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Ali Storms Nigeria

June 1, 1964 - Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, stormed Nigeria today with the zeal of a Moslem missionary.

Nigerians gave Ali a tumultuous welcome. Nearly 1,000 persons thronged the airport 20 miles outside Lagos when his plane touched down from nearby Ghana.

“Who’s the king?” Ali shouted repeatedly. “Ali! Ali!” the crowd chanted back.

At a hotel, three Moslem dignitaries presented Ali with a leather-bound copy of the Koran. Their presence appeared to inspire Ali, a follower of the Black Muslims.

“My religion won me the championship,” he said. “Islam took me away from women. It took me away from smoking and drinking. It took me away from eating pork, which makes your mind think slow, you know.

“I became a Moslem because I saw my mother and daddy working away for years and all they did was to pray and shout and believe Hell was underground and Heaven was in the sky.”

Abraham Ordia, secretary of the Nigerian national sports council, was upset when he learned that Ali plans to spend only three days in Nigeria instead of eight.

“But we’ve already set up a schedule for you — exhibitions in Ibadan, training sessions with our young fighters — you can’t do this to us now,” said Ordia.

“Look,” said Ali, “they’re waiting for me in Cairo. And nobody tells me when I do exhibitions.”

Ali frowned when Dick Tiger, the Nigerian former world middleweight champion, was introduced to him.

“You call yourself king around here, Tiger?” Ali said.

“No,” said Tiger.

“Well, you better not,” said Ali, “because there’s only one king of the world at a time, and it won’t be any of you small, small boxers while I’m around.”

Tiger mumbled a few pleasantries and then walked from the room shaking his head.

“That man sure believes he’s the only thing around, doesn’t he?” he remarked.


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