by WorldTribune Staff, June 5, 2016
On a 2013 visit to Pyongyang, former NBA star Dennis Rodman referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as “awesome” and a “friend for life.”
On a 1995 visit to Pyongyang, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who passed away on June 3 at the age of 74, refused to bow to the Kim dynasty.
Reporting for Forbes, WorldTribune.com columnist Donald Kirk recounted the 1995 visit by Ali to what was called the “Sports and Culture Festival for Peace.”
“The Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki had persuaded the Korean regime, then ruled by Kim Jong-Il, that a festival consisting of the type of pro-wrestling you see on TV in the U.S. and elsewhere in the decadent West would be just the thing for global prestige.
“Muhammad Ali was up there in the stands, a guest of honor at the event that was witnessed, according to some reports, by 160,000 people each night.
“Unlike another celebrity athlete visitor, Dennis Rodman, invited to Pyongyang nearly 20 years later by Kim Jong-Il’s son and heir, Kim Jong-Un, Ali did not spout out words of praise. Later I learned that Inoki had talked him into going so he could watch the match between Inoki and the American wrestler Ric Flair. Inoki – and the Koreans – convinced Ali and Flair to be their guests after George Foreman and Hulk Hogan turned down invitations.”
Flair recounted the episode in a book, ‘Ric Flair: To Be the Man,’ written 12 years ago with Keith Greenberg and edited by Mark Madden.
“Because of the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, it was difficult to understand Muhammad Ali when he spoke,” Flair recalled. “But at one point we were sitting at a big round table with a group of North Korean luminaries when one of the guys started rambling on about the superiority of North Korea, and how they could take out the United States or Japan any time they wanted. Suddenly Ali piped up, clear as a bell, ‘No wonder we hate these mother f-s.’ ”