was going to come back and "shock the world again!"
I badly wanted to get an autograph but it wasn't appropriate and never had the chance to get that close to him again.
Still that was some night.
Was he the start of the polarizing, made for TV, sports celebrity who managed his career with a knack for publicity or did he just perfect it? I was a big fan even though I never was a huge boxing fan. He transcended the sports world like few athletes have.
I would say all of the above.
It's sad when he greatest heavyweight of all time passes away and there's hardly a ripple on here while phony wrestling and MMA thrive.
Anyway , that said, I was lucky enough to have run into Ali once in Hollywood. I was in a little bar next to the Pantages Theater and there was a buzz that Ali was down the street. He had just created a stir recently from saving someone's life or something of that nature. Eventually he made his way into the bar and this small bar became very crowded . I couldn't get near him nor was I trying to because I am just not the type to fawn over celebrity's.
He was only about 10 feet away from me but I choose to hold my ground and not become part of the throng. I was standing though and I am very tall and the bar had a room length mirror behind it so Ali sees my reflection towering above the crowd and I see him see me. He then turns to me and says " Don't gimme no trouble big guy" . Everyone laughed including me. Then the bartender asked me if I wanted him to get his autograph for me. I said yes and I still have it to this day even though that had to be over 30 years ago.
I am pretty sure this is the newscast of him talking to a potential suicide guy so that must've been why he was in the public eye and the January 20 , 1981 time stamp on it fits the time frame I am talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV75aFzC1aQ
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