This week’s print edition of Another View features excerpts of legendary broadcaster Harold Bell’s person-to-person interview with Muhammad Ali in the late 1970s. Below are more excerpts.
“I first met Ali in 1967” at a scheduled speaking event at Howard University, explained Bell, a longtime Washington, D.C. resident. “I listened to him and as I inched closer, he looked at me and said, ‘Come on, let’s walk.’
Walk they did, with two others “as if we were leading a parade,” continued Bell. The two men talked — Ali asked about what he did, and Bell told him of his work with D.C. youth. Then the legendary boxing champ clowned around with folk at a local hangout.
“Next thing I knew we spent several hours together. We had a great day,” said Bell.
The two met again a few years later in Cleveland — Ali was there training for an exhibition, and Bell rode with two other sportswriters to see the bout. “That’s when I first saw Don King, who (was) promoting the exhibition.”
King “was a big (expletive deleted) talker,” remembered Bell, who was invited to sit in on a next-day morning meeting between Ali and King. The promoter afterwards told the sportswriter, “You stick with me and we go places. Well, you know where Don went, and I went nowhere,” he joked.
Back to Cleveland, “We’re standing around in the press conference, and he (Ali) look over and saw me. ‘Harold, what you are doing here?’ I haven’t seen the man in four years,” recalled Bell, who got together with Ali.
The third meeting with Ali came at a D.C. Chamber of Commerce dinner that was honoring him. At the podium as he accepted the award, the boxer looked out in the audience and said, “Harold Bell, where are you?’ Everybody looked around and I got up and stood.” Ali then asked the city mayor did he know Bell – “That’s my friend,” he noted.
“That was one of the highlights of my being with Muhammad Ali when he had me stood up in the audience. That’s a hell of a feeling. We became real close after that.”
Bell said he thinks this encounter “solidified” his relationship with Ali that is still intact today, and helped him later get the first interview with him after his victory over George Foreman in Zaire.
Related content: Bell talks about his one-on-one with Ali in this week’s Another View.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.