Black or white, day or night, it didn’t matter. He was just one of those guys. —Muhammad Ali
SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Doyle says that at age 71, time has faded some of his memories of being Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner. But the one thing he won’t forget is how the champ treated him.
“He was a great one. He was a good man, period,” Doyle said.
A Utah native and longtime Sandy resident, Doyle on Saturday said he was Ali’s sparring partner for almost four years at Ali’s camp in Pennsylvania. But there was none of the Ali comedy when they were alone in the gym.
“He didn’t do anything funny as far as training sessions, but he always made you feel comfortable after you got through sparring with him,” Doyle said.
Ali, who passed away Friday night after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, has been praised by major sports, political and entertainment figures worldwide. All the recognition is deserved, according to Doyle.
He said they occasionally went out for burgers and coffee after training sessions.
“He treated me better than I’ve ever been treated,” Doyle said.
In a 2008 Deseret News interview, he called Ali boxing’s greatest fighter. That’s not hollow praise. Doyle himself built a 40-16-1 professional record, losing twice to Jerry Quarry and drawing once. He also fought Joe Bugner, losing on a referee technical decision. Jimmy Ellis knocked him out in 1971.
Doyle decisioned Joe Frazier at the Golden Gloves nationals when they were teens but lost to him on a TKO in 1967. Ellis and Frazier won world titles, while Bugner and Quarry had championship fights.
Doyle never got a title shot, though he was once ranked 10th in the world as a heavyweight. At one point he went on a 17-1 run, but lost 10 of his last 15 bouts. His final fight was in 1975.
Despite missing out on a championship, Doyle remained a fast friend of Ali’s, calling him a “real honest, decent individual.”
“Nobody can take that away from him,” Doyle said. “Black or white, day or night, it didn’t matter. He was just one of those guys.”
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