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‘He seemed real gentle’: Saskatoon man recounts meeting Muhammad Ali

Click to play video: '‘He seemed real gentle’: Saskatoon man recounts meeting Muhammad Ali' ‘He seemed real gentle’: Saskatoon man recounts meeting Muhammad Ali
WATCH ABOVE: Meeting Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest memories for a Saskatoon man who was 7 at the time. Joel Senick shares his story and the pictures his mother saved all these years – Jun 9, 2016

A slight smile crept across the face of a Saskatoon man as he recounted the moments he shared decades ago with Muhammad Ali, one of world’s greatest athletes, who died last week.

“He’d pick everyone up if he could and then the other kids started climbing all over him and stuff,” said Wes Dennis, in a recent interview. He met the late boxing champion in the Cayman Islands in 1984, while Ali was promoting a boxing match there.

“My mother said he just kept on picking me up and swinging me around and stuff, so I guess this is one of those moments,” he said, looking down at a cell phone displaying one of many pictures Ali took with the then seven-year-old.

READ MORE: Muhammad Ali: Louisville mourns as they say goodbye to ‘The Champ’

Dennis grew up in the Cayman Islands, where he said his father started a newspaper and owned a sports bar. During the 1984 trip, Dennis said Ali spent time with his father, allowing for the personal interactions.

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Photo Gallery

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Wes Dennis, then age seven, shakes the hand of late boxing great Muhammad Ali during his visit to the Cayman Islands in 1984. Wes Dennis / Submitted
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Wes Dennis (centre) poses for a picture with late boxing great Muhammad Ali and children from the Bonaventure Boy's Home in the Cayman Islands during his 1984 trip to the country. Wes Dennis / Submitted
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Wes Dennis (right) interacts with Muhammad Ali during the late fighter's trip to the Bonaventure Boys Home in the Cayman Islands in 1984, while he was promoting a fight there. Wes Dennis / Submitted
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Dennis (center) during the trip Ali made to the Cayman Islands in 1984. He said the late boxing champion made time to meet everyone on the island. Wes Dennis / Submitted
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One of many pictures Wes Dennis's mother kept over the years of Muhammad Ali's 1984 visit to the Cayman Islands. Wes Dennis / Submitted
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Newspaper Clippings from Muhammad Ali's 1984 trip to the Cayman Islands. Cayman Compass / Facebook
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A newspaper picture gallery from Muhammad Ali's 1984 trip to the Cayman Islands. Cayman Compass / Facebook

“You hear about this scary boxer or someone that’s beatin’ up everybody and he was nothing like that,” Dennis said. He is now an operating partner at the Rock Creek Tap & Grill in Stonebridge.

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Dennis said he specifically remembers Ali “messin’ around” with his ears and wrestling with him. The pictures were kept by his mother, who sent them to Dennis after Ali died last Friday.

READ MORE: Thousands to attend final tribute to The Greatest

“I am so glad my mother kept these things,” Dennis said.

“When you’re talking about the greatest, it’s going to be one of the top memories I’ve ever had.”

Ali’s funeral is scheduled to take place Friday in Louisville, Ky. Dennis said he will be thinking about the man he once met and honouring him in his own way at the restaurant.

“Whatever we can play on the TV here I am putting on.”

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