The world lost a true icon last Friday night, as Muhammad Ali, who battled Parkinson’s for years, died of septic shock. He was 74.
We all knew Ali, but few of us actually knew him. We saw fights; we saw interviews. But what was Ali like when the lights were off and the cameras weren’t present?
“He was much more quiet, much more reserved and much more serious,” former boxer Chuck Wepner said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He would talk about things like his religion, his Muslim religion, and the world – that he had to help people that needed things. He was a different guy. He was much, much more formal.”
Wepner fought Ali for the heavyweight title in 1975, with Ali winning via technical knockout with just a few seconds remaining in the 15th round.
Afterward, the two became friends.
“He was a great friend of mine,” Wepner said. “After the fight, we were together a few times. I got to know him real well. He had a big heart and he was a great guy.”
Wepner, 77, fought dozens of fights in his career, but the one with Ali, not surprisingly, stood out the most. Wepner was asked what made Ali different.
“His hand speed, his foot speed and his ability to take a punch,” Wepner said. “That’s what a lot of people didn’t know. Even if you did trap him and you hit him with a good shot, he could take it. He had a good jaw. He had everything. Some guys have one thing or two things. Muhammad Ali had everything. The world lost a great man. There will never be another one like him, I’ll tell you that.”