Indians' encounter with Muhammad Ali

Indian boxing greats (from left) Capt M Venu, Ganapathy Manoharan and Capt Isaac Amaldass, at a felicitation event in Bengaluru on Thursday. DH PHOTO

Sharing the stage at a felicitation event here on Thursday, stalwarts of Indian boxing Capt Isaac Amaldass and Ganapathy Manoharan reminisced about their encounter with the legendary Muhammad Ali. 

Ali, known as "The Greatest", was an inspiration to athletes across the world. And when he made a trip to Delhi, in the run-up to the Asian Championship in Mumbai in 1980, it was a dream-come-true moment for many Indian boxers. 

Manoharan, the dronacharya awardee, spoke on how Ali had a big influence in his growth as a boxer. "It was in 1980, when we were in the national camp in Patiala, that we got the news of Ali coming to Delhi. Around 11 of us went to Delhi and saw him in action in the boxing ring. I was asked to assist him. By just watching him move inside the ring I learnt a lot," said Manoharan, who participated in the 1980 Summer Olympics. 

While Manoharan missed out, Amaldass was fortunate to have sparred with the heavyweight superstar, who triumphed in the 1960 Rome Olympics. "I was just 51kg while he was 120kg. Not just me, none of us who tried to fight him inside the ring even could go near him. He threw such strong punches at us so effortlessly," he recollected. 

Capt M Venu, popular for his narrow quarterfinal exit at the 1972 Munich Olympics, said listening to Ali's inspiring stories played a big role in his career. "He is the epitome of hard work. And he has shown the world that hard work has no substitute," he said. 

The trio was presented with mementos for their contribution to boxing by Xtep International Holding limited, as a part of their launch of Sports-Life movement in the city.  

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