Jeddah: Muhammad Ali would be “humbled and honoured” to know new frontiers of boxing were still being opened in his name, according to his daughter Rasheda.
The late heavyweight world champion famously fought in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ against George Foreman and Joe Frazier during the mid-seventies - two legendary fights that brought boxing to Africa and Asia for the first time.
Now, even after his 2016 death, he will be involved in unlocking a third new horizon, this time in the Middle East when George Groves takes on Callum Smith for the Muhammad Ali Trophy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday.
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) super-middleweight final, will be the first world title fight to be held in the region.
“I was just thinking how humbled and honoured he would be that two champions would be questing for a trophy in his name,” said Rasheda, who has travelled from the US for the fight, and will be presenting the trophy to the winner.
“I’d like to see boxing become a little more popular and I’m excited about seeing a lot of boxing fans here in Saudi Arabia, but the world is watching and they are coming to Jeddah, so I’m hoping the sport gains a lot more traction after this bout.”
Given that Ali was a Muslim and the fight is just one hour away from Makkah, also makes this occasion a lot more significant for the Ali family.
“Just being an hour away from Makkah and to be in a country that pays so much homage to a wonderful Muslim man; daddy would just be so happy to be here,” added Rasheda, who is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, and now plans a second trip to perform Haj, like her father did in 1972.
“His name is revered all over the world but especially here because it’s a Muslim country and he was one of the most famous Muslims ever. I think he would be pleased to have this fight here.”
Rasheda said that the Ali name still evoked a strong reaction and could continue to capture the imagination of future generations even in non-boxing territories and even in a non-boxing contest.
“When dad started boxing he made people that wouldn’t normally watch become interested and I think now even when he has passed away, 30 years after his prime, he still remains relevant, because I think daddy wasn’t just a boxer, he was a humanitarian, a civil rights activist, an ambassador of peace. He wore so many hats after he put down his gloves and I think that inspires a lot of other boxers to do more even after they have retired.
“He was always so excited to be in boxing, he loved it so much, it was the platform before he went bigger than boxing, a platform that he used to address social injustice and other great causes that were near and dear to his heart. He would be so pleased to be part of this event and I’m just so excited to be here on his behalf.”