Ali had been beaten in the ring for the first time in 1971, losing to heavyweight champion Joe Frazier on a 15-round decision. He would finally regain the title by knocking out George Foreman in the fabled 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" rope-a-dope bout in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Congo).
In between, Ali fought light-heavyweight champion Bob Foster for the North American heavyweight belt at the Sahara Tahoe in Stateline on Nov. 21, 1972.
A famous photo of Foster, Ali and referee Mills Lane is everywhere in these parts, even in my dentist's office. It was taken by then-KTVN TV-2 ace reporter David Kladney, now a retired attorney.
Kladney dared ask a question at a press briefing that The Greatest didn't much like.
He leaned over the ropes, grabbed the young journalist by his shirt, lifted him with one arm, and in mock-anger shouted "who are you, the local Howard Cosell?"
It was such hilarious video that the network made it the worldwide satellite transmission test for many hours before the fight.
My encounter with Ali and Frost happened because of a last-minute invitation from my KOLO TV-8 sales rep. I showed up early. The small studio only had room for about two dozen spectators.
Ali made a grand entrance from stairs in the rafters. He was in classic form. He could have made a good living as a standup comic. Frost asked if he wanted his children to become boxers and about Islam. Ali predicted that after he beat Foster and Frazier bested George Foreman, he would get a rematch with Frazier (who lost his title to Foreman in 1973, setting up the Zaire fight).
Ali had apparently not eaten all afternoon, so some novice brought a steak and salad. The beef was a 20-ounce filet wrapped in (gasp!) bacon. Ali took one look and put it below his chair. One of my Jewish clients in the audience was impressed. Fortunately, the salad was on a separate plate and Ali wolfed it down between segments.
Two years before, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Ali's contention that his religion forbade him from going to war in Vietnam. The untouched steak showed all present that he indeed practiced his creed.
Frost brought his own director and made KOLO sign an agreement that no excerpts would be taken from the show. When it was over, Frost left with the master recording for telecast in England. It never aired in the U.S. but a short YouTube clip will be linked to the expanded web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com/
Sir David interviewed Ali many times thereafter and died last Saturday. I'm glad our paths once crossed so long ago. He was a champion.
Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail