Muhammad Ali's Toronto fight immortalized with new plaque
The 51-year-old event is still relevant in the current era of sports activism, say historians.
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If Muhammad Ali were alive today, Camille Bégin wouldn't be surprised to see the legendary boxer take a knee.
"He was definitely an international activist and there's a strong resonance between his time and what's happening right now in the United States, with players protesting police brutality," said Bégin, the plaques program manager at Heritage Toronto.
The organization is set to unveil a plaque commemorating the 1966 epic fight between Ali and Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo.
At the time Ali had been blacklisted and banned from competing in the US because of his involvement in the civil rights advocacy, his open opposition to the Vietnam war and his support of Islam. Attempts to hold the fight in Montreal also failed, and there was resistance in Toronto as well. But Ali was eventually allowed to train at Earl Sullivan’s Toronto Athletic Club near Ossington and Dupont.
Heritage Toronto started preparing the plaque before the current wave of protests spread across the NFL and other sports leagues. But Bégin said the fate of Colin Kaepernick - who initiated the kneeling during anthem protests and has now lost his job as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers - shows the fight for equality is still ongoing.
"People need to know that professional players in different sports have always been involved in this debate of equality and human rights," she said.
"This plaque is a celebration of sports in Toronto and the role of sports in our history."
The plaque will be unveiled Thursday at Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Ave.) starting at 5:30 p.m. The event wll include a screening of movie clips from the 1966 fight. Chuvalo, 80, is expected to attend.