IT WILL not be a shock to those of us who travelled with Muhammad Ali, that a new book reveals he had an insatiable sexual appetitie.
Soon after I went on the road with him at the beginning of the 1970s I quickly realized he made Casanova appear to be a raving misogynist.
Putting the notches on his bedpost must have blunted many a knife as his conquests included black women, white women, young women, old women, Hollywood actresses and lowly chambermaids.
Jonathan Eig, an American journalist and best-selling author in his definitive biography Ali – a life, devotes a chapter to The Greatest’s countless affairs and one-night stands.
The truth is he could easily have filled the 500-plus pages with them.
I was a fringe spectator at the break-up of Ali’s second marriages to Belinda, which ended in a violent confrontation in a Manila hotel suite.
The saga started two months before in Kuala Lumpur, where Ali defended his world heavyweight title against Joe Bugner, in 1975.
At his sparring sessions Belinda sat in the front row chatting and laughing happily with a stunningly beautiful girl I hadn’t seen before.
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Knowing Ali’s reputation, along with the rest of the press corps I was convinced she was his latest girlfriend.
But the leaders of Ali’s large entourage refused to let us get anywhere near her to ask questions.
Pat Patterson, Ali’s Chicago cop bodyguard eventually took pity on us and said her name was Veronica Porche, and she was 19-year-old California actress and model.
So what was she doing there? Pat, with his tongue very firmly in his cheek, confided she was Ali and Belinda’s babysitter!
After Ali outpointed Bugner, Belinda, who was well aware of Ali’s infidelities, and in fact condoned them, went home to America.
Eight weeks later Ali went to the Philippines to prepare for Joe Frazier and the Thrilla’ in Manila, and took Veronica with him leaving Belinda in the States.
President Marcus and his wife Imelda held a reception for Ali and he went with Veronica on his arm.
After the introductions Ali told Marcus “You have a very beautiful wife.”
Repaying the compliment Marcus replied “And so have you.” But Ali omitted to inform him he wasn’t married to Veronica.
The conversation was published in Newsweek magazine and Belinda read it just before she flew out to join her husband.
Belinda had always put up with Ali’s philandering but this time she was fuming.
She felt humiliated in the eyes of the world that Ali had passed Veronica off as his wife – she decided she wasn’t going to take it any more.
Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s doctor, warned me and a few other members of the media to make sure we were in the hotel when Belinda arrived as the proverbial was going to hit the fan.
I shall never forget the look of thunder on Belinda’s face as she swept majestically through the lobby on her way to Ali’s suite.
She was a karate black belt and Pacheco told us as soon as Ali opened the door to greet her she physically attacked the heavyweight champion of the world – scratching his face and trashing the room.
A few hours later we watched as she stormed out of the hotel on her way to the airport and the long flight back to the US. She hadn’t even unpacked her toothbrush.
She declared her marriage to Ali was over there and then. Not long afterwards Veronica Porche became Mrs. Ali III and their marriage lasted nine years..
Belinda told Eig, Ali loved sex and was a sex addict. What is staggering she didn’t mind admitting he had manipulated her to such an extent she not only used to book hotel rooms for his mistresses she agreed not to disturb him when he was with other women.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about Ali but obviously I don’t.
As Belinda said “Ali had a dark side – an evil side.”
Ali may have floated like a butterfly in the ring but according to Belinda in bed it was bam…bam….thank you ma’am.
- Ali – a life by Jonathan Eig, published by Simon and Shuster, price £25
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