The most exciting part of Muhammad Ali's sojourn in Bangladesh was probably the mock fight against a young boy at the Dhaka Stadium. Even though Ali took the fight as yet another stage to entertain the crowd and those watching on TV, it meant a whole lot to that young boy.
Mohammad Giasuddin was only twelve years old when he got this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight the “greatest ever boxer,” after being selected as the junior boxing champion. The skinny and fleet-footed young boy was bubbling with enthusiasm as Ali arrived at the ringside, wearing a red gown and eyes hidden under dark glasses.
“Fighting against Muhammad Ali was the greatest achievement for me because such an incident doesn't happen in everyone's life. Whenever I remember that day, I feel a different type of pleasure,” recalls Giasuddin, now a bulky and bearded businessman approaching 50, as he turns over the pages of dusty old magazines at his Basabo house.
Giasuddin first took interest in boxing after watching Ali on television at the age of 6. He took up the game around that time when he went to watch a practice of champion boxer AK Asadullah at the Basabo ground. One day Asadullah asked Giasuddin whether he would like to learn boxing and his reply was an instant yes.
But getting selected for the fight against Ali was a different story altogether. In fact Giasuddin was not meant to fight against Ali at all. It was MA Rouf, a boxer from Bangladesh Army, who was selected for the fight. But that plan had to be dropped as Ali was in no mood to fight, having just lost his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks and earned a swelling under his eyes in return.
So the organisers instead selected Giasuddin, from amongst a dozen or so young boys, for a mock fight aimed to give people as much entertainment as possible without getting serious. For Giasuddin, though, it was a completely different matter of rubbing shoulders with the world's greatest ever boxer.
“In the first bout, Ali tried to scare me but I didn't pay attention. I rather went forward like a boxer. At one point, Ali started to scream to frighten me. But I kept my nerve and tried to hit him on his face. But to be honest, I could not reach his face as he was too tall; so I kept punching on his belly,” recalls Giasuddin.
There was a lot of drama in the third and last bout as Ali pretended he was dizzy from the hits and fell on the floor as the referee counted from one to three. Ali was declared to have been knocked out by young Giasuddin, much to the cheer and laughter of the spectators.
After that match, many people from his neighbourhood and beyond came to see Giasuddin. Even 37 years later, and after almost 32 years since a motorbike accident cut short his boxing career, Giasuddin still evokes people's respect when they discover that he was the boy who knocked Ali out.