Boxing legend and world icon Muhammad Ali has died. He was 74 years old.
A three-time heavyweight champion, Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since the 1980s and had appeared increasingly frail in recent public appearances.
He was rushed into intensive care after developing a respiratory condition.
His family was at his bedside in his final moments.
“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail…”
The man known simply as “The Greatest” had fought many battles over his iconic career.
He was revered for his historic fights against the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman, and also known for displaying a show of charisma never seen or replicated in the world of boxing.
“That’s bad. Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
“To be able to have a Muhammad Ali story for the rest of my life is incredible.”
A Burnaby man and former bantam-weight bronze medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics is remembering the first time he met Ali in Vancouver back in 1972.
Dale Walters was just 10 years old when he walked into Muhammad Ali’s packed dressing room.
It was right before Ali vowed to beat George Chuvalo at the Pacific Coliseum.
“And Ali saw me and he grabbed me and he pulled me and put me up on his knee and he put his fist under my chin, and he said ‘What’s your name boy, what’s your name?'”
“I was very nervous and I said, ‘my name is Dale’. He says ‘are you going to be the next champ, are you going to be the next champ in the world boy?'”
“I said ‘I’m going to try’. And he says ‘you might be the next champion in the world boy, but you’ll never be as pretty as me’. Then everyone in the dressing room started laughing.”
“I was 10-years’old at the time, just a little kid. I walked into this packed dressing room that you could barely walk through and Angelo Dundee had just finished wrapping Ali’s hands.”
A memory Walters will carry with him for the rest of his life
“It was an incredible experience, he was such a fabulous man. He was definitely the greatest.”
That same evening, Walters himself fought an exhibition round.
He was then presented with a trophy from the man known as “the greatest.”
“A photographer’s dream. You can’t ask for anything better”
Former Vancouver Sun photographer Ralph Bower who came face to face with the “the greatest” not once, not twice, but three times.
“It was just an honour to meet him, to even ask him a question, you know?”
Bower first met Muhammad Ali at Vancouver International Airport.
He was sent to snap a picture but not just any ordinary one.
“When he was being interviewed I asked and said to him, ‘My sports department wants a picture of you and they don’t want a headshot,’ he glared at me and I thought ‘what the heck, did I say something wrong?'”
So what did Ali do?
“He looked around and he went over to the wall and grabbed the axe that they used to put on the wall in those days for fire. He aimed the axe at me and said, ‘Good weapon for cutting trees in the park and working out. There’s your picture’… so I had it.”
“A surprise, but a very good surprise, a photographer’s dream. You can’t ask for anything better.”
He says it was Ali’s grand personality that captured the media.
“He was like our Don Cherry but the off the ice type. He would say things and people would stop and listen. I know he was a big mouth, but it was a very intelligent mouth.”
Bower then saw Ali at a North Vancouver gym and a third time while covering his fight against Chuvalo.