ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on February 6th, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Faces In Korea: Muhammad Ali

One of the side benefits of having US military servicemembers stationed in Korea is that many famous celebrities have come to visit the troops there over the years.  However, there probably hasn’t been a celebrity more famous to visit Korea than arguably one of the greatest athletes ever Muhammad Ali.

Ali stopped by to visit US troops stationed at Camp Casey in June 1976 after participating in a exhibition match in Tokyo against professional Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki.  In the exhibition match Ali threw only six punches and made a total of $6 million for the appearance; that comes out to $1 million a punch.  Fortunately for USFK leadership Muhammad Ali came to Korea throwing punches for free.

Muhammad Ali Arrives at Kimpo International Airport

When Ali landed at Kimpo International Airport he was driven through Seoul on a three mile parade route where he was greeted by hundreds of thousands of onlookers who crowded the streets to get a glimpse of the world famous boxer.  The motorcade had to be stopped three times as authorities had to clear the road of well wishers who wanted to shake the hand of the boxing legend.

Muhammad Ali's motorcade drives past Seoul City Hall.

I wonder if there are any celebrities today that could draw the crowds that Muhammad Ali drew in Korea back in 1976?

After driving through Seoul the motorcade headed north to Dongducheon where Camp Casey the main US military installation along the Korean Demilitarized Zone is located.  Here the bulk of the combat power for the US Army’s 2nd Infantry Division is housed.  At the time of Ali’s visit few would have guessed that these same soldiers would two months later almost be engaged in a war with North Korea in the aftermath of the DMZ axe murder incident that led to Operation Paul Bunyan.  However, war was far from the mind’s of the soldiers at Camp Casey when the champ visited the post.  Ali was taken to the Shoonover Bowl outdoor stadium where 2,500 soldiers awaited his arrival.  Here Ali conducted an exhibition boxing match against a US soldier:

Muhammad Ali spars with SPEC4 Gerald Noble. What a lifetime memory this must have been for Noble?

The soldiers, including division commander Maj. Gen. Morris J. Brady, had to wait more than an hour at the theater for Ali’s arrival, delayed by the downtown Seoul welcoming activities.

After a 20-minute speech, the soldiers wanted to see some action.

“All right, fellows. Do you have any boxers out here?” Ali asked.

Specialist Fourth Class Gerald Noble, 28, stepped out. The 202-pound soldier was a Michigan State heavyweight champion in 1967.

They agreed to a five-minute round, in which Noble tried hard but was no match for Ali. The champion danced in and away and landed scores of accurate but soft punches on the soldier-boxer.

After the fight, in which Ali patted Noble on the seat of the pants with his right fist after forcing him into a corner, the champ declared the soldier one of the best men he has fought.

The soldiers booed, and a 149-pounder volunteered to “put up a better fight, if not knock you out.”

The challenger was Private First Class Larry D. Rice, 20.

Ali faked being knocked down twice in a five-minute round with the welterweight, drawing big cheers from the crowd. In the end, however, it was Rice who became exhausted and gave up.

“Ali is a great fighter but today he turned out to be a greater entertainer, too. We love him in this remote area. He must be second to none in every sense,” an enlisted man said. “Second to None” is the slogan of the division.

After the fight, the division commander presented the division souvenir sweater for Ali’s hour of entertainment.  [Stars & Stripes]

PFC Larry Rice jokes around with Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali receives a 2ID souvenir sweater.

As Muhammad Ali met and joked around with the soldiers at Camp Casey I can’t help but wonder what the 2ID commanding general MG Morris Brady thought about Muhammad Ali considering that nearly a decade earlier avoided being drafted into the military due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam.  General Brady was a combat veteran of both World War II and Vietnam and many other soldiers in the division would have been combat veterans of the Vietnam War as well.  I would think that some of them would have had mixed feelings about Ali, but I think everyone would have appreciated Ali going so far out of his way to visit with US troops at Camp Casey.

MG Morris Brady sits with Muhammad Ali as the two watch a martial arts demonstration at Camp Casey.

More pictures from Ali’s visit to Camp Casey can be viewed at the Stars & Stripes picture archive.

Interestingly enough I could not find any other visit by Ali to South Korea besides his 1976 trip, however I did find out that he visited North Korea in 1995.  Ali joined a contingent of professional wrestlers that put on a show in Pyongyang.  This has to be one of the strangest events ever held in North Korea because 1995 was the height of the famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people in North Korea and here the Kim Jong-il regime was using resources to host the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) to execute the event they called “The Collision In Korea“.

