In 1988, then struggling writer and movie store manager Davis Miller drove to Muhammad Ali’s mother’s modest Louisville house, knocked on the door, and introduced himself to his childhood idol.
Nearly thirty years later, the two friends share an uncommon bond, the sort that can be fashioned only in serendipitous ways and fortified through shared experiences.
Davis has written about his friendship with Ali, and he spoke with Jon McComb about his new book, ‘Approaching Ali: A Reclamation in Three Acts’, and how he became friends with Ali all those years ago.
When Davis knocked on the door, Ali answered
“He was so huge he had to lean under the frame to see me.”
“He wanted to be the world’s most available man”
Ali had already been living with Parkinson’s for ten years, so he didn’t talk much, but waved Davis in and started doing amateur magic tricks for him.
Then they went outside and started play-boxing.
“and his mom’s (house) was on a corner lot, and cars stopped all the way around. First there were 5 cars, within 3 minutes there were 15 cars, then 25 cars. People rolled down their car windows and waved and cheered.”
Davis says Ali then invited him to dinner, and it changed his life.
” I’d always wanted to be a writer and I felt I saw some things in him that no one had ever written about. This is 1988, the the few thin stories that were being published about him then, all said that he was in a near vegetative state, that he couldn’t feed himself, that he was broken, that he was less than he had been. And I found quite the opposite.”
Davis called up an editor at Esquire magazine and pitched his story. The editor agreed and the story was an instant success. It was eventually named one of the 20 Best Pieces of Sports Writing in the 20th Century.
“And my relationship with Ali has just grown and grown. We remain friends, and now there’s this book…I’ve been writing this darn thing for 38 years.”
What is Ali like now?
Listen to the interview to hear Davis talk about what Ali is like now, as well as his take on the relationship between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, otherwise known as “Smokin Joe”.