AS Muhammad Ali’s business manager, Gene Kilroy was one of “The Greatest’s” closest confidants. One year on from Ali’s passing, the man known as “The Facilitator” looks back on some of his memories of Muhammad.
‘Death in the air’
I went into the dressing room when they were wrapping George Foreman’s hands [before the Rumble in the Jungle in October 1974]. [Foreman’s trainer and light-heavyweight legend] Archie Moore was walking around in there, saying ‘I smell death in the air.’ I went back to Ali’s dressing room and told him what Moore had said. Ali responded by saying, ‘I can’t wait to get Foreman.’ But the one who told Ali how to beat Foreman was [legendary trainer] Cus D’Amato [whom he spoke to on the telephone before travelling to Zaire for the fight]. He was a brilliant, brilliant boxing man. Ali had a lot of respect for him.
A member of the family
I was very close to Ali and his family. I’ve never told this story before, but when my mother died, I came home and was sitting on my bed with tears in my eyes. The phone rang, and it was Ali’s mother. Miraculously she’d just called – she didn’t know about my mother’s passing. So I said to her, ‘My mother just died.’ And she said, ‘OK. You’ll be my son now, and I’ll be your mom. If you need anything I’m there for you.’ That’s the type of person she was. I was part of the family. I was respected by Ali’s family, his children, the Nation of Islam. That’s what it’s about – being respected.
In conversation with the greats
One time, someone asked me if I had any fears in my life. I said the only fear I have is that one day I’m afraid my mother’s going to wake me up for school, and I’ll realise that everything’s been a dream. It’s something special to be able to say that I was able to sit down with Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Billy Conn, Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson.