Cape Town — Dr Khalilah Camacho Ali regaled the media with tales of the feisty relationship she had with Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali when he married her.
Khalilah Ali was speaking at the launch of the Gerrie Coetzee boxing film 'Against All Odds' on Wednesday, at a city hotel. Khalilah Ali, the second wife of the boxing icon, refers to herself as the first family of Muhammad Al.
She said she first met Muhammad Al when she was 10 years old at a public appearance and by that time she had already converted to Islam (she was born Belinda Boyd). He handed out autographed photos of himself. There he urged the crowd to make sure they had his photograph because he "would become famous" one day.
"He said: 'Listen here little girl. This is my name. I’m going to be famous. You need to keep that 'cause it's gone be worth a lot of money."
Later they again crossed paths at functions and then at the age of 16, she said Muhammad Al told her he wanted to marry her. A few months after her 16th birthday, he married her after converting to Islam.
Khalilah Ali had a hand in Muhammad Ali becoming a conscientious objector because it went against the principles of Islam.
At that point in her address, she that Gerrie Coetzee was a man like Muhammad Ali. Both had strong principles and stood by their beliefs.
"Ali used to tell me about the white man in South Africa who had defied his government because they discriminated," said Khalilah Ali. "How can you not respect such a person. Gerrie was a wonderful person who was prepared to lose everything for the sake of being human.
"Today this fill will reveal so much of Gerrie Coetzee because he was never honoured the way he should have been in this country. With the film, the life of the real Gerrie Coetzee will be revealed."
In 1967, Muhammad Ali lost his heavyweight title after he refused to be conscripted into the US Army.
South Africa's martial arts sensation, Dricus du Plessis, who is on course to become the first African UFC champion, was unveiled as the actor that will play Gerrie Coetzee.