There’s still time to catch the ‘Muhammad Ali at the O2’ exhibition which has been running since March 2016. This awe-inspiring event celebrates the great man and all his sporting and life achievements, from young to old and highs and lows. The material is so extensive that it’s more like an Ali museum than an exhibition. His earliest days on the journey to the pinnacle of boxing are well represented and exhibits include a replica model of a brand new red bicycle which was stolen off him when he was an eleven year old. This theft upset him so much he marched straight into the nearest gym and demand they teach him to fight so that he could beat up the culprit. This is what started his boxing career. A photographic mock-up of his childhood home in Louisville is also exhibited along with other rare items from his youngest days.
Other fascinating memorabilia include a white boxing robe designed for him by Elvis Presley and of course those famous and feared white boots. In 1963 Britain’s Henry Cooper landed his famous ‘Ammer which laid Ali out on the canvas. Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee split The Great One’s glove so that he could buy some time till he recovered Those gloves are also on display – split and all! Throughout this a loudspeaker commentary recreates the arena atmosphere that greeted Ali’s classic fights including those with Liston, Foreman and Frazier. The brutal poetry of those historic nights also captured in publicity posters, paintings and ringside photography.
A timeline circumnavigating the exhibiting space gives a breakdown of everything he achieved year-by-year and you’ll probably need it. The honours, tributes and statues are numerous. The floor-to-ceiling photographs of him being greeted by heads of state such as George Bush and Bill Clinton testament to outstanding achievement in a sport where reputations are made quickly but by its brutal nature fall just as quick. Much of this adulation comes not only from his sporting prowess but the stand he made as a humanitarian and as a voice for those who weren’t in a position to speak up for themselves. A whole room is dedicated to his most politically controversial period in the 60s when he joined the Nation of Islam and allied himself with Malcolm X.
Devoted fans will love this Ali museum and even more so if they make a day of it because it’s not an event which is best experienced when rushed. A specially created Ali cinema where you can sit and watch his greatest triumphs and lows is a fitting and emotional close to the day and you’ll probably leave with a tear in your eye. A smile too!
Muhammad Ali at the 02 runs until August 2016