Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Ali deserves anything good: Dundee


Angelo Dundee was back in Muhammad Ali's corner.

The famed trainer visited Ali's hometown on Friday for a firsthand look at a six-story center built to promote Ali's humanitarian work and relive his boxing triumphs.

Dundee still affectionately calls Ali "the kid" -- decades after the two teamed to make boxing history. Dundee said the center was a fitting tribute to a man he considers the greatest heavyweight fighter.

"This kid deserves anything good that happens to him," Dundee said. "He's such a good guy. He's just the nicest human being you want to meet."

Several of those closest to the three-time champion gathered to discuss Ali and his legacy on the eve of an opening celebration for the Muhammad Ali Center. The lineup of guests on Saturday will include President Clinton, Jim Carrey and Angelina Jolie.

The center will open to the public on Monday, though work is continuing.

The 63-year-old Ali, getting his first look at the center in months, posed for pictures and looked at exhibits on Friday. He was accompanied by wife Lonnie and singer-actor Kris Kristofferson.

Ali, who has Parkinson's disease and recently underwent surgery, was not available to reporters.

Lonnie Ali said the center is envisioned as a "global gathering place" to promote peace and tolerance, and to inspire people to reach their potential.

"The Ali Center will enable Muhammad to pass the torch of his life's work on to future generations, to help carry those ideals to the future," she said.

She said her husband didn't want the center to be about him or his boxing career.

There are exhibits that show him in his prime, firing jabs and sending opponents to the canvass. But the center is much more than a replay of Ali's brilliant fighting career.

"Muhammad may have made his mark as a boxer, but he has truly made a much larger footprint on the world outside of the ring," his wife said.

The Alis envision the center becoming a place where heads of states can come to settle conflicts, she said. It also will be a training ground for people to learn about conflict resolution, teachings they can take to troubled spots, she said.

"We hope that this center will be a beacon of hope for people around the world," she said.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson realized Ali's global appeal during a trip to Egypt. Two teenagers asked where Abramson was from, and were unaware of Louisville until he mentioned Ali, the mayor said.

"The champ has been at the crossroads of some of the most provocative issues of our time," he said, mentioning US civil rights, the Vietnam War, religious tolerance, and the quest for peace.

Other exhibits recount the days of segregation during Ali's youth, and the civil-rights movement of the 1960s when Ali rose to fame. Ali's stance as a conscientious objector, refusing to serve in the US military during the Vietnam War, cost him his boxing title.

Lonnie Ali said it was fitting to put the center in Louisville.

"This city is where Muhammad's journey began," she said.

Dundee said the two hit it off from the beginning, and said training Ali was "the easiest job I ever had."

Ali would be the first fighter to arrive at the gym and the last to leave, he said.

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