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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Muhammad Ali Black Superman: Singapore 1973

Boxing: Happy World 1950's

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.
Muhammad Ali

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.'
Singapore 1973

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.  
He fills the arena wherever he goes
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.'
Song: 1975

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). 
Kuala Lumpur: 1975

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.

15 comments:

JOE WOON (BASSIST, EASY BEAT) said...

He's the greatest no doubt.

EUSOOF ANGULLIA said...

He is a legend. Someone who is difficult to emulate.

AUDIE NG (LEADER, BASSIST 'SILVER STRINGS') said...

Muhammad Ali is not only a champion, his fighting style is the best in boxing and responsible for making big prize money. He is my idol besides Bruce Lee.

KWAME ABOAGYE (UTUBE) said...

Muhammad Ali is the greatest athlete in the world, my hero, a solder for justice, freedom and equality, a poet, a brother, a father and undoubtedly the greatest figure on the planet earth.Muhammad Ali was smart, beautiful, courageous and so outrageous too.Muhammad, you brought love, laughter and likeability to us all.Muhammad Ali, you are undoubtedly the greatest of them all.RIP,, my champ.

DJWEYMO PROFESSIONAL SOUNDMAN UTUBE said...

RIP...I used to love and sing alone to this song as kid, brings back memories... of the good times.

FACEBOOK said...

THANK YOU TO
Athena Bagani
Nina Chewy
Linda Tan
Ann Rowena Lim
Denyse Tessensohn
Ram Janam Misra
Herry Jusuf

randyy1964 you tube said...

I was a child, back in Maine one cold snowy night with my A.M. radio. Looking out the window of my bedroom at dad and my brother working on the snowmobile and this song came on. I loved it then and love it more now.

FL said...

Hi, Andy thanks on the write up of my favorite boxer!! I first came to know of the boxer Mohammad Ali in 1966 (Sec 4). There was a break between our school lessons, and this classmate of us, Jusbir Singh, would entertain & relate us how Cassius Clay (former name) beat Sonny Liston with interesting details. From then onwards, when someone talked of heavyweight fights involving Ali, I was full of enthusiasm . I also remember when I was in full time NS, our camp CO would allow all NS boys to stop training for about an hour or so, jus to watch Ali vs Joe Frazier fight, live on B & W TV in 1971 !!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks to all who wrote in early to provide your personal comments about Mohd. Ali.

Joe, Eusoof, Audie, You Tube enthusiasts, FACEBOOK supporters and FL; you are great supporters of this legendary boxer who is now gone. We may never see another like Ali.

The song too provides us with the enthusiastic, fierce yet funny side of the Black Superman's personality, most times indescribable.

MERLIN LIM (SILVER STRINGS, ORIGINAL RHYTHM GUITARIST) said...

Muhammad Ali's is no doubt the greatest heavy weight box of our time. He is a classic, there is none who can match his personality.

You like it or not, he's unique; his speed with his hands and feet. Floats? It's more like dancing in and out of trouble with his game. Jabbing, jabbing, moving, weaving and bang, he lands his blows, rocking his game. His opponent wonders, "Where the hell am I?"

RIP CHAMP! There is none like you Ali. You are indeed the greatest!

RICKY CHNG (LEAD GUITARIST FOR: THE ESQUIRES AND SILVER STRINGS said...

In some of his fights, the judge's decision seems bias to me. Especially in those that last through 15 rounds. Not offensive, more like playing around with his stamina, better than most, and trying to outlast his opponent i.e., not much action from him.

chakap chakap said...

"I am America," he once declared. "I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me."

He died of septic shock. Obama said, "Ali shook up the world."

Bill Clinton will read his eulogy.

Ali wrote his own.

MOHAMMAD ALI'S EULOGY said...

"I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that's too much, then I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."

John Cher said...

Hi Andy. Away for a few days but glad to be the last to comment.

Its hypothetical but if Ali and Tyson could, both in their prime, have a match, I will put my money on Tyson!

1973 means two major things to me on a personal level. I bought my first brand new car at aged 22 and one of the saddest days of my life up to that point, July 20th 1973, Bruce Lee died aged 32. I do not remember that Ali visited SG in that same year,1973. His visit was well publicized. Bruce Lee had introduced Chinese Kung Fu to the West. President Nixon had visited China and the West was suddenly curious about all things Eastern. Against this backdrop, I do not know if Ali had actually asked for a visit to a Chinese martial arts school while in SG. However I clearly remember that he was brought to one. He was completely amazed that the martial arts master could bend a steel rod placed against his throat! He was also invited to punch the master, which he reluctantly did. After which he exclaimed that "this is crazy man"! He could not do any harm to the small built oriental man!

On a sexier note, I dont think any of your readers would know that he was staying at The Mandarin Hotel, Orchard Road. I happened to know one of the Public Relations Manager of the hotel at that time. I found out from her that she went to Ali's room to attend to some official matters. Ali came out of the shower wrapped with a towel. Accidentally or otherwise, the towel dropped! My lady friend was shocked by the sheer sight of Ali's manhood ! In case your readers are wondering, she said nothing else followed!

Have a safe and pleasant trip Andy. See you when you return. God bless!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks to Silver Strings group for reply. Didn't know there are so many Muhammad Ali fans amongst us.

Merlin, Ricky, John. Each one has comments to make. The revelation from John completes Ali's vital statistics as being a heavyweight all rounder:-) .

Trust John to provide the punch line (pun intended).