I used to watch boxing and wrestling matches as a young boy at the Happy World stadium in the 1950's and 1960's with my father. It would be an affair to remember when we would go in the evening to Geylang Road opposite Lorong One where the Stadium used to be.
Both the sports overlapped to television when live matches in Singapore gently faded off into the Geylang sunset for many reasons. Then it was boxing and wrestling USA but this time around we watched on the goggle box from 1963 when it first came to our island.
Height: 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m)
Heavy Weight: 225 lbs. (102 kg)
Reach: 84 inches (213 cm)
Fist: 12.5 inches (286 cm)
'He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.'
RIP: 1942 - 2016.
Muhammad the black superman
Who says to the other guy, catch me if you can*
The boxer (former Cassius Clay), created much attention when he shone under the hot and bright lights of the boxing ring. He became a world champ and there is so much to read about him in the media that it's best readers check them out for further information.
I remember Ali as the Louisville Lip, the boxer who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and who fought in the Philippines with banners announcing, The Thrilla In Manila. Of course his resounding repeats of, I'm the Greatest, will live in my memory.
He knows how to talk and he knows how to fight
And all the contenders were beat out of sight*
Despite all his ferocity, timely jibes and jeers at his opponents I had always noticed the glint in his eyes. He must be having fun with the people around him, I thought. But like his contemporary Bruce Lee, Ali was a perfectionist within. And with all confidence and seriousness. He mentioned that he hated every minute of training but, 'I don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'
He came to Singapore during his peak in 1973, arriving at Paya Lebar Airport on October 22nd to give two five-round exhibition bouts with sparring partners Tony Doyle and Orianso Johnson. I would have paid the $5 to watch him in person; it was a great pity because I was away in New Zealand that year.
During his time in Singapore he stayed with his wife and mother at the Mandarin Hotel in Orchard Road. His visit created quite a stir as he was introduced to local boxers before his sparring sessions in the evening.
And everyone gets what they paid for*
More than 2,000 people witnessed the occasion paying from $5 to $100 to watch Ali spar with his partners. The venue was the former National Stadium at Kallang. The new stadium had just been opened in July 1973.
Ali held up his hands in victory before a happy and excited crowd after the exhibition matches. 'Friendship is not something you learn in school. If you haven't learnt the meaning of friendship you haven't learnt anything.'
One more thought remains in my mind. At his peak there was a song written about him. Johnny Wakelin wrote and sang, Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) in honour of the boxer, hoping to get a better foothold in the pop music world.
Pity, Ali didn't like Wakelin's composition but the lyrics and uplifting, jingle-like rhythm attracted listeners and in January 1975, it scored #7 in the UK Singles Chart, @1 in Australia and Singapore, and spent six months on the US Billboard Hot 100 (Wikipedia).
The Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner fight in K.L. led Yusnor Ef (composer of 250 Malay pops) to write the Malay lyrics of Kung Fu Fighting renamed, Pendekar Mustar. It was sung by Ruslan Yus and became a pop hit in Malaysia and Singapore.
Yusnor managed to meet Muhammad Ali with Ruslan at the Merdeka Stadium in person. The late Dato' Haron Idris, Mentri Besar of Selangor introduced them. Yusnor gave the CD to the champion boxer who thanked him. Try as he might, Yusnor could not get a photograph of their meeting nor find the person who took their picture together.
If you have stories to tell about this great boxer, please write in.
Black Superman - Muhammad Ali - Johnny Wakelin. Video from Goeky.
Images/Info: Straits Times Press pictures from Singapore Heritage Board.
*Lyrics: Black Superman, Muhammad Ali by Jimmy Wakelin.
An original article.
Ali and Bob Dylan: Madison Square Garden 1975. Ali gave him a big box... no, a huge boxing glove during Night of Hurricane Benefit.