Sunday 17 December 2017

The Greatest ever seen in Croker

The GAA headquarters played host to Ali twice - but in very different circumstances, writes Liam Collins

PACKING A PUNCH: Nelson Mandela lands a left on Muhammad Ali’s chin in Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus
PACKING A PUNCH: Nelson Mandela lands a left on Muhammad Ali’s chin in Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

One was magical, the other chaotic, but Muhammad Ali's two appearances in Croke Park - for the Special Olympics in 2003 and the fight with Al 'Blue' Lewis over 30 years before, in July 1972 - have left an impression that lasted a lifetime for those who were there.

Escorted to the event by the singer Sinead O'Connor and her son Jake, Ali was the celebrity of celebrities at the Special Olympics in Dublin. He accompanied the American team, sparred amusingly with O'Connor, and took a playful 'straight left' to the chin from Nelson Mandela.

The opening ceremony in Croke Park for that night was a glittering affair, with some 75,000 spectators and athletes packed into the stadium. The opening ceremony included U2, The Corrs and Riverdance. Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Bon Jovi walked with the athletes.

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