New Delhi: During his illustrious career, Muhammad Ali was part of several iconic bouts.
One of the lesser-known facts about the American is that he once showcased his talent at Delhi’s National Stadium.
According to a report in the Indian Express, Rajiv Gandhi convinced the great boxer to participate in an exhibition match after being informed about Ali’s stopover in Delhi.
Ali's opponent was Kaur Singh who went on to win the Asian Games gold two years later.
Such was the craze for the legendary boxer, 50,000 fans turned up at the venue on January 27, 1980 in the capital.
“Us de mukke bahut hi dumdar si (His punches had great power). I clearly remember that jab, his famous jab. It seemed to come out of nowhere. He used his right hand to block my punches, and his counter punch to hit me. His speed was amazing; not once during those four rounds did the speed drop,” Singh, now 63, told the newspaper.
Ali was 38 at the time and went on to retire a year later.
“Everybody at the national camp had his posters in their rooms. We would try to ape his boxing stance. I remember the moment when I was informed that I would be actually fighting my hero. I was at this camp at Moti Bagh in Delhi when officials told me about the exhibition match. I couldn’t believe it. Before the match, I was nervous. I saw him train, I approached him, and we shook hands,” he further added.
This was a rare occasion when the partisan Indian crowd cheered on the outsider.