Muhammad Ali Meets Ricky Hatton At His Manchester Gym
by James Slater - Despite his ailing physical condition, Muhammad Ali is still capable of thrilling a crowd, no matter how large. This was once again proven earlier today in Manchester, when The Greatest turned up to British boxing hero Ricky Hatton's gym. Despite looking as frail and as ravaged by Parkinson's as he ever has, Ali still found time to wave to the cheering crowd that had gathered outside Hatton's gym.
Wearing dark sunglasses (which he briefly removed), and accompanied, as always, by his wife Lonnie, the 67-year-old living legend - an understatement if ever there was one - needed assistance in walking even a few steps, but he still had the people lucky enough to have been in attendance in awe - such is the sheer love, adulation and respect people everywhere have for the man many call the finest heavyweight boxer who ever lived..
Hatton, looking a little bulky, gave his hero a warm embrace and then the two champions posed for photos. It was an amazing scene; both joyous and sad at the same time. Ali visited Ricky's gym for only a short time, yet he still brought Greater Manchester to a standstill. Once he was inside the gym (for approximately 40 minutes, during which Ricky presented him with a cake) no photographers other than highly official ones were allowed access. A dinner will be held in the city in Ali's honour tonight.
Ricky was clearly overwhelmed when he met Ali for the first time, and his father Ray told The Times Online what the visit meant to his son.
"Ricky has never met Ali before and we have all been very excited about this day for some time," Ray Hatton said. "It's a great honour for him to come here."
Ali, due to his continually and tragically worsening condition, will almost certainly never be permitted to take the long haul flight to the UK again. Therefore his being in the country means that much more to his millions of adoring fans. Ali himself has always had a deep affection for his UK fans, and though ill he wanted to, as he said himself a short time ago, "say goodbye to all his friends."
Ali's visit to the UK culminates in a visit to Ireland next Tuesday, where he will reportedly visit the birthplace of his great grandfather Abe Grady. Today, however, the man who was heavyweight king from 1964 to 1967, 1974 to 1978 and again in 1978, made a modern day boxer feel incredibly special.
Article posted on 26.08.2009