From the Stars and Stripes archives

Ali mixes it up with GIs in Korea

Muhammad Ali receives a 2nd Infantry Division sweater after watching a martial arts demonstration by Spec. 4 James Sylvester and Sgt. Fletcher Woods in South Korea in June, 1976.


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 29, 1976

SEOUL — World heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who collected $6 million for about six punches in Tokyo Saturday, earned a souvenir sweater for hundreds of punches at a U.S. Army unit Sunday.

Ali fought exhibitions for the U. S. 2nd Infantry Division after receiving a hero's welcome in downtown Seoul from hundreds of thousands of Koreans.

"One million dollars a punch," Ali said of his 15-round draw Saturday with professional Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, who spent most of the bout on his back trying to kick Ali down.

"And you are going to see hundreds of punches for nothing," he told more than 2,500 American soldiers at the Shoonover Bowl outdoor theater 12 miles below the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea.

The soldiers, including division commander Maj. Gen. Morris J. Brady, had to wait more than an hour at the theater for Ali's arrival, delayed by the downtown Seoul welcoming activities.

After a 20-minute speech, the soldiers wanted to see some action.

"All right, fellows. Do you have any boxers out here?" Ali asked.

Specialist Fourth Class Gerald Noble, 28, stepped out. The 202-pound soldier was a Michigan State heavyweight champion in 1967.

They agreed to a five-minute round, in which Noble tried hard but was no match for Ali. The champion danced in and away and landed scores of accurate but soft punches on the soldier-boxer.

After the fight, in which Ali patted Noble on the seat of the pants with his right fist after forcing him into a corner, the champ declared the soldier one of the best men he has fought.

The soldiers booed, and a 149-pounder volunteered to "put up a better fight, if not knock you out."

The challenger was Private First Class Larry D. Rice, 20.

Ali faked being knocked down twice in a five-minute round with the welterweight, drawing big cheers from the crowd. In the end, however, it was Rice who became exhausted and gave up.

"Ali is a great fighter but today he turned out to be a greater entertainer, too. We love him in this remote area. He must be second to none in every sense," an enlisted man said. "Second to None" is the slogan of the division.

After the fight, the division commander presented the division souvenir sweater for Ali's hour of entertainment.

At a news conference in Seoul earlier, Ali said Inoki was scared and spent most of the fight on his back because of "my taekwondo punches," which All called "deadly." He said he had been practicing the Korea self-defense martial art for some time.

The champion had been greeted earlier with a planeside ceremony when he arrived for a three-day visit.

Later, he drew wild cheers and applause along a three-mile parade route from the airport to City Hall plaza. His car had to stop briefly at least three times because the street was filled with people, many of them eager to shake his hand.

Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali watches a martial arts demonstration during his visit with 2nd Infantry Division troops at Recreation Center 4, about 20 miles north of Seoul. At left is Brig, Gen. Thomas D. Ayers, assistant commander of the 2nd ID.

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