Tribute to The GreatestAn audience of 600, including...

Off the beat

July 30, 1991

Tribute to The Greatest

An audience of 600, including heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, two former champs and other VIPs, paid tribute in Miami Beach, Fla., yesterday to Muhammad Ali, who won his first title there 27 years ago.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself to keep from believing all the praise," Ali, 49, said. "For years I've been telling people I was pretty good. But I've never been one to brag."

On Feb. 25, 1964, at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Ali upset Sonny Liston for the first of his three heavyweight titles. Yesterday, Hall C of the convention center was renamed the Muhammad Ali Hall of Champions.

Others attending were former heavyweight champions Pinklon Thomas and Jimmy Ellis, longtime Ali trainer Angelo Dundee, Ali's personal physician, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, and former opponent Earnie Shavers.

Dundee started training Ali -- then Cassius Clay -- at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach after the fighter won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Dundee said that while Ali's medical condition -- he is afflicted with Parkinson's syndrome -- is heartbreaking, he's still the greatest.

"He's sharp as a tack mentally," Dundee said. "Ali had what nobody else had. He created a sport filled with boredom and made it fun.

"Everything was a fun trip, and so is this, even the way he is now."

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