Charlotte Boxing Trainer Describes Meeting Muhammad Ali

CHARLOTTE, NC – People in Charlotte and around the world are mourning the death of boxing great Muhammad Ali, who died Friday night at the age of 74.

“In my age, my era, and in my environment I can speak for he was.. the black Superman,” says Charlotte boxing trainer Danny Smalls.

Smalls will never forget the day 20 years ago when he came face to face with the man called “the greatest.”

“When I met him, I didn’t even know what to say. I just said, ‘Hi Mr. Ali,’ I didn’t even know what to say,” he explains.

Smalls, who was working in Las Vegas at the time, now trains young boxers in Charlotte.

He says while Ali’s physical strength and conditioning made him stand apart, he respects him more for the stands he took outside the ring.

Ali, born Cassius Clay Jr., became heavyweight champion at 22, but faced controversy during the 60’s.

He joined the Nation of Islam and refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War.

“Ali took risks that put your family in jeporardy, put your living in jeopardy, put your everything in jeopardy,” says Smalls.

Ali’s undefeated pro record ended in 1971 when he lost to Joe Fraizer.

But he later got revenge in the famous Thrilla in Manila rematch.

His last fight was in 1981.

Smalls says towards the end of his life, Ali showed a different kind of strength in his battle with Parkinson’s.

“He didn’t want you feeling sorry for him. That’s why he would make public appearances, to show you, this is what I have. I’m not ashamed of it,” Smalls says.