"In that moment, he was king of the world": journalist and friend of Muhammad Ali recalls the aftermath of the George Foreman fight

Jerry Izengberg talks to Ger on Off The Ball about how Ali left a legacy of dignity

BY Sinéad Farrell 15:02 Saturday 4 June 2016, 15:02 4 Jun 2016

MITSUNORI CHIGITA / AP/Press Association Images

As the world continues to process the tragic news that Muhammad Ali has passed away, a close friend and highly regarded sports writer, spoke to Ger Gilroy about the legacy of the boxing legend.

Jerry Izenberg was a close friend of Ali's and he covered many of the former champion's famous bouts. But according to Izenberg, Ali will be remembered by many, as a man who inspired a sense of dignity in people.

Speaking on today's Off The Ball, he said:

"He gave everybody dignity. With all the laughter and the fun... if you look back, his legacy was dignity. It became a habit to him. It was automatic, he was aware of being Muhammad Ali."

"He was a guy who was at his best in three situations: when he was with kids, when he was with older people and when someone would stop him on the street and they'd tell him they saw him at the theatre and he'd say, 'You're not as dumb as you look.' And the guy would light up and he could go back and tell everyone."

"He was infectious and people were his opium."

Izenberg candidly discusses how Ali evaded a five-year prison sentence for refusing to join the American army for the Vietnam war, despite not technically winning his case in the Supreme Court.

He also offers a stunning description of his meeting with Ali following his heavyweight title win over George Foreman in Zaire, Africa. Izenberg, along with others found Ali standing at a river, discreetly basking in his victory.

"All we see is the back of his head and body, and he's not moving a muscle. It seemed like it lasted forever. He said, 'fellas, I can't explain to you what tonight means and if I did, you wouldn't understand. But I can tell you this, this is the most important night of my life.'"

"What I really will remember is him reaching for the sky, not knowing anyone else was there. And that for me, was when he was King of the world."


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