Experiencing “The Greatest” First Hand: Muhammad Ali In Miami, Washington




As I write this I am looking at a pair of EVERLAST boxing gloves encased in plastic with the fading autograph of Muhammad Ali.

I was lucky enough to see Ali twice in my life.

The first time was on a Saturday afternoon a week or two before his first fight with Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.


ÒEat your words!Ó Clay shouts defiantly at the ringside critics who insisted that Liston was unbeatable. 25 February 1964

Moments after beating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, Muhammad Ali shouts “eat your words” to sports writers who predicted his defeat.


I remember the day of the week because at the time I was working Saturdays at Dade Pipe and Allstate Sprinklers on NW 17th Ave in Miami. It was the family business of my friend Warren Silver.

Ali was living nearby and Warren said that if you drove by his house there was a good chance he would be sitting on the lawn.

Sure enough, we drove by and there he was in a chair with two frowny faced bodyguards who were probably Black Muslims.

Clay, as he was known then, would just banter back and forth with any and all passersby including us.

Not understanding his greatness—fighting Sonny Liston, I assumed he would be lucky not to be removed from the ring on a gurney—I can’t remember how we teased him or exactly what he retorted. It was all just good fun.

At the time few if any understood that this “fun” was the blossoming of the all-time self-marketing genius whose self-promotion skills make Donald Trump and the Kardashians look like cloistered nuns.

Flash forward 13 year later to May 16, 1977 when I saw him fight a guy named Alfredo Evangelista at the Cap Centre outside D.C.

At the time Ali was doing a “Bum of The Month Club”. This time he was fighting the long-forgotten Evangelista who was the Heavyweight Champion of Spain…which was something like being the “Hippest Dresser in Albania”.

My girlfriend at the time worked in the P.R. office of the Cap Centre. Getting tickets was not exactly like opening night for Hamilton. They were giving them away to “paper the house”.

With a free ticket, I sat in the third row and watched what might best be described as Ali doing a 15 round workout.

I always sensed that Ali sent Evangelista an unwritten message that, if he didn’t get “cute”, he would let him go the distance so that he would be able to tell his grandchildren that he “went the distance with Muhammad Ali”.

On the other hand, if he tried to knock out him out, he would wake up in Madrid!

Looking back on it, a real and sad lesson from sitting in the third row was how dangerous and destructive boxing is.

Watching a fight from the nosebleeds or on T.V. makes all those jabs seemingly harmless. When you are up there in the front row seats you see those jabs make heads snap back and forth like one of those blowup Joe Palooka dolls we had as kids. The fighter who does NOT end up with brain damage and dementia is a medical miracle.

Without boxing I suspect Ali would have lived a longer but otherwise uneventful, humdrum life. When questioned about it he made it clear that, brain damage and all, he would not have had it any other way.

Despite the millions he lost from refusing to submit to the draft, he did not have one second or ounce of regret about that decision.

And, although it seems a little selfish, we are all a bit better off for have witnessed the sacrifices of a man of such great physical and moral courage.

We shall not see his likes again.

7 Responses to “Experiencing “The Greatest” First Hand: Muhammad Ali In Miami, Washington”

  1. Linda says:

    This was a wake-up message for me and a lot of my family. Thank you Muhammad. “No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end…Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

  2. Talks like a politician says:

    Too bad Barack Obama didn’t take any lessons in treating all people equally from Muhammad Ali instead of pitting one group against another.

    Ali was a true role model for humanity.

  3. Norm Price says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Muhammad Ali 2 times when he was living in West Philly and a small park was the only separation between where he lived and where I lived and it was only about a quarter mile away from me and he was very friendly to me so I was sorry to see that he had passed away so Please R.I.P.

  4. zigy says:

    saw him in an exhibition on the beach versus , I believe, bobick. only a few there and he put on the wildest , greatest show ive ever seen, had me on my feet going crazy, what a showman. rest in piece

  5. HillaryIn2016And2020 says:

    #2 is so right. “Talks like’ belongs in the group that was upset that his POTUS Obama gave the orders to kill OBL!~

  6. SAM FIELDS says:

    Dear Talks Like a Politician,

    Ali treated all people equally and Obama pits “one group against another”?????????????????

    I doubt anyone in the history of the English language got it more “bass ackwards” than you did.

    As a member of the Black Muslims, Ali’s church believed that White people were the Spawn of Satan. He believed in racial segregation.

    Read the quote he had about the Vietnam War and White people which is directly above your entry.

    But somehow or another we all ignored these boorish comments because he never seemed to apply it against people individually and he was a man of principle even when it sunk his career and fortune.

    And he was funny.

    As for Obama I would love you to tell me what racial, religious, ethnic or sexual orientation groups he pitted against one another.

    Perhaps you consider Wall Street hedge funders a religion?

    Such behavior would involve a person, particularly a political figure who chooses out one of these groups for target practice by suggesting things like 75 years later claiming Japanese Internment Camps during WII may have been a good idea.

    Or someone, appealing to obtain political support, offers up minority groups to the majority group in his political party with things like below.

    Falsely targeting Mexicans as a special crime wave and promises to round them up like cattle for the slaughter.

    How about someone who wants to limit all our First Amendment rights because the media says bad things about him.

    How about someone who appeals to Christians by telling them he will keep out the Muslims and deport as many as he can.


  7. Talks like a politician says:

    Dear Sam,
    I respectfully agree to disagree about Obama.

    And, thank you for making my point about Ali.
    Ali, as an individual, demonstrated a genuine respect and caring for people from all backgrounds. He lived his life with strength even while coping with poor health. He possessed the trait of generosity. And I certainly agree that he had a fantastic sense of humor.