Irish contribution to Ali-Frazier bout that brought the planet shuddering to a halt

America at Large: Monday is 50th anniversary of first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bout

On March 8th 1971 in New York at the Madison Square Garden, Muhammad Ali lost the first of his three-fight trilogy with Joe Frazier. Photograph: Getty Images

On March 8th 1971 in New York at the Madison Square Garden, Muhammad Ali lost the first of his three-fight trilogy with Joe Frazier. Photograph: Getty Images

In his classic book “Loser and Still Champion”, Budd Schulberg opens the chapter concerning the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bout at Madison Square Garden with quotes from both combatants, from match referee Arthur Mercante, and from the then MP for Mid-Ulster, Bernadette Devlin.

Among a crowd of ringside celebrities that included Gene Kelly, Salvador Dali, Diana Ross, Burt Bacharach and Ed Sullivan, Schulberg felt the sight of the Irish woman chanting “Ali! Ali! Ali!” was especially noteworthy. Unfortunately for Devlin, not everybody regarded her presence at the fight of the century as appropriate behaviour for a civil rights activist.

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