NEW GLASGOW – Art Hafey remembers one time he saw Muhammad Ali in person and shared his regret for not having actually met him.
“It’s one of the biggest mistakes I ever made,” the former featherweight phenomenon said on the occasion of Ali’s passing last Friday. “I didn’t get to meet him. I didn’t care for the guy at the time. I’m kicking myself now. He was a great fighter and a great ambassador for boxing. He did so much for the sport and for humanity.”
Ali died on June 3 in Phoenix, Ariz.. He was 74 and had been in declining health.
The opportunity to meet Ali came in San Diego, Ca. on March 3, 1973, when Hafey was on the undercard for the main event featuring Ali and Ken Norton in their first of two championship matches.
Hafey scored a third-round knockout against his opponent, Valente Vera, while Ali lost a unanimous decision to Norton in their heavyweight championship fight.
Ali won by unanimous decision in his second bout against Norton later that year to regain the title.
He also won a decision against Norton toward the end of his career.
Known as The Toy Tiger, Hafey was boxing frequently then. His bout was his third in 1973 out of 12 matches he had in 11 months that year.
His lost his last bout by TKO to Danny Lopez on Aug. 6, 1976 at the Forum in Inglewood, Ca. before retiring from the ring.