What must the crowd have been thinking seeing these enormous wrestlers flying around the ring?  The wrestlers put on two shows over two nights that drew an estimated audience of 380,000 spectators.  The only picture of Muhammad Ali that I could find from his 1995 visit to North Korea was from the Myspace page of professional wrester Scott Norton who was on the trip with Ali to North Korea:

Professional wrestler “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair was one of the people who traveled to North Korea on this wrestling tour and he had an exhibition match against Antonio Inoki, the same professional wrestler from Japan that Ali scrimmaged against before traveling to Korea in 1976.  This match drew 190,000 people and is believed to be the largest crowd to witness a professional wrestling event ever.  In his autobiography Ric Flair recounts his trip to Pyongyang as being extremely eerie.  Here is an excerpt from his book that recounts that despite having Parkinson’s disease Muhammad Ali still hadn’t lost his wit:

Because of the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, it was difficult to understand Muhammad Ali when he spoke. But at one function, we were sitting at a big, round table with a group of North Korean luminaries when one of the guys started rambling on about the moral superiority of North Korea, and how they could take out the United States or Japan any time they wanted. Suddenly, Ali piped up, clear as a bell, “No wonder we hate these motherf*ckers.”

My hair practically stood up on my head. “Oh, sh*t,” I whispered, “don’t start talking now.”

Muhammad Ali was famous for speaking his mind and this has to be one of the best stories about when Ali spoke up publicly what many people were thinking.  Despite only visiting the Korean peninsula twice Muhammad Ali definitely left an impression that probably no other celebrity to visit the peninsula has ever made.

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  • Leon LaPorte
    4:50 pm on February 6th, 2012 1

    I call shenanigans. Everyone knows Koreans love John Denver above all!

    Go ahead. Someone deny it.

  • jeffreytg
    7:55 pm on February 6th, 2012 2

    As close to the army as that draft dodger would get.

  • JoeC
    9:15 pm on February 6th, 2012 3


    Depends on how you define draft dodger. He didn’t run away to Canada or pull political connections to get out it. He just publicly stated why he was against it, refused to go and accepted to serve time in prison for his convictions.

  • Yea yea yea
    9:45 pm on February 6th, 2012 4

    Sir, Americans don’t give a dam about a draft dodger from a war Americans should not have been in. Those people are still alive and I am wearing shoes and eating on a kitchen table made in Vietnam that I bought at JC penny. Example former president Clinton two time president and with all kinds of BS under his belt and still got reelected 2nd time and Barack Hussein Obama smoking a joint. Now what Americans do care about is their young kids keeping their head on their their neck. Muhammad Ali is a perfect example who Americans are that why American love him so dearly. Ali once said no Vietnamese ever call him n***** and he was not going across the water to kill any. That made perfectly good sense then and it make perfectly good sense now. If you want to loose your neck hang around the US government and their wacky foreign policies.

    And that same attitude is reflected in the US government doing business with Red China If it was as bad and real as the Korean war then one could charge the US government with treason for doing business with a Communist nation: I didn’t think so. I know they got issues to but with a little fine tuning they could give America a run for it’s money. Now who ever you are if you had any patriotism about yourself you would go down to Leavenworth and request that Private Bradley Manning be release from Jail unconditionally and the real criminal put behind bars GWB, RBDC,CR and CP,? whom they got 5000 young Americans murdered and thousands of innocents Iraqis killed over a illegal war. If the war was not warranty those document are not legal. and etc. on a Sovereign nation. And I was rite there when Ali came to Camp casey (schnover bowel training area)

  • Leon LaPorte
    11:11 pm on February 6th, 2012 5

    3. Same same. The minor details are unimportant with the end result being the same. That said, I never heard a whole lot of hate expressed toward him. I think Hanoi Jane and friends helped by absorbing most of it (and rightly so).

  • Tbonetylr
    3:31 am on February 7th, 2012 6

    “U.S. Embassy Brings Ali to Korean Youth…”
    Sign up by Feb. 13th for the 17th gathering at the Embassy.
    “The film was chosen by the American Center this month to commemorate Black History Month and will be presented by Osborne D. Burks from the U.S. Embassy to moderate and lead the follow-up discussions.

    The monthly American Cinema Evenings provide Korean youths an opportunity to explore American culture, history and society through film. The films are selected to help Korean students understand particular American themes.”

    Not you Laporte, you’re too old.

    The “film” – 2001 movie “Ali” is a biographical film directed by Michael Mann and starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Jon Voight.

  • Jack
    5:12 am on February 7th, 2012 7

    #Laporte Not same same. Ali didn’t “dodge” anything. He took the punishment for standing up for his convictions. Unless you don’t understand the meaning of the phrase phrase “draft dodger”, Ali can in no way be called a draft dodger.

