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Muhammad Ali Day

Muhammad Ali Day

Aug. 29, 1979–Mayor Tom Bradley, left,and Muhammad Ali laugh following the mayor’s proclamation naming Sept. 6, 1979, Muhammad Ali Day in the city of Los Angeles.

Nineteen years after winning the light heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Ali announced his retirement from the ring. On Muhammad Ali Day, he was guest of honor at a special televised concert at the Forum. Proceeds from the concert went to the U.S. Olympic boxing team.

The Ali retirement event was covered by columnist Robert Hilburn. He wrote in his Sept. 8, 1979 Times column:

Once underway, the three-hour show had the same gushy podium sentimentality that accompanies the Academy Awards. The problem: there wasn’t even the suspense of the awards to keep your interest. The word “greatest” was used 13 times before intermission.

The evening’s high points were performances tailored to the occasion (a moving tribute by actor Lou Gossett, Jr., a song written for Ali by Lola Falana and an Ali history monolog by Billy Crystal). The finest moment, however, was when Ali took the podium to express his appreciation. Rather than use the time to expound on his own achievements, he gracefully thanked–individual by individual–the members of his staff and family who had helped him over the years. It was a moment of dignity that indeed made the evening special.

Ali made one more comeback, but losses to Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981 forced his actual retirement.

The top photo, by retired photographer Fitzgerald Whitney, was published in the Aug. 30, 1979, Los Angeles Times. The photo below, by former staff photographer George Rose, accompanied Robert Hilburn’s column in the Sept. 8, 1979, edition of The Times.

Sept. 6, 1979:  Muhammad Ali gets a tumultuous reception at the Forum. Credit: George Rose/Los Angeles Times

1 Comment

  1. August 10, 2012, 2:47 pm

    There will never be another ring master as Ali. He was always a gentleman, and a model in the field of s;ports,
    God bless this individual !

    By: hogorina

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