Magnificent Muhammad Ali proves a knockout at the American Ireland Fund gala


He dominated the room and the event despite the fact that he can no longer speak and can barely wave when acknowledged.

That heavenly body that made him perhaps, the greatest athlete in history is bent and stooped now, Parkinson's disease will do that,but somehow, the magic of Muhammad Ali shines through.

He was guest of honor at the American Ireland Fund dinner in New York last night, a daring change from the usual recipients of such awards.

He's Irish too and as his wife Lonnie Ali related, he remembers with intense pride the extraordinary reception in 2007 when he visited Ennis, the town in County Clare where his great grandfather Abe Grady left for Kentucky in 1860.

He later married a freed slave and their granddaughter Odessa Lee Grady Clay gave birth to Cassius Clay in 1942.

Incredible to think that just a few miles away another Irishman, Fulmouth Kearney left for America in the 1850s and he would become an ancestor of another towering African American figure, Barack Obama.

Obama, Ali and Martin Luther King are arguably the three most important Black leaders of the last century. Two of the three have some Irish roots as well

When it comes to Ali even the most august of figures becomes kids again. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny reeled off almost every fighter that Ali faced and confessed his life-long devotion to the champ.

I'm proud to note that it is another Irish man Dr. Pearse Lyons of Alltech, a global animal health company based in Kentucky, who has funded many of Ali's charitable ventures in the past number of years and has proven a true friend to him.

The other main honoree of the night, Coca-Cola senior executive Irial Finan, also fondly recalled his own Ali obsession and the incredible contribution he made to history.

It was as always, a wonderful night, a stunning $3 million was raised for charity and the 1,500 or so present came away well satisfied.

But Ali made the night special. When you are The Greatest, no one can top that.

Sick and ailing or not, it still holds true for Muhammad Ali.

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