    The details are important, even if you don’t think so. Think again.

  • ChickenHead
    5:38 am on February 7th, 2012 8


    …the best they could do for Black History Month was finding a roll model whose accomplishment is beating the funk out of other people better than anyone else?

    When the “black community” starts recognizing successful black scientists and businessmen instead of focusing on athletes and rappers, the divisions will be greatly narrowed between the successful “mainstream” American culture and the failed urban-influenced Afro-centric racist culture.

    Black History Month is painful… as it promotes division rather than inclusion… and is another tool used to insures that the lazy profitability of mostly-manufactured racism will continue.

  • No Fan
    5:43 am on February 7th, 2012 9

    I am no fan of the original trash talker, bigot and womanizer. Best thing to happen to him is when Joe Frazier put him on his big ass in Madison Square Garden and shut his mouth!

  • jeffreytg
    6:57 am on February 7th, 2012 10

    The fact that Ali went to jail does not make him a non draft dodger anymore than a thief going to jail is no longer a thief. Punishment does not erase the crime.

    While one may present a compelling argument against the Vietnam war, our society does not permit the citizenry to be selective in which wars they allow themselves to be drafted into and which they don’t. The people failed to do that, thus the war was waged and those drafted had a duty to serve.

    Ali may is his mind, and in that of others, have taken a stand for conscience, but that still makes him a draft dodger.

  • maj.America
    7:07 am on February 7th, 2012 11

    Ali was a man of genuine conviction. A flawed man, but nonetheless a man of principle and that is why people love and admire him to this day.

    @Gi Korea
    He converted to Islam three years before he was drafted so to say he did so just to avoid being drafted is a bit disingenuous especially since he has maintained is Islamic faith throughout his life.

  • maj.America
    7:23 am on February 7th, 2012 12


    I agree with you that Ali was indeed a draft dodger, and I generally look twice at any able bodied man of the era that didn’t serve in Vietnam not just the ones that numbers were called. There were tons of draft dodgers that used college and whole host of reason to avoid that draft. Even though I personally tend to look unfavorable of draft dodgers of that era I still don’t discount the legitimacy of their reason for doing so. I just tend to hold the ones that fought in higher esteem.

    For discussions sake If the thief that you mentioned later had his conviction overturned by the supreme court does that still make him a thief?

  • Thomas Lee
    7:54 am on February 7th, 2012 13

    #12… wouldn’t it depend on the reason for the conviction being overturned?

    Oft times defendants have cases dismissed or overturned for reasons other than true innocence.

    A better analogy would be; if one is arrested for drunk driving but then pleads down the DUI to reckless driving, was he still guilty of driving drunk? Yes, he was. And that’s how the insurance company and others will view it also.

  • guitard
    8:14 am on February 7th, 2012 14

    Ali was a man of genuine conviction. A flawed man, but nonetheless a man of principle and that is why people love and admire him to this day.

    They love him because he’s a man of principle? I think people love him because he’s a celebrity and America loves celebrities.

    He had (at least) a few affairs and two children from extra-marital relationships.

  • tbonetylr
    8:33 am on February 7th, 2012 15

    # 13,
    Nice try but pleas/dismissals/overturns don’t show up on CRC’s. Relevance? Unless said person admits to copping a plea etc…, most folk(employer for example) won’t know.

    A reckless driving conviction ain’t gonna say that the charge was originally whatever.

  • Hot Stuff
    8:36 am on February 7th, 2012 16

    I am no fan of the original trash talker, bigot and womanizer.

    I have to agree. Ali was a pioneer of in yo’ face, trash-talking and grandstanding. Before Ali, it was noble to be a humble champion — your achievements spoke for themselves. But Ali made it fashionable for athletes to strut, brag, and bad-mouth their opponents. Maybe he learned that from professional wrestling, another shameful slice of Americana.

  • tbonetylr
    8:42 am on February 7th, 2012 17

    #9 No Fan,
    “I am no fan of the original trash talker, bigot and womanizer.”

    Too bad the U.S. Embassy sees Ali as someone more worthy to promote to the Korean youth than yourself. Please, tell us how you aren’t a “trash talker, bigot, and womanizer?”

  • tbonetylr
    9:00 am on February 7th, 2012 18

    # 16 Hot Stuff,
    “Maybe he learned that from professional wrestling, another shameful slice of Americana.”

    So shameful almost 200,000 N. Koreans attended on two separate occasions back in the 90′s. And, still today I hear S. Korean youth ask me about WWE, TNA etc..

    I know they’d rather ask me about philopon(or whatever Koreans call it) but they’re too afraid or know I’ve never heard of the code word before.

