Dignitaries and ordinary people from around the world will stop and remember Muhammad Ali when he is laid to rest on Friday (June 10).
The boxer and 20th Century icon had been suffering from a respiratory condition complicated by his Parkinson’s disease, and died of “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes” on Saturday (June 4) .
Despite legendary performances in the ring, ranging from his shock victory over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1963 (“I shook up the world”), to the Rumble in the Jungle (George Foreman) and the Thriller in Manilla (Joe Frazier), many argue the world was deprived of Ali at his prime when he was stripped of his title and banned for refusing to sign the oath of allegiance to join the US Army.
However, boxing aficionados believe his fight against Jack London in Earls Court Arena in 1966 was the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the fighter at the peak of his powers.
In a devastating display of speed and strength, Ali took apart his British opponent, ending the contest in the third round with a blur of punches which sent London tumbling to the floor.
Ali would famously quip later: “You have to give him credit - he put up a good fight for one-and-a-half rounds.”
The fight was not Ali’s first in London. He came to the capital in 1963, when he was still known as Cassius Clay, to fight home favourite Henry Cooper at Wembley Stadium in a non-title bout.
The Greatest was famously floored by ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer, as the Brit’s his left hook was known. However, in one piece of boxing folklore of many that filled his career, trainer Angelo Dundee bought Ali extra time to recover by opening a tear in his fighter’s gloves and telling the referee a new pair was required.
Ali would go on and win, with a bad cut ending Cooper’s night.
He would go on and fight Cooper a second time in London in 1966, this time in at Highbury Stadium in north London. Again, a bad cut ended Cooper’s chances.
Following Ali’s death, getwestlondon reported on Ali’s close links to west London . He visited communities in Notting Hill and White City while training in the area ahead of his second Henry Cooper fight.
In the late 1980s he visited boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge when he was seriously ill at Hammersmith Hospital.
Ali's funeral in Louisville, Kentucky, will be streamed live at the O2 at 2pm on Friday. There is also currently an exhibition titled I Am The Greatest at the O2.