Friday, June 10, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

Legendary three-time world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, would be buried in Knoxville, Tennessee in America on Friday, 10 June, or the fifth day of the blessed Ramadan Kareem, 1437 Hijrah.

And here is a personal tribute I have written on him, a person who many around the world had the opportunity to know but not so many who had the opportunity to personally get into contact with many years ago.

* * * * * * *

How would anyone feel if he walks into an elevator and find Muhammad Ali in it, together with his younger brother, Rahman Ali and the boxer's trainers, Angelo Dundee and Budini Brown?

I was truly amazed and shocked to find myself in such a company in an elevator which could not take more than eight persons. So it was quite tight and i was standing beside Muhammad Ali who i noticed to be not so tall or big compared to the photos of him that I had seen.

I had gone to the then Kuala Lumpur Hilton at Jalan Sultan Ismail in Kuala Lumpur, with actor Mustapha Maarof when I was doing my practical training at Gaya Filem sdn. bhd. and one day Mustapha asked me to accompany him to the filming of an advertisement at The Paddock which is the topmost floor of the hotel without realizing that the ordinary outing could be an experience i could never forget.

Muhammad Ali and the others then stopped and got off at the floor where their suites were just a floor below The Paddock.

I was studying at the School of Mass Communications, Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM) in Shahalam and at the end of the second semester, and it was the first time I was asked to undergo practical training with all the students being sent to different companies or government agencies for attachment during the semester break, depending on their specialization.

As I was majoring in advertising and wanted to pursue my master's degree in film directing I had asked the head of the school then Puan Marina Samad to be sent to a film company.

But there was a communication breakdown and i found myself being sent to another company.

I went to see Puan Marina as she was affectionally called by all the students at the school at the school and said that I would rather be sent to a film company. She then made a call and the next day I went to Gaya Filem at Jalan Ceylon in Kuala Lumpur to start the practical training which proved to be useful and eventful in many ways.

I suspected she might have called then L Krishnan to ask if she could send a student to undergo practical training at his film company and without any reservations, accepted him.

I met L Krishnan’s son, Prem who was so accommodative and supportive and asked that I be placed at the different departments in their film company for a week each, which he thought could give me the right exposure on the film production process.

I was lucky that Puan Marina had sent me to Gaya Filem instead of to another film company, or I would definitely not be in the same elevator with Muhammad Ali in June, 1975 when he came to the country to box British heavyweight boxer Joe Bugner at Stadium Merdeka, forty-one years ago, and could only write about it after his death.

I also got to speak with Rahman Ali on the phone later and he asked me to come to see him at the hotel, but somehow I was unable to do that.

Unfortunately it was not at a time of the selfies or I would have taken many shots of them.

Again once you bump into someone of Muhammad Ali’s stature in an elevator you do not know what to do and just have to wait for him to strike a conversation if he so desires.

But in my case, he did not seem to be eager to do that and I guessed he and his brother and friends had gone down to the restaurant to have lunch, before returning to their suites at the hotel when Mustapha Maarof and I got there.

I met Mustapha much later but he did not remember the incident or had mentioned or written about it. In fact, he did not even remember who I was despite the fact that I had also entered the film industry.

I only got to communicate with him personally and by phone much later and few years before he died.

I am sure even if I were to raise the matter concerning the practical training I did at Gaya Filem when he was working there before he set up his own outfit, he might not remember it as that happened a long time ago.

* * * * * * *

I felt sad to look at Muhammad Ali from a far distance at the sight of him after he was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s disease which he never recovered from until he died on 4 June, 2016 at the age of seventy-four years at the hospital in Arizona. His hands trembling furiously and his voice almost in a whisper that his wife, Leonie had to express for him to the media.

But I had communicated with his staff at the Ali Center in Knoxville, Tennessee where he was born, and where I thought of making a visit when I am back in America.

Unfortunately, the last time I was in the country in April, 2014, I had neglected to do that. So I will make sure I will go there to check the place out when I am back in America the next time hopefully later this year.

And I heard that West 33rd Street in Manhattan in New York City has been renamed Muhammad Ali Way. I will check it out when I am back in the city hopefully later this year.


Anonymous said... it not? said...

Kuala lumpur hilton

Anonymous said...

was born and buried in louisville kentucky,lousville lips