Leading 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in

Leading up to Ali’s bout with Al’Blue’Lewis
in Croke park Ali had refused to be inducted into the U.S Army and was immediately
stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for
his decision to forgo military service. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in
Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future three-time world champ
changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He scored a
gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing
debut against Tunney Husaker on October 29, 1960, winning the bout in six
rounds. On February 25, 1964, he defeated the heavily favored bruiser Sonny
Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ. On April 28, 1967, with the
United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed
forces, saying “I ain’t
got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of
draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from
boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and
returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta
in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of
the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional
boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned
his conviction for evading the draft.

 Kerry business man Michael ‘Butty’ Surge was
the man behind the plan on landing ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali in Ireland for
his much anticipated fight against Al ‘Blue’ Lewis in July 1972. Almost as if
to match Ali’s
reputation, Surge came with a formidable one of his own. The former circus
strongman was also known as “Ireland’s Strongest Man” and at one point in his
varied career famously pulled a bus across Westminster Bridge with his teeth.
On April 4th 1972, Butty Surge had left three messages for Harold Conrad, a
former sports writer. Conrad’s curiosity had been pricked and he picked up the
phone to hear an almost impenetrable Irish accent claiming he was in a position
to make Conrad a very rich man. After Surge and Conrad came face to face Butty
cut to the chase “could you get Muhammad Ali for a fight in Dublin?” “Against
whom?” asked Conrad. Butty replied “I’ll leave that up to you!”

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Ali walked into the fight confident, his usual persona. The first
round started with Ali leading with his testing left jab. Lewis came out
aggressively answering Ali’s left jab but the dancing feet of Muhammad allowed
him to dodge with ease. As predicted not a huge amount happened in the first
round other than an Ali left hook that stunned Lewis. After the first round
Lewis was puffin hard on the way back to his corner and a cut inside his mouth
was already leaking blood.

Nothing out of the ordinary changed between the 2nd and
4th round with Ali looking stronger than his wilting opponent. The
fight truly kicked off in the fifth round. Ali was content with working his opponent’s
body for much of the fifth round however he was heavily winded by a strong
right cross from Lewis. Ali responded to this by taking the fight to the center
of the ring to do what he does best; he sized Lewis up with a left and dropped
him with a massive right hand. There was controversy over the length of the
count when Lewis was knocked down. Many said if the count had been the right
length instead of the 2223 seconds given, the fight would have been all over
there and then.

 

However the fight went on. Lewis was looking worse for wear, with
Ali punishing Lewis against the ropes and in the corners. It looked as if Ali’s
punches were travelling from Lewis’s head to his knees. Despite this Lewis
stayed upright, surprisingly summoning new reserves of strength taking the
fight to Ali. Significantly ahead on points Ali still looked confident. Lewis
knew he had to stop Ali if he had any chance of winning. Ali exacted a relentless
onslaught on seemingly defenseless Lewis. Everybody in the crowd thought it was
just a matter. Lewis gallantly came back for a short period, by launching an
explosive counter attack, stunning Ali and the crowd. Lewis new found hope was
short lived with Ali rocking him multiple times in the 10th round.

 

The start of the 11th round saw Lewis lingering on his
stool a few moments longer than Ali, the body language of a defeated fighter.
Ali danced around his opponent picking up points with ease, Lewis with his
hands by his sides. Lewis only managed 2 feeble jabs in the minute and fifteen
seconds that the round lasted before Eskin felt Lewis had endured enough and
stepped in to end the fight.

The end of the fight saw no love lost between the two fighters, both
showing upmost respect post fight. Lewis walked across to Ali’s corner and
picked him up to be praised by the fans, a beautiful moment in sporting
history.

 

 

 

To conclude, Muhammad Ali’s visit to Ireland in 1972 was not only
important in the history of boxing but also to Irish history. 1972 was not a
great time for Ireland and Alis visit had many benefits to the country and its
people. Ali, one of the most inspiring and liked people in history, touched on
the subject of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and compared it to the issues
he faced in Louisville, Kentucky. It gave people in our country the ability to
share their problems and spurred many on to attempt to quash the problems at
hand. His inspiration didn’t stop there, as he inspired young sportspeople,
mainly boxers to have the huge ambition and commitment needed to excel in the
sporting world. Sport in many ways brings a nation together. Unification as a country
is often only seen through sport and Alis presence can definitely be seen
today. The progress that sport has made isn’t only being because of Allies
visit, but he was most definitely a catalyst in the progression of the future Irish
boxing generations that followed. The likes of Katie Taylor, Bernard Dunne and
Barry McGuigan all went on to become boxing superstars and much of this credit
can be given to Alis visit in ’72.

