Freddie Keay mourns the passing of Muhammad Ali... and recalls his 1993 encounter with the boxing star

Freddie Keay (65) has a ton of Muhammad Ali memorabilia and met the great man in 1993
Freddie Keay (65) has a ton of Muhammad Ali memorabilia and met the great man in 1993
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The world lost a boxing legend and a great human being when Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 last Friday.

While the world mourned his passing, Freddie Keay (65) from Haining Place, Grangemouth, took a moment to recall the moment he met the star in November 1993.

He said: “It was in Glasgow and it was on the same day Ally McCoist met Ali. I had heard he was coming to town so I made sure I was there. I had a copy of a newspaper under my arm with an article about Ali on the front page.

“When I went up to him Ali’s eyes went to the newspaper I was carrying. He wanted to see his picture in the paper – it was from an exhibition fight in Paisley and Ali smiled when he saw the picture.

“He signed his autograph for me and someone was there to take my picture with him. He was sitting down and put one of his big hands on me and I thought he must be fed up with people asking him so I was going to leave.

“But he stood up side by side with me and smiled for the camera.”

Sadly the picture was taken just a second too late to capture that famous smile and Ali, who was struggling with Parkinsons, could not hold the expression very long. Now retired, Freddie worked at BP for 30 years and spent much of that time building up his collection of sporting memorabilia, including a rare replica of Ali’s championship belt from 1964 when, boxing as Cassius Clay, he defeated Sonny Liston.

He said: “It was Ali who made boxing popular again. Before him you had guys who didn’t have a lot of personality. Ali brought a bit of show business to boxing and his fights just seemed more dramatic. I recognised right away this guy was going to be a superstar.

“My favourite Ali fight was the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ versus George Foreman in 1974. A lot of people like that one, but it was such a technical, well thought out fight.”