As the world continues to mourn the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, a video recorded 36 years ago gives a look into how “The Greatest” himself wanted to be remembered for his life. Ali died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital following a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
WPTV photographer Bob Leak filmed the interview in the winter of 1980 while working at WMBD-TV in Peoria, Illinois. Leak was joined by the news station’s reporter, Thom Serafin. Ali was in town to campaign for his former financial adviser in Peoria.
The event was held, Leak says, at a Boys Club, where Ali made sure to make plenty of time for every child in attendance. “He gave every single kid at the Boys Club a chance to box with him,” Leak reminisced.
It was a snowy Illinois day and Leak recalls Ali having a suitcase that had a telephone in it, long before the days of personal and portable phones. “He was showing it off and was so proud of it,” Leak remembers.
Leak vividly recalls having several moments one on one with “the greatest of all time,” who won 56 of 61 career fights and was crowned World Heavyweight Champion three times. “When he got to the interview, he was awesome. It was just me and him in this room. He was such a genuinely nice person.”
Despite Ali being tired, he treated Leak and Serafin with the utmost respect. Leak remembers preparing the interview, setting up lights and video equipment. “He answered every question I had,” Leak recollected.
Leak even remembers talking to Ali about the famous bouts with Joe Frazier years prior in the 1970s, which included The Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden in 1971, Super Fight II in 1974, also in New York City, and The Thrilla in Manila fought in Quezon City, Philippines in 1975.
Leak recalls Ali admitting that he may have gone a little too far in taunting Frazier, but chalked it up as boxing culture at the time, in effort to promote the fights.
“One on one, he had no arrogance about him. He was really, really a nice guy.”
At one point in the nearly four-decade-old interview, Ali was asked how he would like to be remembered 50 years from now. Below is a portion of the interview transcribed, Muhammad Ali’s recipe of life:
“[I would] like them to say he took a few cups of love, one teaspoon of patience, one tablespoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, one quart of laughter. He stirred it up, he mixed it well. He spread it over the span of a lifetime and served to each and every deserving person he met. That’d be the recipe to my life. That’s heavy. Wasn’t that heavy, man? Wasn’t that heavy? I dropped the bomb. I dropped the bomb on you, man. Ain’t you realize what I said? He took two cups of love, one teaspoon of patience, one tablespoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, one quart of laughter. He mixed it up, stirred it well, spread it over the span of a lifetime, served to each and every deserving person he met. Heavy! The recipe of life. It just came to me that quick. Just came to me. Just came to me.”