MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - As public figures paid tribute to Muhammad Ali at a memorial service in Kentucky, Friday, those who knew the three-time heavyweight champ while he honed his skills in South Florida, as well as local residents who continue to be inspired by him, remembered the man who would go on to become “The Greatest.”
Dino Spencer, the co-owner of the 5th Street Gym at 1434 Alton Road in Miami Beach, said South Florida played a pivotal role in the evolution of his professional boxing career. “Cassius Clay was born in Louisville, and Muhammad Ali was born here in Miami Beach,” he said. “Here’s where he was living and training when he changed his name.”
The boxers at the 5th Street Gym, where Ali frequently trained, thanked the iconic prizefighter for their careers in the sport. “He inspired all boxers, not only me but a lot of fighters who come to train here from all over the country,” said professional boxer Marcus Upshaw. “He’s everyone’s idol. Everybody wants to be like him, including me.”
Spencer credited Ali with putting his gym on the map. “Well, Muhammad Ali is why we’re here. There wouldn’t be a world-famous 5th Street Gym if Muhammad didn’t make it world-famous,” he said. “He’s the man, and he laid down the groundwork that everybody’s trying to emulate.”
While training in Miami Beach, Ali stayed at suites 37 and 38 at the Historic Hampton House, in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood. “This was his mainstay, and when he knocked down Sonny Liston for that title [in 1964], he celebrated here,” said Ronald Frazier, chairman of the Historic Hampton House.
Paying their respects to the boxing legend is something that South Floridians, young and old alike, will continue to do for years to come. “He’s a person that I’ve always admired,” said Frazier. “The antics, the whole thing, it doesn’t matter. He was a people person. He helped change this world.”
Ali was referred to as “The GOAT,” an acronym that stood for “the greatest of all time.” With a moniker like that, he may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten.
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