Local man relives 1986 sparring session with Ali

One man's Ali sparring story

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Thirty years ago, Jeff Lally was coming off a Golden Gloves Championship and was training at TKO gym in Downtown Louisville when the Greatest walked in and laid out a challenge that the heavyweight couldn't turn down.

Thirty years later, Lally said he wouldn't believe the story himself if this video didn't exist.

“I had 55 pro fights,” said Lally.  “I fought all around the world. Getting in the ring 30 years ago and boxing against Muhammad Ali is priceless.”

Derby Day 1986 Jeff Lally was hitting the heavy bag when his life changed forever.

“Muhammad Ali came over and asked me if I wanted to give the crowd a show,” said Lally. “I thought he was just joking, but I got to get in the ring with Ali. It was serious business.”

The up-and-coming fighter admits he was in awe of The Champ, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years prior.

“I had just won the Golden Gloves, and his jab was harder than the guy’s I was fighting’s right hand power shots,” said Lally.

True to form, Lally admits that Ali's verbal jabs got him off balance just as they had all-time greats like Liston, Foreman and Frazier.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” said Lally.  “He was talking a little bit of trash to me saying, just think who you’re with boy, you’re in here with The Greatest in the world. Just think who you’re with. You’re getting tired.”

After eight minutes, the sparring session ended, and the Louisville Lip said something to the crowd that Lally will never forget.

“He put his arm around me and he said ladies and gentleman this kid is white, bright, polite, and can fight,” said Lally.

Lally said that sparring session inspired him to take his training to another level. He would go on to become the Kentucky Heavyweight Champion before losing a fight that would have made him the World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Champion.
 


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