Former boxing rivals Muhammad Ali and Sir Henry Cooper were reunited tonight -in the unlikely setting of an equestrian event at Windsor Castle.
It is 46 years since Cooper knocked Cassius Clay, as Ali then was, to the canvas in the fourth round of a bout at Wembley.
Ali said that he was hit so hard his ‘ ancestors in Africa felt it’. Yet in the next round the fight was stopped because of cuts to Cooper’s face.
The following year the young boxer changed his name to Muhammad Ali and the rest, as they say, is history.
The pair were star attractions of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games gala night.
He went on to become the most popular sportsman of his generation and his quickfire wit and even quicker fists brought him success on an unimaginable scale.
His showmanship, charisma and sporting talent led to him becoming possibly the most famous person on the planet in the early 1970s.
Ali was the three-time heavyweight boxing world champion, winning 56 of his 61 professional fights.
Yesterday they took a lap of honour in an open-top Range Rover around the Castle Arena, venue earlier in the day for the European Championships team event.
Ali, 67, who has lived with Parkinson’s Disease since 1984, received a standing ovation from the crowd,
The three-times world champion, now 67, has embarked on a tour of the UK which experts fear could be his last.
On Wednesday he visited a gym run by another boxing legend, Ricky Hatton, in Hyde, Manchester. And he and Lonnie attended a dinner held in his honour at Old Trafford.
The tour includes a series of dinners to raise money for his charities, including the Muhammad Ali Centre in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky.
Fans have paid more than £1,000 for a seat and up to £15,000 to sit on the top table with the boxing legend, even though he will not be giving any speeches.
Today Ali will be the guest of honour at a dinner at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs.
On Friday he will sample the more genteel world of horse dressage when he travels to Windsor, in Berkshire for the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships and he will also appear at Wembley Stadium on August 30.
His last UK visit was several years ago when he said: ‘The UK is very close to my heart.
‘I want to visit again not only to raise awareness and funds for the Muhammad Ali Centre, but also to revisit such a wonderful country and to all my friends and fans here.’
Mrs Ali said: ‘Muhammad’s popularity in the UK is legendary and he has many friends here in the UK. We’re looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and to garner support for Muhammad’s charities.’
The event has been organised by Mammoth Events, whose chief executive, Carl Holness, said: ‘It’s been a dream of mine for years to get him over here, and it’s taken me more than 12 months to plan and put things together.
‘We had to give them references from people like George Foreman, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton before he would agree to come.’