Interview with Beat Stadler

Muhammad Ali Fan of the Year 2001

40-year-old machine constructor Beat Stadler comes from Basel, Switzerland and has followed Ali for over 20 years. He was the only one out of several houndred participants able to correctly answer all the ten questions of the Muhammad Ali Quiz of the Year!

How long have you been an Ali fan? When did you notice him for the first time?
I heard about Ali for the first time due to the excitement leading to the "fight of the century" in 1971. Back then, I was ten years old. Ali vs Norton III in 1976 was the first Ali bout I watched live on TV.

Did you ever write to Ali or even meet him?
In October of 1987, I wrote to him and asked for an autograph which I got five months later. Ali attached a pamphlet about Islam that he also signed.

Are / Have you been an active boxer?
I never boxed, but practised several kinds of martial arts over the last 20 years (Judo, Karate, WinTsun)

What exactly about Ali fascinates you? What distinguishes him from other sportsmen/ celebrities?
He always followed his path without bothering about possible risks. At all times, he persisted on his convictions. His influence on the black power movement in the 1960s is often underestimated in Europe or even not noticed at all. The difference between him and other sportsmen/ celebrities is that he has the greatest charisma.

What was in your opinion Ali's greatest fight? Why?
"The Thrilla in Manila". It was the toughest and grimmest heavyweight bout ever.

What role would the young Ali play in today's heavyweight division?
Hard to decide. Today's top fighters are usually taller and heavier than 30-40 years ago. Due to his speed and agility, Ali would surely be in the Top Five. His hypothetical place does not matter, though. In 10-20 years, when today's champions will long be forgotten, Ali will still outshine everyone.

Is Ali very popular in Switzerland? Did the public pay much attention to his 60th anniversary?
I would say that Ali has the same popularity as in Germany. All of Switzerland's major newspapers published a contribution to his birthday. Being an Ali fan, I was very pleased with the attention paid to him.

What was the best biography you read about Ali?
"Muhammad Ali His Life and Times " by Thomas Hauser (1991)

If you would meet Ali on the street, what would you say to him?
I would introduce myself as great Ali fan. I would ask him who was his toughest opponent. If Ali would answer this question honestly, he would probably have to say it was Ken Norton.