Wigan artist pays tribute to ‘the greatest of all time’

Doreen and Brian Meadows with Ali at a dinner in America
Doreen and Brian Meadows with Ali at a dinner in America

A Wigan artist has paid a touching tribute to the boxing legend Muhammed Ali following his recent death.

Brian Meadows and his wife Doreen met Ali on several occasions through their role as the official artists for the Lonsdale International Sporting Club.

Many of the fight game’s all-time greats are proud owners of their work including Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Willie Pep, Floyd Patterson, Ali, Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez, Naseem Hamed and the legendary Detroit hitman Thomas Hearns.

But it’s Ali that Brian, from Hindley, describes as the greatest sportsman of all time and was, in private, a genuine, humble and polite gentleman.

He told the Observer: “He was such a kind and generous man. I met him several times and myself and Doreen had dinner with him at an event in London where he signed some of our prints to raise money for charity.

“You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer person, he was just genuine.

“I remember when we were sitting having dinner with him turning to Doreen and saying ‘this is me and thee from Hindley’. People still don’t believe we met him.”

Brian, 68, had a brief meeting with the great man in Atlantic City in 1992 but it was a year later when Ali was in London for a show about his life that the artistic duo were handed their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The couple had been asked to fill the host theatre with an exhibition of their work and having perused the pieces Ali declared the Hindley pair to be “greatest sporting artists of all time.” Brian and Doreen are well known for backing local charity causes and said Ali was more than happy to sign some prints.

And later, after dinner, the boxing legend marvelled at Brian and Doreen’s inclusion of a butterfly sitting on one of the towels draped over Ali’s neck in their depiction of him.

Ali, the Olympic gold medallist and heavyweight boxing champion, died on June 3 aged 74.

He was laid to rest last week in his hometown of Louisville in Kentucky.

Brian said: “I was very sad when I heard the news of his passing, I was away working and didn’t feel up to much that day.

“I watched the funeral on the TV and it shows what a man he was that everyone spoke so highly of him.

“Perhaps Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest boxer of all time but Ali was the greatest heavyweight of all-time and definitely the greatest sportsman out of the ring.

“It’s a new era now but Ali was the best at promoting fights, if he wasn’t a boxer he could have been a comedian.

“Now it’s all about bad blood but Ali was always tongue-in-cheek.”

Brian said he and Doreen, who are now semi-retired, feel extremely privileged to have met Ali and will cherish their memories of him.

The Hindley artist also said he can confirm that one of the so-called great myths relating to Ali’s renowned wit is in fact true.

He said: “When we were on the flight to Atlantic City, the air stewardess asked Ali to put on his seat belt.”

He replied along the lines of: “I don’t need to buckle up; Superman don’t need no seat belt.”

To which the stewardess said: “Superman doesn’t need a plane, either.”