City box­ers sa­lute Ali as great fighter of huge im­pact

Cited as first ath­lete to speak up about so­cial is­sues

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Rol­la­son

LO­CAL pugilists say Muham­mad Ali was a gifted boxer who tran­scended the sport.

Harry Black of the Pan Am Box­ing Club said Satur­day Ali, who died Fri­day night, was known by most ev­ery­one.

“Any fighter knows about Muham­mad Ali, but most non-fight­ers (do), too,” Black said.

“He was an ex­tra­or­di­nary, unique in­di­vid­ual... and he re­de­fined box­ing.

“He re­de­fined the sport and what ath­letes could do.”

Black said be­fore Ali, ath­letes didn’t use their celebrity to bat­tle so­cial is­sues such as racism. “Now, ev­ery­one does it,” he said. Nearby, train­ing with a skip­ping rope, Shal­iza Wheat­land said it wasn’t just Ali’s box­ing skills she ap­pre­ci­ated.

“He was more than just a phe­nom­e­nal boxer,” she said. “He changed the world. I think we lost a re­ally great per­son.”

Sit­ting on a bench, Bruce Au­dit said he ap­pre­ci­ated Ali’s skills when he saw him fight in videos on YouTube.

“He re­ally has with­stood the test of time,” Au­dit said. “Twenty or 30 years down the road, he’s still some­body peo­ple talk about. Maybe peo­ple will talk about Floyd May­weather in 20 or 30 years — he is my favourite boxer now — but I don’t think he’ll still have the same power as Ali.”

Lib­eral MP Dan Van­dal (Saint Boni­faceSaint Vi­tal) said Ali was his idol when he was grow­ing up and started box­ing while a teenager.

Van­dal, who turned pro­fes­sional and was ranked the top Cana­dian mid­dleweight boxer in 1983, said while help­ing a friend dur­ing a box­ing match in Louisville, Ky., in the early 1980s, he saw Ali walk by on his way to do an ex­hi­bi­tion bout.

“He just zoomed by on his way to the ring,” Van­dal said. “But his camp came over and asked if they could bor­row a wa­ter bot­tle, and of course, we were hon­oured. For a while, I breathed the same air in the same arena as him.”

Van­dal said there were other no­table box­ers at the time, in­clud­ing Joe Fra­zier, Ge­orge Chu­valo, Ken Nor­ton and Ge­orge Fore­man, but Ali was the best.

“Those were the glory days of box­ing,” he said. “I’m a huge Ali fan. I’m very sad to­day.”

RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Pan Am Box­ing Club pres­i­dent and head trainer Harry Black says Ali was an ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary, unique in­di­vid­ual.’

Peo­ple wait in long line­ups to use por­ta­ble toi­lets.

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