The day Muhammed Ali gave Tongan boxing champ Wolfgramme a word of advice

World heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali, who died today, gave Tongan boxer Paea Wolfgramme some advice he has never forgotten.

Following the news of Ali’s death this afternoon Wolfgramme, who became the first Tongan to win an Olympic medal, recalled how he met Ali, the greatest boxer of the 20th century.

Wolfgramme, who won the Super Heayweight silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, posted a photograph of himself, Ali and his son at Atlanta airport after the Games on Facebook this afternoon.

Kaniva News has used Wolfgramme’s comments with his permission.

“I first saw the long fibreglass cane being held by a well-dressed man in a quiet corner,” Wolfgramme recalled.
“ ‘He looks a lot like Muhammad Ali.’ I thought. My young son also saw the glass cane and wandered over for closer look.

“As I walked closer myself, my eyes got wider along with my mouth. It had to be him. I stood there awestruck, not knowing what to say.

“Ali turned and immediately started playing with my boy, ignoring me. He threw short slow jabs at his stomach, changing it to playful tickle at the last moment.

“Without looking at me he said in the slow, sad, struggling drawl: ‘You a fighter?’ ”

“Yes sir,” I replied, with all the respect I could muster.

“He carried on playing with my son for a few more moment. Then he looked up for the first time.

“That boyish, handsome face I had grown up was now a still, unmoving, mask. His mouth famous for never stopping, now hardly moved. He said:”Get yourself a jab…you can’t fight without it.”

Wolfgramme was the flag bearer for the Tongan team at the Atlanta Olympics. After the Games he turned professional, winning 20 games and losing four.

He now lives in Auckland.

Ali, 74, died in Phoenix, Arizona. From respiratory complications. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since 1984.

The main points

  • World heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali, who died today, gave Tongan boxer Paea Wolfgramme some advice he has never forgotten.
  • Following the news of Ali’s death this afternoon Wolfgramme, who became the first Tongan to win an Olympic medal, recalled how he met Ali.
  • “That boyish, handsome face I had grown up was now a still, unmoving, mask,”Wolfgramme wrote in a Facebook tribute.
  • “He said:”Get yourself a jab…you can’t fight without it.”

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