Thursday, 7 May 2009

Nothing broadens the mind like travel.

There are some downsides however. The most obvious, unless you’re journeying to the Pacific Islands or a banana republic, is the exchange rate and the resultant credit card balance that greets you upon your return.
One of the numerous upsides is the memories. More so if you’re a columnist because the tales you regale provide you literally months of copy.
Today’s tall travel tale is about the Muhammad Ali Centre.
Located in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, just a block from the mighty Ohio river, the Ali Centre contains three levels of innovative and interactive exhibits chronicling the greatest athlete of the 20th century’s life and boxing career. I spent three hours there. You could easily spend three days.
My favourite exhibit was the interactive screens where you could sit and watch 15 of Ali’s greatest fights. Time was the enemy but I made time for the 1964 world heavyweight title win over Sonny Liston (TKO in the 7th), the 1971 comeback fight with Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden (Ali lost in 15 bruising rounds), the 1973 bout against Ken Norton (Ali lost in 12 after breaking his jaw), the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ with giant George Foreman (Ali won in the 8th) and the 1975 ‘Thrilla in Manila’ with Frazier (Ali won with a TKO in the 14th in what he later described as closest he’d come to death on Earth).
Those fights epitomized the Muhammad Ali I admired when I was growing up. After that his career waned somewhat and by the time he lost, and then regained, the heavyweight title from Leon Spinks in 1978, to become the first man to win title three times, he was a fighter in decline. His career finished on low with two fights he should never have taken against Larry Holmes (1980) and Trevor Berbick (1981).
I’ll leave you with some of the great Ali quotes I noted from my visit:
I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.
Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.
I'll beat him so bad he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."


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