More On Ali

Ali and Elvis. The Greatest and the King. They are two of the greatest pop culture icons of all-time. And in the few instances where they came together, no two stars combined ever shined brighter. The two superstars had a genuine fondness and respect for the other. Muhammad Ali referred to Elvis Presley as his close personal friend. The two shared a similar background coming out of the South from working class families before achieving wealth and world-wide super-stardom in their chosen professions. The two also shared a love of combat sports though Elvis preferred, and was a student of, karate versus Ali’s love of the sweet science. During his ban from boxing and eventual return Ali was given the moniker of the “People’s Champ” from his fans being that he’d never been beat in the ring. Even after his disputed decision loss to Frazier, many fans still called him that out of respect and admiration along with sincere belief he still hadn’t been beat. In 1973, while working his way back to the title, Ali fought Joe Bugner in Las Vegas. Prior to the fight, Elvis gifted his friend Ali a special robe patterned after the jumpsuits that he wore during his concerts. The white robe was decorated with multicolored rhinestones. Intended to read the People’s Champ, due to a production error it instead read the People’s Choice. Regardless, Ali loved the robe and thanked his friend for the generous gift, promising to wear it in his next bout. Just over six weeks later, Ali came to the ring wearing his gift robe from Elvis as he squared off against Ken Norton. As Ali approached and entered the ring ABC-TV announcer Howard Cosell relayed the story of the robe’s origin saying that Elvis’ gift cost $3000.00 and was Ali’s pride and joy. Rumor was that Ali had taken the fight with then unknown Norton lightly resulting in his jaw being broken and his losing the bout. Due to the disastrous result, Ali felt the robe was bad luck and never wore it again. A couple of years later, Ali invited Elvis to visit him at his Dear Lake, PA training camp. Knowing Elvis preferred his privacy, the King was slipped into camp while everyone’s attention was on an Ali training session. Ali put Elvis in one of the outer cabins and hardly anyone knew he was ever even there. Ali later told a story of how one night he and Elvis went to a little dive bar in a nearby town where Elvis, with a towel over his head, sneaked up on the little stage there and sang the first two lines from Hound Dog before the two of them ran out laughing. Though the King died a couple of years later, Ali and Elvis shared the public spotlight together again at least one more time in 2011. It was at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA in separate photograph exhibitions entitled “Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon” and Alfred Wertheimer’s “Elvis at 21.”