COUNTY NEWS: Sussex pays its respects to Muhammad Ali

The mural outside in central St Leonards
The mural outside in central St Leonards

Sussex has paid its respects to boxing legend Muhammad Ali since his death last Friday (June 3).

A large mural has been painted on the wall of a Shelter charity shop dedicated in his memory.

Stuart Purgailis, landlord of the Royal Hotel in St Leonards paying tribute to Muhammad Ali. SUS-160706-121257001

Stuart Purgailis, landlord of the Royal Hotel in St Leonards paying tribute to Muhammad Ali. SUS-160706-121257001

Stuart Purgailis, manager of the Royal Hotel in St Leonards, has also created a memorial to Ali with the help of his regulars.

He said: “We have got a number of people from Hastings and st Leonards Ex-Boxers’ Association who come to the pub regularly and they put some money together for the memorial. We then got some flowers for the tribute.

“Ali was a role model for a lot of people because he had the commitment and power to stand up for his beliefs.

“He stood up against the Vietnam War, refusing to fight in Vietnam. Because of this he was stripped of his boxing titles.

“Ali was a great ambassador for the rights not only of black people but for everyone. He was brave enough to put himself at risk so we think he deserves a fitting tribute.

“He was an icon and I don’t suppose there will be another sportsman like him.”

Ronelle Mortimer, who works at the Shelter charity shop in St Leonards, said: “We have a customer who comes all the time to our shop and he asked if it would be okay for him to paint the mural outside. We told him we’d be happy for him to do it.

“The painting is brilliant and customers who’ve come in since it was finished have commented, saying it was a lovely thing to do. In fact, we’ve had a lot more customers come in because of the mural.”

Muhammad Ali, who died aged 74 after a 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.

He was and still is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.

He made his professional boxing debut in October 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker.

In 1964, he converted to Islam, changed his ‘slave’ name to Ali, and gave a message of racial pride for African Americans during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

In March 1966, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, was denied a boxing license in every US state and stripped of his passport.

As a result, he did not fight from March 1967 to October 1970. His conviction was overturned in 1971.

During this time of inactivity, as opposition to the Vietnam War began to grow, he spoke at colleges across the nation, criticising the war.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, a disease that sometimes results from head trauma from activities such as boxing.

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