Regional | Aotearoa

Muhammad Ali fulfils Koro’s wish

It's not every day you get to rub shoulders with a boxing heavyweight champion. However, for one small whānau from Cambridge, it was a case of you never know, if you don't try.

The Nordstrom whānau shared their fond memories with Te Kāea of the day they shared with Muhammad Ali during his visit to NZ.

A devout Muhammad Ali fan, the Ali Shuffle was Te Mana Tipene's pride and joy.

“My grandfather used to be a truck driver and named his truck the Ali Shuffle and so my mother rang through and contacted the hotel and said look um are we able to organise to meet Muhammad Ali,” says Jared Nordstrom.

“When I phoned the hotel Intercontinental, I didn't actually tell them that my dad had cancer but I said, look my dad is a great fan, is there any chance we can bring the truck up and for us to meet him. And the manager was brilliant he said absolutely, we'll organise a time to come up,” says Raewyn Nordstrom.

Unaware of Te Mana Tipene's condition, Ali agreed to meet Te Mana and his family and the Ali Shuffle truck. A day Raewyn and her son Jared remember like yesterday.

“I went in and he came down and he was such a nice, just a very real person, I would describe it today as real whānau whānau,” says Raewyn.

“I always looked up to him and I loved my grandfather so for me hearing Muhammad Ali was greatest, it was the two altogether,” says Jared.

Te Mana passed away shortly after the meet and greet. However the Nordstrom family were forever grateful to Ali for taking the time to fulfil their father's dying wish.

Jared says they’re memories they will cherish, “Just the images that we've got there with him, talking to my grandfather, talking to us, posing for photos, like you know I imagine nowadays to meet a superstar or someone of that stature you know you just couldn't do that so I think it was a really unique opportunity.'

A fighter not only in the ring, but also in the political scene, famous for his outspoken views on mistreatment of black Americans and his opposition to the Vietnam War. Jared says many indigenous peoples saw a hero in Muhammad Ali.

“I think that the affect that he had especially on indigenous peoples is that, you know, in his... the way that he put it out there, black was beautiful and you know it was good to be who he was, you know which was African American and there's parallels for all of us especially as Māori, you know it's good to be Māori. It's proud to be Māori,” says Jared.

“He stood up for what he believed in, yes he became a Muslim and decided not to go to war and was penalised, degraded more than anyone would have been today and the decision he made I think was the right one,” says Raewyn.

A battle no longer yours to fight, rest in peace Muhammad Ali.