Hanging on a wall in Chris Aparicio’s Moose Jaw home are several pictures of Muhammad Ali – most of them stills from the boxer’s great bouts – but one shows “The Greatest” holding Aparicio.
Of course, at the time Aparicio was 5 years old in his grandfather’s backyard in 1983. He was holding a barbecue for the Oilers in Edmonton, along with Ali and his family, before Ali’s exhibition fight against former Oiler Dave Semenko, the enforcer known as “Wayne Gretzky’s bodyguard”.
Aparicio said he has a vivid memory of meeting the heavy-weight champ.
“Just the massive size of this man, at 6’3″ and 210 pounds he was a mountain next to a small kid like myself … I remember being quite afraid, actually, that this very large, dark man was picking me up,” said Aparicio with a laugh.
He became a big fan after that, in part he said, thanks to his grandfather.
“I think any time that you’ve got an opportunity to have a personal connection with somebody, especially somebody like Muhammad Ali, you’re going to be a fan regardless – but I think it definitely turned me into a super-fan.”
Aparicio never got to see Ali fight live, but he has watched them on TV and on film and said his favourites are the fights against Sonny Liston and George Foreman.
“Two of the most epic fights of a 60-some fight career, there’s a lot that you could choose from, but those, definitely, I’ve watched time and time again.
Aparicio called Ali a colourful and impactful man, mourning his addition to the other greats who have died this year.
The president of Boxing Canada is remembering Ali as a great man, in and out of the ring.
Pat Fiacco, who is also a long-time boxer himself and was Regina’s mayor for several years, said Ali meant a lot to a lot of different people.
“Somebody that just simply stood up for what he believed in, and he wasn’t going to let anybody intimidate him … I think he opened the door for a lot of people that sometimes might not have wanted to speak out or stand up.”
Fiacco said any boxer out there will say that their inspiration or their role model was Ali. He said when they teach kids they sport, they hold up some of Ali’s work.
“He won many, many fights just with his jab, that’s one of the things we teach our kids is have a good jab, just like Muhammad Ali.”
Fiacco said he was never able to see Ali box live, he does remember watching the Leon Spinks fight on television while Fiacco was boxing in the Sask. Winter Games. There is one other thing though, Fiacco said he’ll always remember..
“I was working the London Olympics, for boxing of course, and Muhammad Ali was there to light the flame.”
Of all of Ali’s bouts, Fiacco said his favourite is probably The Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman where Ali introduced his rope-a-dope.