Muhammad Ali was a champion for the ages; he could pummel anyone in the ring. But in 1981, his strength was needed for a different purpose – to save someone’s life.
On January 20th, 1981 in Los Angeles, Muhammad Ali’s public relations manager Howard Bingham saw a young man on the ledge of a window nine stories up. Police negotiators, chaplains, and a psychologist had tried unsuccessfully for hours to persuade the suicidal man to come down [via Slate].
Bingham had an idea; he asked the police if he could bring Ali to the scene. The boxer only lived a mile away. Despite his request being rejected, Bingham called his client.
“I went back to my car and called Ali anyway,” Bingham said. “I told Ali there was a guy up here on a building about a mile from his house and maybe he could get through,” he said in a United Press International story from 1981.
Minutes later, a Rolls Royce carrying Muhammad Ali came racing down the street and ran into the building. The CBS footage taped that day shows the former heavyweight champ hanging out a window next to the struggling man.
When he saw Ali, he shouted, “It’s really you!”
The young man was spouting army jargon and claiming the Viet Cong were coming for him. He was obviously dealing with a mental illness of some kind [via Associated Press].
Ali responded with: “You’re my brother. I love you, and I wouldn’t lie to you. You got to listen. I want you to come home with me, meet some friends of mine.”
Thirty minutes later, the boxer and the man walked out of the building and got into his car. He took him to the police station and then took him to a local Veteran’s Hospital for 72-hour mental evaluation.
The beloved fighter was cheered on by onlookers for his extraordinary deed. Well deserved.