Larry King mourns the passing of Muhammad Ali

After knowing each other for over 50 years, Larry King describes what the passing of Muhammad Ali means both to him and to the rest of the world.

By Bronte Price, Larry King Now

In an exclusive interview, Larry King pays tribute to his friend Muhammad Ali, the former Heavyweight champion who died on Friday at the age of 74.

“I first met Muhammad Ali when he was Cassius Clay.  Right after he won the 1960 light heavyweight championship in the Olympics,” King says.  He also spoke of the incredible talent Ali had, both as an athlete and a performer.

“He was a great performer and a wonderful person.  And I saw so much of him because he trained in Miami at the 5th Street gym.  The night he defeated Sonny Liston, he was 8 to 1 underdog.  He knew what the public wanted and played to it.  He was a marvelous performer.  The original show biz performer, and a great athlete as well.  And I think he defeated Sonny Liston by playing a mind-game with him.”

King remembers the day that Ali did a weigh-in for the championship, for which he was in attendance: "At the weigh-in, he went crazy.  Screaming, yelling, jumping up and down.  It was insane.  And we all thought, you know, he may not show up.  This guy is just nuts.  And the medical examiner told me his blood-pressure was normal!"  

While Ali is a world class competitor, Larry also describes him as a sensitive and giving man: “The Muhammad Ali you saw was a performer. The Ali [behind the scenes] was tender and caring.  He cared about his people.  He cared about his philosophy.  He stood up, the public saw that when he wouldn’t go to the Vietnam War.  And the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, 9 to nothing.”

Larry further illustrates Ali’s compassion with this a story of his selfless charity. 

“There was a dinner once in New York, a sports dinner, and I was the emcee," King tells us.  "There was a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout and Muhammad was being honored. He took two $100 bills out of his pocket and he put one in the pockets of the Boy Scout and the Girl Scout. It was just a terrific moment in time.”

Larry King described Ali’s legacy as that of “a great fighter, a boxing champion and a defender of the less fortunate.”

“He was everything,” Larry added. “He was passionate, he was funny, he was gorgeous. The young Muhammad Ali was beautiful. He was a rare athlete. He had great reach, he had great hands.  He could drive opponents crazy.  He knew how to sell a fight.  He was so many things.  And the public loved him.  Even his critics got to love him.”

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