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Muhammad Ali's search for Irish roots

By Grainne Cunningham

First it was Barack Obama and now it's Muhammad Ali -- does every well-known African-American have Irish roots?

When Cassius Clay first claimed he was descended from "a Paddy", everyone thought he was joking. But it's true. And now 'The Greatest' is on his way to visit the old country.

Next month, the man who could "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" will visit Ennis in Co Clare to retrace the steps of his great-grandfather.

Abe Grady emigrated to America in the 1860s, departing from Cappa Harbour, Kilrush, to the new world, never to return again. He settled in Kentucky and married an African-American woman.

Their son also married an African-American and one of the daughters of that union was Ali's mother, named Odessa Lee Grady. She married Cassius Clay Senior and they settled in Louisville, where their son, later to become known as the 'Louisville Lip', was initially given his father's name on his birth in 1942.

He later changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to the Nation of Islam after winning the world title in 1964.

Ali, now 67 and fighting Parkinson's disease, will take up a long-standing invitation from the people of Clare to visit his ancestor's homeland on Tuesday, September 1.

When Ali's Clare connections were unearthed, Ennis council chairman Michael Corley said: "We would like to honour Ali."

Ali will also revisit the battle ground of his legendary bout with Al 'Blue' Lewis in 1972 in front of a 25,000 crowd at Croke Park in Dublin.

Despite his Irish roots, Ali tossed aside the shillelagh he was handed after arriving at Dublin Airport for that fight. He famously said he didn't need it to club his opponent to death.

Source Irish Independent

Muhammad Ali will also be in Dublin on August 31 for a fundraising night in the Ballsbridge Court Hotel to raise money for the Alltech Ali Charitable Foundation.

The former boxer has teamed up with biotechnology firm Alltech, headed by Dundalk native Pearse Lyons, to establish a fund to raise money for educationally underprivileged children.

A portion of the funds raised on the night will be donated to the Jack and Jill foundation, and to the Irish Rugby Charitable Trust.

In May, Dr Lyons presented Ali with a cheque for $50,000 (€35,000) to establish the Alltech Muhammad Ali Centre Global Education and Charitable Fund.

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