Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

New TV Film of Ali's Tyne Trip

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

New TV Film of Ali's Tyne Trip

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jamie Diffley

Never-before-seen footage of Muhammad Ali's visit to Tyneside more than 25 years ago will finally be broadcast.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion had his wedding vows blessed at the Azhar Mosque, in South Shields in July 1977, and was filmed by a BBC television crew.

Ali, who is now fighting Parkinson's Disease, granted BBC One's, Inside Out, a rare television audience at his American home.

Ali's daughter, Hana, says that for her sentimental father, watching himself as a young, fit man is his best medicine.

Viewers will see Ali shadow box to the BBC's camera as he watches himself in the ring in South Shields at his ranch in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and he is visibly moved by the scenes showing him renew his wedding vows to his then newly-wed wife.

Hana tells Inside Out: "He gets excited watching himself when he's boxing. It gives him energy, he starts throwing punches and his eyes open up. It's probably the best medicine I can think of.

"He felt a little sentimental watching the archive. It was at a time when he was still youthful. Watching himself have his wedding blessed, that was a nice experience. I think he was in a somewhat sentimental mood."

The film, to be broadcast on BBC One, at 7.30 tonight, tracks down some of the people who met Ali during his visit to Tyneside.

Ali was invited to South Shields by painter and decorator Johnny Walker, from Whitburn, who asked for help to raise funds to revive a boxing club in the town.

Mr Walker has since died, but Peter Gillanders, formerly of South Tyneside Council, said: "At first we could not believe it, but when the penny dropped that Ali was coming, we decided we had to organise a major programme around the visit."

Carol Lake, who played in the Embassy Heralds marching band, said: "My biggest memory was when he finally got to me and he was pulling my pigtails. He had a thing about my hair."

Light heavyweight boxer Reg Long, who loaned Ali his red velvet shorts for a sparring match, said: "I didn't want to do too much and hit him too hard in case he got bad tempered. …

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