Jim Henderson, Jacques Morial & promoter Don Hubbard remember Ali at the Dome

Jim Henderson, Jacques Morial, and promoter Don Hubbard remember Ali in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The son of a former mayor, a local promoter, and our own Jim Henderson looked back on the life of Muhammad Ali and a historic New Orleans fight.

Ali regained his heavyweight championship crown for a third time in the Superdome back in 1978, setting a boxing attendance record and helping cement the Dome's reputation as a big event venue. Ali  was larger than life and the massive Dome was  an ideal fit as he sought out a place to try and win back the championship taken from him by Leon Spinks.

"This is bigger than four Super Bowls, this is bigger than the World Series, Indianapolis 500 - ain't nothing as big as me!" Ali said on Canal Street about a month before the fight.

The fight was the brainchild of local promoter Don Hubbard, who personally approached Ali in Chicago  about coming to New Orleans for a fight called "A September to Remember," or sometimes, "The Battle of New Orleans."

"He came alone, no entourage," said Hubbard.

With the help of the allure of the two-year-old Superdome, Hubbard convinced Ali that New Orleans would be a better fit than Miami or Botswana, two other cities being considered.

"He said, 'is it bigger than the Astrodome?' I said, 'it's so big you can put the Astrodome inside of it.' And he said, 'that's big,'" said Hubbard.

It was the first and only fight Hubbard ever promoted. Ali appeared all over town prior to the fight, drawing tens of thousands to Canal Street.

"The throngs of people in the street was almost like witnessing the Pope coming down Canal Street," said FOX 8 sports analyst Jim Henderson, who covered Ali at his Pennsylvania training camp prior to the big fight.

"Ali was so smooth, and Spinks was a product of a difficult upbringing and not smooth in any way," Henderson said.

"He walked with kings and had the common touch," said Jacques Morial, the son of former mayor Dutch Morial.

Jacques Morial had met Ali six years earlier at a convention in Milwaukee when Morial was 11 years old.

"I met him again, and he remembered my name," said Morial.

Ali would go on to beat Spinks before a Dome crowd of more than 65,000 people - a world record. For Muhammad Ali, A September to Remember was about more than breaking the record, it was also to help African-American business people.

"It was a a great opportunity for lots of folks," said Morial.

"I did alright," Hubbard said.

All who knew Ali are saddened by his passing.

"There will never be another like him. He was the greatest and always will be the greatest for so many reasons." Henderson said.

The man, the Dome crowd, and the unprecedented third heavyweight championship will be forever a part of the Superdome's legacy.

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