Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 18:03 UK

Fermanagh man on friendship with Ali

Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper
Muhammad Ali, seen here with Henry Cooper, is touring the UK and Ireland to raise money for Parkinson's Disease, an illness from which he suffers

A chance meeting in a street in 1963 led to a lifelong friendship for a Fermanagh-born boxer with the man called the greatest sportsman of all time.

Paddy Monaghan, an Ederney born world champion bare-knuckle boxer, was leaving a training session when he was approached by Muhammad Ali.

"It came about in 1963 in England, before the Henry Cooper fight," said Paddy.

"It was a case of mistaken identity.

"He thought he knew me. He came across the road after he had finished training and said 'How ya doin?'

"I was aghast. Everyone in the world knew who he was, he was Cassius Clay at the time.

"It went on from there and we've exchanged trips ever since."

On Sunday, as Ali continued on his tour around the UK and Ireland to raise money for Parkinson's Disease, an illness from which he suffers, the two were able to meet up again, 18 years after their last meeting.

"I said to the hotel manager 'If you get through to the head of security and say Paddy Monaghan is in the hotel, he or his wife Lonnie will say tell Paddy Monaghan to come on up to the room'," said Paddy.

"It was very, very emotional. And as soon as I went into the room, the eyes looked up and the jaw dropped. There was no need for words."

Paddy also proved to be a tower of strength for Ali when his boxing career was in jeopardy.

In 1967, Ali who opposed the Vietnam War refused to accept his draft into the US army.

He was stripped on his world title, and his license to box.

Facing a $10,000 fine and five years in prison, Ali still refused to join the army.

"When the authorities took away his licence, they took it upon themselves to act as judge and jury," said Paddy.

"I petitioned against it and I got letters from China, Russia, even little islands out in the Pacific.

"At the end of three and a half years I ended up with 22,224 signatures and addresses against the ban, against the boxing authorities."

As for their friendship, Paddy hopes that it will continue in the years to come.

"He still has that magic aura about him. We are very close friends and get on well, we go back a long, long, long way.

"Lonnie last night, her last words were you're invited over any time you like."

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