It's 1979 and outside Upper Hutt City Library, a staffer hands their child into the arms of “The Greatest” – Muhammad Ali. The world’s heavyweight boxing champion lifts 2-year-old Jason Tarawhiti to his cheek for a hug and a photograph is taken. Television crews are everywhere. Having won the title five months prior, Ali was in the city simply because Heretaunga-based coach Alan Scaife had invited him.
Ali loved children (he had nine of his own) – on his arrival at Wellington Airport on February 23, The Evening Post reported he picked up a little girl, kissed her and whispered in her ear that he loved her.
“The bewildered infant looked from the … man to her mother to the milling crowd and wondered what was going on,” the paper wrote.
Reid Perkins, Upper Hutt library’s heritage coordinator, is pulling together forgotten and unseen films to be shown at the library as part of Wellington Heritage Week, which runs from October 26 to November 1.
Published on 26 October 2020.
Image: Upper Hutt City Library (23rd Mar 2018). Muhammad Ali visits Upper Hutt 23 February 1979. In Website Upper Hutt City Library. Retrieved 3rd Jul 2021 16:46, from https://uhcl.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/25876