LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – September 1997 – Louisville was ready to rumble.
Muhammad Ali was coming home and this time, he was bringing an amateur boxing tournament with him.
It was called the Ali Cup and it was the first time an international boxing tournament had been held in the United States outside of the Olympics.
Bearing the Champ’s name, held in his hometown, everyone thought the Ali Cup would sure be a knockout.
During the weeklong tournament, the fighter that traveled the world stayed true to his roots.
Visiting Central High School where a young Cassius Clay attended decades earlier and bringing joy to the children who surrounded him with admiration in their eyes – a real-life superhero walking among them.
Muhammad Ali was present almost every night of the tournament, stirring ovations from star-struck fans.
While the big crowds were the expectation, the low turnout was the reality.
Most nights, hundreds of seats stayed empty at the Commonwealth Convention Center and organizers blamed the low turnout on a late start to ticket sales.
During the semifinals, an estimated 1,100 people passed through the turnstiles.
The Ali Tribute on the final night of the tournament brought in a modest 4,000 spectators – some of them eager to see boxing’s warring warriors.
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson were expected to meet face-to-face at the tournament for the first time since the notorious ear bite just three months earlier.
At the last minute, Tyson didn’t show.
Organizers ended the tournament with optimism – we’ll do everything we can – they said to be back the following year.
Nineteen ninety-eight was met with deliberate silence from the promotion.
The Ali Cup was down for the count turning another page in boxing history.