UAE was surely not a place like it is now, but when Muhammad Ali fought two exhibition bouts in Dubai during the early 1980s. The exhibition bouts were not as big as the various great fights Muhammad Ali has been in throughout his life, but it was surely a delight for the region to have The Greatest for the promotion of the sporting events held here.
It was in the year 1982,and the venue was Al Nasr Leisureland, where an improvised boxing ring was set up. Ali, who had only 12 months earlier lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Jamaica’s Trevor Berbick, the last man to fight him, was billed to fight three rounds each with James ‘Jimmy’ Ellis on December 3 and against West German heavyweight Reiner Hartmann two days later.
At 40, Ali was reportedly far from the boxer who had blasted out Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. But he still exhibited the ‘sweet science’ to beat both Ellis and Hartmann.
The fights were organised and promoted by Emirati Juma Ganem with ticket prices being a modest Dh30 to Dh200.
Surprisingly, this was not the first time that Ali, who has earned many titles in the boxing world, had been to the UAE.
In 1969, he would pass through the country on his way to Makkah and return several times more while coming back from Makkah.
The internet has this black and white vintage poster of his bout which was fought in Dubai, way back in the 1980s.
Muhammad Ali who left the world on Saturday was renowned for his individuality and his struggles for the upliftment of the society apart from the great name he has earned in the world for the sport of boxing.