When Ali Came to Ireland

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When Ali Came to Ireland
When Ali Came to Ireland (screenshot).jpg
Muhammad Ali during a 1972 interview in Ireland
Directed byRoss Whitaker
Produced byAideen O'Sullivan
True Films
Release date
  • 2012 (2012)
Running time
50 minutes

When Ali Came to Ireland is a 2012 Irish documentary film directed by Ross Whitaker. It tells the story of how Killorglin-born circus strongman and publican, Michael "Butty" Sugrue, put up £300,000 and persuaded the renowned American boxing champion Muhammad Ali to make his first visit to Ireland to fight against Alvin Lewis in Croke Park on 19 July 1972.[1]

Ali went to Ireland with an entourage on 11 July 1972 to spend time training for the fight.[2] While there, he was interviewed for RTÉ Television by Cathal O'Shannon and was taught the rudiments of hurling by Eddie Keher.[3][4]

Ali won the Lewis fight with a technical knockout in the 11th round, and Sugrue lost a lot of money bankrolling it. The documentary was first broadcast on RTÉ One on 1 January 2013.[5][6][7]

Ali returned to Ireland twice in later years. He took part in the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003,[8][9] and he visited the birthplace of his great grandfather, Abe Grady, in Ennis in 2009, where he was made an Honorary Freeman of the town.[10]



When Ali Came to Ireland won the Best Sports Programme award at the 10th Irish Film & Television Awards.


  1. ^ New year's treat as Ali's Dublin date relived on the box Irish Examiner, 2012-12-17.
  2. ^ "The Big Fight: Muhammad Ali v Al 'Blue' Lewis", Dave Hannigan (2002). ISBN 978-0-224-06306-7.
  3. ^ How a circus strongman lured the ringmaster Muhammad Ali to Dublin Irish Independent, 2012-12-22.
  4. ^ End of the long road to get Ali's visit on film Irish Times, 2012-12-31.
  5. ^ New documentary focuses on "When Ali Came to Ireland" - VIDEO Irish Central, 2012-12-18.
  6. ^ When Ali Came to Ireland RTÉ Press Centre, 2012-12-20.
  7. ^ Glove story: the day the lord of the ring bewitched Ireland Irish Independent, 2013-01-05.
  8. ^ Legend of Ali-Lewis fight in Dublin grows with each year ESPN, 2008-07-18.
  9. ^ "Muhammad Ali to attend Olympics", Sunday Mirror, 2003-06-15.
  10. ^ Ennis honours Muhammad Ali RTÉ News, 2009-09-02.

External links[edit]