Ali’s passing gives pause to mourn boxing too

“HE WAS MY IDOL”: Former Australian champion Johnny Gorkom says Muhammad Ali had the power to inspire and his death is a reminder that boxing’s good times are gone.

AsLouisville, Kentucky, prepared to farewell Muhammad Ali on Friday, a72-year old former boxer on the other side of the world stood in his Lake Albert bakery and remembered the good old days.

Under a framed photo hailing him as Australianchampion,Johnny Gorkom declared there will never be another Ali and said the death of ‘The Champ’ is a reminder that boxing’s best days were decades ago.

“It’s gone,” Gorkom said.

“Gone.Now, the boxing world, they’ve got too many titles. I’ve never heard of so many titles.”

Gorkom had 38 fights for 29 wins (20 KO) in his professional career.The former Albury boy made his debut in 1961when Ali, then Cassius Clay, was a former Olympic champion who had had only five professional fights.

On 1 May, 1972, Gorkom claimed the Australian light-heavyweight title (later held by Tony Mundine) at Melbourne’s Festival Hall.

On the same date,Ali was fighting George Chuvalo for the second time, havingserved his three years in exile and returned to the ringa household name and worldwide inspiration.

Muhammad Ali tribute video“He was my idol. Hewas the greatest, my word he was,” Gorkom said.

“He just inspired a fella in doing what he wanted to do if you really believed him. And I believed him. He was good.”

Ali ‘made boxing’ in the 1960s and 70s,according to Gorkom. With his speed, footwork, power and personality, the former Olympic champion breathed life into the never-ending battlesto bethe heavyweight champion of the world.

The sport was in its heyday.

“There were fights everywhere,” Gorkom said, whoseownbouts were held everywhere from New Caledonia to the now-demolished Wagga Leagues Club.

NOT THE SAME: Trainer Terry Neason putting Wagga boxer Anthony McCracken through his paces late last year at a near-empty Wagga PCYC.

Respected trainer, Terry Neason, still tutors in the sweet science at Wagga PCYC, across the road from the site of the old club, andfondly rememberswhen it hostedregular fights.

“Boxing was one of the main sports –it was football, cricket and boxing,” Neason said.

“The boys train now andthere’s only a couple of us there. The gym used to be full of activity. It’s just not the same.”

Muhammad Ali funny momentsNeason says it was a great time forAustralian boxing withLionel Rose and Johnny Famechon winning world titles in 1968 and 1969.

“We also had great depth in boxing. You had to be very, very good to be world class,” Neason said.

“With the cheapening of the titles,people don’t understand what a world class fighter is anymore.

“They’re nothing like what they were.”

Wagga PCYC boxing gym.

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