  • Lemmy
    10:12 am on February 7th, 2012 19

    What a great man!

  • yea yea yea
    10:33 am on February 7th, 2012 20

    Since we are talking about fighters It really make me wonder how low some human being will stoup to pay homage to their hero’s like the coward Napoleon Bonaparte who left thousands of men to die in cold and to die in Spain when the fighting got hard. He high tailed back to France. Nothing but a thief, coward, murderer and womanizer… and the latter I don’t hold that against him, that’s by virtue of nature. You do better posting up Saddam Hussein at least he stayed with his men to very end.

  • jeffreytg
    10:51 am on February 7th, 2012 21

    @12: if a conviction is over turned- the individual is no longer a convicted theif. Whether or not he is a a thief is known by he and his god.

    By the way, I have no hard feelings in general towards Ali, he was one great fighter and possibly an even greater showmen. I simply, won’t give him credit for visiting troops when he refused to serve himself. Having Ali around soldiers would be like having one’s 19 year old daughter near JFK.

  • Hot Stuff
    12:34 pm on February 7th, 2012 22

    #18, I never said it wrestling (and that type of showmanship) wasn’t popular…problem is some things should simply be viewed as entertainment and left at that. Instead those kind of antics have become a part of American culture and is now common behavior among the population in general — regrettably, imho.

  • yea yea yea
    12:41 pm on February 7th, 2012 23

    Since we are talking about fighter. Here in north America the white man really don’t have any respect for the so call black man here. Reason is the fight that all humans,animals and beast are borned with for the survival of the species is not in the black man nature anymore in America. It has been bred out of him. He has been left with nothing to defend himself with, respect for self determination, a dark contrast between the African on the African continent and the descendant’s of Africans her in America. Don’t get me wrong he will fight alone and beside you but he will never organized against you or his oppressors. Black man has not shown the white man any real fight for life, liberty or justice. In consequence he the white man gave mercy to the black man because he showed no fight left in themselves. Now look at the natural peoples of this land the so call American Indians participants: chiefs of The Iroquois, Oneidas, Osage, Tuscaroras, Cherokees, Chickamaugas, Muskogee, Shawnee, Miami, Lenape, Choctaws, Seminoles, Apache, Sioux, Utes, Cheyenne, Nez Perce, Paiute, Bannock, Yaqui, Navajo, Blackfoot along with approximately 400 other great Indian Nations gave the white considerable fight back in the day that he the white man hold a warp sense of respect for the Americans Indians.
    Now look at one of the most forward deployed Army division in the American arsenal is 2nd Infantry Division and what do they wear on their shoulder and what do they have for that division mascot. a Indian head. Now that showing respect to the Indians that fought hard and kept them awake at night doing the Indians wars, lol. To get any respect out of the white man you got to fight him teeth and nail to get his attention and his . Example ask the north Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and the US has taken such a beaten from the Taliban. I think the American would have been better off like the french and just paying off the warlords not to kill their soldiers because the french peoples will not sit by and watch their countrymen killed needless. Another thing I notice with America foreign polices is that some countries take for example north Korea can get away with anything IE counterfeiting, kidnapping, bulling your neighbors, killing, firing weapons indiscreetly, threatening with nuclear destruction’s and so on. One thing for sure you get yourself a nuke or two you want have to worry about the super power invading your country. I guess that why Iran and South Korea want them so bad yep I said it yes South Korea want it own nuclear program but they are real quiet about it. “They say we are responsible, so why we can’t have our own nuclear program,” so they can better sleep at night. great equalizer shrink the super power and raise the small country status.

  • Ole Tanker
    2:55 pm on February 7th, 2012 24

    I bet CSM King is a big Ali fan. :cool:

    She played the game, got a paycheck AND never saw Combat!! :cool: :cool: :cool:

  • Leon LaPorte
    3:15 pm on February 7th, 2012 25

    11. So he chose his religion over his country. That concerns me greatly but is a topic for another discussion.

    Muslims serve in the military now. What changed? It’s been my experience that the Islamic faith does not preclude killing.

    Regardless, though I really have no personal animosity toward the man, I must say no one in my family was drafted. They all volunteered and Ali is a draft dodger no matter how you slice it.

    23. What is your native language? Have you tried Google translator?

  • Thomas Lee
    4:06 pm on February 7th, 2012 26

    #15… you’re a bit off. Close, but not totally correct and I can make this claim as a person with (regrettably) experience.

