Muhammad Ali was front page news in the Caymanian Compass for four days straight in 1984 when he visited Grand Cayman – twice.
He was the page one photo on Thursday, March 22, the day his anticipated visit was to start. His actual arrival dominated the front page on Friday, the 23rd. His attendance at a slate of boxing matches that night was featured on Monday’s page one, and his unexpected return that Sunday night led to a press conference that was the lead story for Tuesday, March 27.
In between, Ali was the subject of three editorials. He and local boxing also provided enough stories and photos to fill 14 additional pages. Sportswriter Alan Ebanks and reporter Mary Jane Bodden were kept busy, as were photographers, one of whom was Ed Powers.
A major non-sporting event on his schedule was a reception the night he arrived. “Ali graciously walked through the large crowd, giving autographs and posing with anyone and everybody who wanted a picture taken with ‘The Greatest,’” Ms. Bodden wrote. She described him as having the patience of Job “as the crowd flocked to him the entire time he was at Government House.”
After an hour and a half, Ali and his party went to Le Club Cayman for a banquet to benefit the Cayman Islands Amateur Boxing Association. There he told his audience, “I am here to support the efforts that the young amateur boxers are making, and the future champion just could come from your island.”
The next night he watched boxers from Cayman take on a team from Barbados. Darnol Kelly and Sterling Ebanks were singled out for their potential by the president of Ali’s training company, Champion Sports Management.
Cayman Islands Boxing Association founding member (and West Bay MLA) Dalmain Ebanks thanked everyone for their support. According to the published itinerary, Nina Orrett sang the National Song, Truman Bodden declared the tournament open, Dr. Steve Tomlinson was the attending physician, Jim Bodden helped present trophies and Charles Glidden was master of ceremonies. Miss Cayman contestants held up cards to announce each round.
Ali left the island over the weekend, but returned Sunday to announce that former light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad would begin his bid to regain his title with a fight in George Town in May. Ali said he and his entourage felt they should announce the fight first in Cayman as a “compliment to the people of the Cayman Islands who extended such a warm and friendly welcome to them.”
Ali returned to Cayman three months later and the Compass again recorded his presence, this time on inside pages. The fight he had announced for May 26 was to take place on June 29.
He had also accepted an invitation from the Cayman Islands Netball Association to attend an awards banquet at the Lions Centre the night before. He was accompanied by his daughter Miriam, 16.