*** FLASHBACK – This article originally appeared on dmboxing.com on January 16, 2012 … Muhammad Ali’s birthday, his 74th was this past Sunday, January 17, 2016 … Here’s the article and some photos of a few items from my Ali collection.
By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
This is the last of a six part series on Muhammad Ali. It has truly been my pleasure to share with you my personal accounts of THE GREATEST heavyweight champion in my era of boxing.
For those of you who have missed any of this special series, you can simply go to the menu on this website and click on the category, “Ali”, to view each part.
So, in my final, part six, I will take you back to Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2005. The location was the Stevens Steak House, Commerce, California. The event was the annual California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee ceremonies.
This wasn’t even a live fight, but I will simply recognize it as one of the most memorable events that I have attended in my almost fifty years of involvement in boxing.
As the ceremonies were just about to conclude, the doors opened at the restaurant and the 600-plus SRO crowd started to chant “Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali” as the three time heavyweight champion entered the room. It was so electric, it was as if the Pope himself had walked into the room, and it was one of those moments in time where one just had to be there to witness and feel it.
The look on people’s faces was priceless – that just ONE person could generate so much excitement at a public establishment was amazing.
The person that was instrumental in bringing Ali, was his long time personal photographer Howard Bingham, who later stated that Ali was in the Los Angeles area that weekend to watch daughter Laila participate in a marathon the next day.
After a short presentation on behalf of Ali, with many photos taken, he left the banquet room and as he walked to a vehicle waiting for him outside, an array of fans, including myself, followed behind in the entourage chanting “Ali, Ali, Ali. Ali, Ali …”
I was fortunate to shake his hand, get an autograph, and get some photos. At that moment, I was trying to remember the last time I was so excited to see anybody – then I quickly remembered that it was when I was four years old seeing Santa Claus in the toy section of Montgomery Wards!