SportsThe day Muhammad Ali stayed at the Crillón, fought...

The day Muhammad Ali stayed at the Crillón, fought at La Bombonera and ate grilled chicken


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Muhammad Ali he could not be less than a king. It never was. As soon as he got out of the car, a vintage Dodge that didn’t wrinkle his white guayabera, he spoke with the solicitous hotel representatives and asked for the king’s room. And not just any room: the same one where Pelé had stayed. It was September 18, 1971 and the most heavyweight champion arrived at the lobby of the Crillón hotel with his entourage, trainer Angelo Dundee, sparring partner Al Johnson and Peruvian manager Álex Valdez. In those corridors they had already walked, in addition to Pelé for the friendlies with Santos in the old Nacional, two monsters the same size as Ali (1): Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones. It was already known what could happen, the brawl of the reporters, the uncontrolled policemen, the lights of the Colmena avenue and the girls asking for autographs.

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Muhammad was already the man who said these anthology phrases:

“When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble.”

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“Champions are not made in gyms. They are made of something immaterial that is deep inside them. It is a dream, a wish, a vision.”

“A person who sees life at 50 years old the same as at 20, has wasted 30 years of life.”

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“I am a boxing wise man, a boxing scientist. I am a master of the dance, a true artist of the ring”.

“I’m so fast that when I turn off the light I get into bed before the whole room is dark.”

“Boxing is a bunch of white men watching two black men beat the crap out of each other.”

“At home I’m a good guy, but I don’t want the world to know it. I have discovered that humble people do not get very far.

Ali asked for the room where the Brazilian crack had been staying some time ago and went to rest. One of the 550 that the Swiss businessman Domingo Bezzola had imagined/inaugurated in 1947. Two days later, the American boxer climbed into the ring mounted on the ground floor of the old National Stadium, what we all called the Bombonera, to face the Peruvian Guillermo ‘Willy ‘ from the cross. No one was ever happier to be beaten to a pulp than ‘Willy’. It was his dream.

(1) Cassius Clay (since xx Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942 in Kentucky and died on June 3, 2016 in Arizona, USA. He was the first boxer to win a heavyweight world title four times (from the world boxing association in 1964, 1967, 1974 and 1978. He had previously won the gold medal at the Rome Olympics. He disputed 61 fights and won 56 (37 of them on the fast track). An out of series.


At one of the lunches, open to journalists and the curious, late at night at the Crillón (2), Ali was surprised by a fountain overflowing with a bird that, due to its size, could be a very robust chicken or a tender turkey. Grilled chicken, they said. The Graphic Commerce wrote: “With the same ease with which he accounts for his rivals in the ring, Ali yesterday dispatched his occasional opponent: a golden chicken that he gobbled up in a jiffy.

The photo from the Historical Archive of El Comercio confirms what the world said about him: he had a very big mouth. And the hunger of none.

(2) With that sign that could be seen for miles, its 22 floors and its 550 rooms, the Hotel Crillón stopped working around the beginning of 2000. In 1947 it was inaugurated by the Swiss businessman Domingo Bezzola, between La Colmena avenue and Calle Rufino Torrico, a man who never imagined that after so many years he would become a SUNAT headquarters.

With an impressive smoky white guayabera, light blue pants and black shoes with square heels, Cassius Clay (better known as Muhammad Ali, after his transition to Islam) set foot in Lima in September 1971. This is how El Comercio Grafico covered him.  PHOTOS: GEC Historical Archive.


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