In 1983 Muhammad Ali climbed the stage of a packed sports complex in Rouyn-Noranda, a small Quebec town that is a seven-hour drive northwest of Montreal.
… [P]eople … had paid $50 per ticket to hear Ali speak.
But they didn’t hear anecdotes or stories of Ali’s journey to becoming one of the world’s greatest athletes. This overwhelmingly francophone and Roman Catholic town heard about Islam instead.
“We wanted him to talk about his boxing career, of his great moments as a boxer,” said Jean-Paul Charlebois, one of the organizers who travelled to Ali’s California home and convinced him to make the trip.
That was the deal they made with Ali’s agent: a talk about boxing. The stage at the Rouyn-Noranda arena was even made to look like a boxing ring.
“But he decided that night, with his entourage, to be the black preacher,” Charlebois said. “It was a speech focused on religion and there were a lot of references to racism, but nothing about boxing. There was absolutely nothing about boxing.”