Ilka Hilton-Clarke

Stories>>Muhmmad Ali

Muhammad Ali in Trinidad

photos © Ilka Hilton-Clarke

Well, folks, this is a true true story, which in Trini Talk means: true for so, or d' hones' truth......

It happened in 1971. I had just come to live in this lovely country, when it was announced in the papers that Muhammad Ali would hold an exhibition bout right here in this country and right here at the Queen's Park Oval which was across the street from us!pass

I was excited to see the great man again.
I had "met" Muhammad Ali twice before. The first time in Germany, when he was fighting Karl Mildenberger in Frankfurt on September 10, 1966 .I had just taken up a new temporary job as a telephone operator at the switchboard of the hotel where Muhammad ( then Cassius Clay) was staying.
This was a switchboard right out of the movies: those plugs with black cords at the ends that you plug into holes. It took me several days before I knew what went where and I am sure I disconnected a lot of angry people. Anyway, Muhammad was staying there and I remember seeing him lounging in the sofas across from where the telephone operators were. He had on a wine red tracksuit and he looked, oh so, handsome.

Needless to say, the phones were jammed with admiring females trying to talk with him, but Angelo Dundee took all the calls, nothing went through to The Greatest. So it came that I spoke with Angelo several times and I got the bellboy to have Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis sign the back of a postcard.
The second time I saw Ali was when I worked and lived in New York and I happened to turn into a side street in Manhattan when I spotted a small crowd surrounding a walking man and on coming nearer, I saw that it was Muhammad Ali with a small gathering of fans. I did manage to come close and tell him: "I saw you in Germany", when he said, from his haughty height : "Is that so ?".

In the meantime, I watched Muhammad Ali boxing matches several times on t.v. and I followed his cocky speeches and "poetry". I have not been a boxing fan before or after Muhammad Ali, but I liked to watch him fight. He was always so elegant, so in control. So, on hearing that he would be in Trinidad, I was eager to see him, but I did not much relish to see him from a distance. The Oval is a stadium and from the stands one cannot really enjoy a boxing match too much.


My brother-in-law had an idea. He had somebody make a "Press" pass that I pinned on my sweater. Is read "Ann Marie Byer", a nice German name ( I am Dutch, however) and it looked pretty official. I put my old Zeiss Ikon camera in a bigger black "official" looking camera bag, bought a TT $ 3.00 ticket ( then US $1.50) and went to the gate of the Oval.

I dug up my best "German" accent and said, presenting my ticket: "Vere is dee Presse ? Vere is dee Presse?". In no time I was ushered to and sitting at the press table which was built around the ring and hobnobbed with the Trinidad Press. I took the, admittedly, terrible pictures which you can see displayed here. After two pictures my film ran out (smart, eh ?) and I had to "borrow" film from a photographer (Tony Forte). I had a great time ! I was sitting so close to Muhammad Ali, I could have touched his feet. They had girls in mini skirts, which were fashionable at that time, announcing the rounds by holding up boards and Muhammad clowned around, pretending to be beaten at times, hanging in the ropes. I climbed up the few wooden stairs to the ring to get a better shot, when, on stepping back without looking, I bumped into this little man coming up the stairs to give a speech. Guess what ? He was Dr. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He gave me a look that was designed to shrivel me. I did not recognize him right away and thought much later that it was a good thing I did not tumble him. I could have been banned for life from Trinidad.........
Enjoy the pictures..

eric williams

Muhammad and the  then Prime Minister (Dr.Eric Williams) (r)

said Muhammad:
"He not only has the complexion
But he has also got the connection
to give me the right protection"











ali and announcer










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