    More than 10 years ago I was arrested for DUI. I pleaded the DUI charge down to reckless driving, but my insurance company still viewed the original charge as a reason to cut my insurance (as I was told by them). Also, a couple of years later I went to Canada. Upon my arrival, I was told I was not “admissible” into Canada as I had been arrested for DUI three years prior and in Canada, a DUI is a felony offense. I was arrested for DUI, but not charged with DUI, yet the DUI arrest still shows in my records.

  • Leon LaPorte
    4:12 pm on February 7th, 2012 27

    26. Good point. It’s a bit like being accused of “rape” in the military. No conviction is required. So much for due process and all that muckity muck.

  • JoeC
    4:15 pm on February 7th, 2012 28

    If you lived in the Civil Rights and Vietnam era and weren’t shaped in ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative communities you could have a broader context to view Ali and the Vietnam War.

    I went to a Jesuit high school in New York city. Many of the teacher were Brothers; non-ordained members of the Catholic church. Some of them often told us of their participation in anti-Vietnam war protests and were proud of having been arrested for it. Ironically, my high school also had a JROTC program which I participated in. The program lost a significant amount of support and funding during and after the Vietnam war and students were discouraged from wearing their uniforms to school for a time for their safety outside the school, but within the school there was never any antipathy between the ROTC and non-ROTC students. The other major Jesuit high school in the city also had a JROTC program. Co-existing with a long standing ROTC programs went to show, most Jesuits weren’t simply against war, they were just against the Vietnam war. The teachers were also very open to free discussion and debate. Students were free offer critical opinions of their anti or pro Vietnam war positions. We were even free to offer critical opinions on all major social issues of the time, including the rightness, wrongness or usefulness of religion in any of it. The conversations were always cordial and civil and most usually came away feeling they really learned something. From that experience, I have a number of perspectives from which to view the war.

    In my home, my mother and father were often of opposing views on various aspects of Ali — Ali the Fighter, Ali the Talker, Ali the Muslim and the Nation of Islam, and Ali’s role in and out of the civil rights movement. I’ve crossed paths with Ali in person a couple of times in my life. So, I also feel I have a number of perspectives from which to view him.

    Even before he became a UN Goodwill Ambassador Ali became one of the most famous and recognizable persons globally. He didn’t accomplish that solely through his boxing. There was much more about him that resonated with people throughout the world.

    #6 mentions the US Embassy will show the Ali movie and offer a period for discussion. I never saw the movie and don’t know how or what parts of Ali are portrayed, but I do believe that Ali, in the context of his time in American society, can be a useful topic for discussion to understanding America then and now.

  • Avatar of BillBill
    4:56 pm on February 7th, 2012 29

    In 1972 my father owned standardbred race horses that were racing at Brandywine Raceway near Wilmington Delaware. I had gone down there with my father but my younger brother and Mother didn’t at first. They joined us eventually, flying down on National Airlines from one of the NYC Airports to Philadelphia.

    Mom and my brother George got to meet Ali on the flight and got his autograph too. George had all the luck meeting celebrities or famous people. Leonita, my wife, has done similarly. Cardinal O’Malley, The Duke of Marlborough, Newt Gingrich, and Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. Me on the other hand have met Stanley Dancer and Nell Carter.

    Oh the Priest that married us,is Leonita’s close friend. Father Jimmy is now an acting Archbishop at the moment.

  • Tai Ann Noble
    1:16 pm on August 17th, 2012 30


    I am the daughter of Gerald Noble. My name is Tai Ann Noble-Boone I am writing because i have waited my whole life to see my fathers accomplishments published for all to see. This brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Thank you so much for this, my dad is going to be overjoyed! :razz:

  • Scott Robertson
    3:30 pm on August 2nd, 2013 31


  • Scott Robertson
    3:43 pm on August 2nd, 2013 32

    Hey everyone. I was attached to HHQ barracks right across the street from where Ali boxed that day. I was a personal chauffeur and clerk for Maj. Lonnie Hartley in G-3, Airspace Management Element. 2/61st ADA. Loved it. My own personal jeep with 2-week dispatches from Camp Mosier where I was stationed at as a Vulcan Crewman. I was standing right next to Ali for a minute. His motorcade was huge. And you guys remember that little dude talking smack to Ali? I cracked up when Ali had him on the mat and sitting on the guy with a fake ground and pound. Very memorable day. Nobody believes a damn thing i tell them about Aug. 18th or the Ali visit. Most people don’t care about us. F@&k ‘em! I did it for my people who respect what we do. Was up all night as trucks rolled back and forth. I knew something but my clearance was only secret and not top secret. Sure enough
    In the morning the alert went off. WAR WAR everyone was fired up. I was ready. Might have died but didn’t. Thank you all. Neemy Sheemy.


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