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.
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.
“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.
“He seemed real gentle and always smiling.”
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.
“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.”