“Impossible is not a fact.” –Muhammad Ali
Killorglin-born circus strongman and publican, Michael “Butty” Sugrue, put up £300,000 and persuaded Muhammad Ali to make his first visit to Ireland to fight against Alvin Lewis in Croke Park on 19 July 1972.
Ali went to Ireland with an entourage on 11 July 1972 to spend time training for the fight. While there, he was interviewed for RTÉ Television by Cathal O’Shannon and was taught the rudiments of hurling by Eddie Keher.
Ali won the Lewis fight with a technical knockout in the 11th round, and Sugrue lost a lot of money bankrolling it.
The Irish Tourist Board pulls off a major coup getting Muhammad Ali to promote Ireland.
Ali returned to Ireland in 2009 and visited the birthplace of his great-grandfather, Abe Grady, in Ennis, Co Clare, where he was made an Honorary Freeman of the town.
Muhammad Ali in Ireland, 1972: http://youtu.be/2T8jr8WQC8I
Clip from the IFTA-winning ‘When Ali Came to Ireland’: https://youtu.be/h5kI6c_UECU