Great Britain

How Muhammad Ali lost to 17-year-old Tyrone Monaghan in Irishman’s back yard and had to sit on smelly bin as punishment

FEW people managed to get the better of Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring. Even fewer achieved it in their own gardens.

But Irishman Tyrone Monaghan can make the incredible claim to fame that he beat the Greatest Of All Time – in his own backyard and in front of a line of wet washing.

What was equally remarkable is that he was just 17 YEARS OLD when he enjoyed an unexpected victory over the three-time heavyweight champion of the world.

The story starts in 1967 when Ali was stripped by US boxing chiefs of his title for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.

Monaghan’s late father Paddy – a world champion bare-knuckle fighter – was angered by this.

He launched a petition and started a campaign in the UK to get Ali’s licence reinstated.

When Ali found out, and following his return to the sport in 1970, the pair became firm friends.

According to Monaghan, the Louisville Lip came to their “house about twenty times or more”.

One appearance came in November 1974 just weeks after Ali beat George Foreman in Zaire in the Rumble in the Jungle to reclaim the heavyweight world title.

However, the most memorable encounter was in August 1983 when Ali made a visit to the family’s modest home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire – and the boxing gloves came out.

He stood back, waved his arms and said: ‘I don’t believe it! He just beat the champ.' And he went over and sat on this smelly bin as a punishment.

Tyrone Monaghan on sparring with Muhammad Ali

Monaghan, now 54, told SunSport: “People knew Muhammad was coming.

“Sometimes it was like a private visit so we didn’t tell anybody. This time there was a crowd at the front of our house.

“My dad, I and our family were in the garden. He got out of the car, along with Howard Bingham.
“Muhammad opened the gate and walked in and he looked at me. He hugged me and straightaway he started to shadow spar and move around.

“I remember my mum gave him an orange juice and satsumas. Then he said to me: ‘Tyrone, do you fancy doing some sparring?’ I thought: ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get it on.’

“Howard gave Muhammad a pair of white gloves. I thought they were really cool.

“We went out in the backyard. I wore my red gloves. In the backyard me and my dad used to train and in the corner we had this old smelly metal dustbin with a rubber lid.

“Muhammad said to me: ‘Tyrone, there are no rounds. Whoever gives up first sits on that bin.’

“So, we’re moving around and sparring. Oh, it was fantastic.

“To be honest, with the exception of the births of my three daughters, sparring with Muhammad Ali was the greatest day of my life.

“I’m a lot shorter than him, obviously, so it was no point going in. But I’m trying to do a Joe Frazier-style.

“He said: ‘Joe Frazier! Joe Frazier! I’m going to whoop you’re a***! I’m going to beat you!’

“I said: ‘Come on, Champ. Let’s get it on!’

“We’re moving and clowning around and it was amazing. He hit me a few times. I hit him a few times.

“Less than four, five minutes of sparring, I stopped. He stood back, waved his arms and said: ‘I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! He just beat the champ. He just beat the champ.’

“And he went over and sat on this smelly bin as a punishment. He told my dad: ‘Paddy, I can’t believe it. I just got whooped. I just got whooped.’”


Away from the jokes and the banter, Ali was very impressed by the youngster’s fighting skills.

Monaghan recalled: “Muhammad said to me: ‘Tyrone, you’re good as I was when I was your age. I want you to come to the States with me.

"I’ll put you in touch with Angelo Dundee and you’ll be well looked after.’

“At the time, I was scared of flying, even from Heathrow to Belfast, which is only an hour’s flight.

“So I said: ‘I couldn’t fly up to America, it’ll kill me.’ I had to turn it down.”

It is claimed Ali had Irish roots and his maternal great-grandfather Abe Grady hailed from Ennis, County Clare before emigrating to the US in the 1860s.

Throughout his school years, Monaghan often spoke to Ali on the telephone when his father was visiting him in the US.

Monaghan said: “Muhammad signed autographs for us. Even though he knew that me, my sisters Claire and Sarah were very shy, he made us feel so comfortable.

“And when he used to visit us over the years he’d always laugh and joke around.

“He once said: ‘Tyrone, do you know why I’m so good at boxing? Because I’m part-Irish.’

“Muhammad was very proud to be part-Irish and he said this to us often when he visited our house.”

Paddy and Ali remained closed right until the American died aged 74 exactly four years ago today.

Northern Ireland-born Paddy, known as the Rough Diamond, was undefeated in more than 100 bare-knuckle fights. He died aged 73 in April 2017.

Monaghan said: “My dad always enjoyed spending time with Muhammad.

“He became bare-knuckle champion in 1974 but bare-knuckle fighting back then was illegal.

“If you were caught bare-knuckle boxing, the place would be closed down and there would be lots of arrests.

“Behind closed doors my dad and Muhammad would talk about it. Muhammad would say: ‘Paddy, you’re one crazy Irishman.’"

Lionel Messi’s obsession with ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali includes a shrine to boxing icon at Barcelona star’s home

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