When Muhammad Ali Gave Malaysians A Rare Taste Of His Boxing At The Merdeka Stadium

It was an electrifying affair.

Cover image via The Telegraph/GETTY

There's an unlikely chance that Malaysians in their 20s may not know this, but the country has a very special connection with Muhammad Ali, the late three-time heavyweight champion

Seen below is Ali about to punch Hungarian-born British boxer Joe Bugner, in their title fight which was held at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, 1975.

Ali was in Malaysia in 1975, and for more than a month's duration, as part of a 16-month period when he took his show on the road

Ali was boxing Joe Bugner for the second time when he beat Joe in round 15 of 15. The fight was shown on closed circuit TV in the US and about 59 other countries

Ali in a fight for heavyweight crown against Joe Bugner in Merdeka Stadium.

Image via The Sporting Memories Foundation

Exactly 41 years ago in the month of June, Malaysians got a taste of Muhammad Ali in splendid form with both his fists and his mouth

According to this report in The Associated Press, a night before his fight with Joe, a member of the commission in charge of the gloves both the fighters would wear told Ali that they would be held in a prison for safe-keeping.

"My gloves are going to jail," shouted a wide-eyed Ali. "They ain't done nothing — yet!"

Veteran sports writer George Das, who while working for The Star at that time had covered Ali during his visit to Malaysia, recalled the late boxing legend as a "friendly sportsman who liked to take charge at his press conferences" and described him as a "people's champion" due to his close relationship with fans, NST reported

“I don’t think anyone can come close to him in terms of personality and professionalism as an athlete and, on top of that, as a human being. He was a magnificent sportsman and a showman,” he told Bernama.

Elaborating, Das said that during Ali’s over a month-long stay in the country, the light-heavyweight gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Olympics never failed to impress journalists covering his events.

“Sometimes, there was no need to ask questions because Ali would come up with all kind of things. He was so fast with words, very articulate,” he said. “Usually at normal press conferences, the team managers would talk a lot, but not with Ali. He would take charge of and bring excitement to press conferences,” he added.

"I was just a 17-year-old student then. What I remember most was that all the roads in Kuala Lumpur were empty because people went to watch his match at the stadium, as well as on television. That kind of environment had never happened or been felt before," recalled another journalist, Subramaniam, who is now 58 years old

Wish you could go back in time and watch the match? Well, while time travel is not possible — yet, you can watch the highlights here:

Now read the reason behind Muhammad Ali changed his name:

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