 

 

 

More than a year had
passed since his defeat by Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden and the former
champion had entered a curious phase in his career. No longer in forced exile.
No longer the king. Yet somebody who needed to keep earning to fund his rather
lavish lifestyle. Between the Frazier epic and Conrad meeting Sugrue, Ali had
fought four times and the purses had gradually decreased from a high of
$420,000 against Jimmy Ellis in Houston to a low of just $200,000 for waltzing
with Mac Foster at Tokyo’s
Budokan Hall.

With Frazier
appearing in no hurry to put his title back on the line in a money-spinning
rematch, Ali’s
manager Herbert Muhammad was
willing to accept $200,000 to take the show to Croke Park, especially when
Conrad talked up how much the spectacle would mean to the “poor people of
Ireland”. Of course, in the end, not enough of the poor people turned up or
paid in to make the promotion viable.

 

 

 

Ali arrived in Dublin on July 11, 1972 and
spent the lead-up to the match on a publicity trail. He had engrossed the press
during his 40 minute press conference upon arrival at Dublin Airport, with his
trademark one-liners at the tip of his tongue and his quick wit. On July 13th,
1972 Muhammad Ali visited the Dail where he met with Taoiseach Jack Lynch “Muhammad
takes the Dail by storm” (Irish Independent) Ali’s arrival at Leinster house
reportedly was met with a welcome not seen since JFK’s visit in 1963. Lynch and
Ali spoke at length about the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland. Ali
highlighted the topic about everyday life in the US, he explained how he was
reading about the trouble in Belfast and in the North and asked Lynch ” what is
the struggle all about?” Ali then went on to talk about growing up in Kentucky
and what it was like “I can never forget how when I was a little black boy in
Kentucky, thinking of civil rights. The mayor of the city was a giant figure to
me. Now here I am today sitting beside the Prime minister of this country. I am
just and athlete and a boxer” he then added simply ” I would love to be a
leader of the people some day-helping people” Muhammad also exchanged a few
joking words with the Taoiseach ” if you wish, Mr. Premier, I can get this
fight over in a hurry” The duo then finished off the conversation with Ali
praising the Irish ” I have been to Britain, Germany and Switzerland but they
did not honor me like this” He then told the Taoiseach he wanted to publicly
Compliment the Irish people ” on their proud history of struggle” and that he
understood and knew what the struggle meant because” My people too, have been
underdogs for a long time”

 

 

 

 

Another Great moment of Ali’s visit to
Ireland was his historic interview with the recently deceased TV broadcaster
Cathal O’Shannon on the eve of Ali’s fight against Al ‘Blue’ Lewis. The
sit-down interview was regarded as one of the best interviews Ali’s ever done.
The interview began with O’Shannon asking Ali’ ” you’ve done a lot of fighting
haven’t you?”  Ali replied “well yes, I
think the boxing game should stay alive, I think every contender should get a
shot at the title. The new tramp, I mean champ Joe Frazier he’s not doing
nothing fighting once every 7 months and fighting people you could beat and you
can’t fight, so I have to keep the game alive cause I’m the true champion”
O’Shannon then went on to ask Ali how he felt about the fight with
Al’Blue”Lewis to which Muhammad replied” well I’m fighting Lewis for one
reason, mainly because Friazier won’t fight him, George Foreman a

top notch fighter won’t fight him, quarry
wouldn’t fight him” Muhammad then explained reason behind this is top notch
fighters are too scared to fight someone like Lewis because he’s dangerous but
he’s not famous so the bout wouldn’t bring the right kind of money worth losing
for. O’Shannon then asked Ali “what sort of a chance does he (Lewis) have with
you” Ali’s reply was one of his wistful ones he replied” two chances” and
O’Shannon asked “what are they?” Ali replied” slim and none!” throughout the
remainder of the interview Ali had the audience and O’Shannon laughing with
impersonations of ugly fighters and explanations of his superiority” I’m not ugly like most
fighters they have noses like that, and ears like that, how’d you feel champ?
ah dah dah dah. I’m
a pretty fighter” However, O’Shannon didn’t shy away from the more serious
questions, asking Ali about refusing to join the US Army because of the
religion he embraced and if he had any regrets, Ali answered ” nah, well like a
man goes to war he don’t consider losing nothing, he’s fighting for his country
for what he believes and we don’t no regrets for something we do from the
heart, like i didn’t have to do it, it was something I wanted to do so I don’t
regret it. I’m thankful that I did I’m more grown because of it and many people
believe in fighting for their freedom and this was just part of something I
believe so it’s nothing that I regret, not at all if I regretted it I wasn’t
being sincere.