Boxing legend Muhammad Ali is to visit the Irish town from where his great-grandfather emigrated to the United States in the 1800s, the town’s mayor announced Thursday.
Ali, 67, has finally agreed to take up a long-standing invitation from the town council to visit Ennis, County Clare, reports Reuters. “We will make him very welcome,” Mayor Frankie Neylon told AFP. “We will be delighted to see him. I would hope to arrange a vote of the council to make him a freeman of Ennis.”
Ali will be in Ireland later this month to take part in “An Evening with the Greatest,” a Dublin-based fundraising event for the recently established Alltech-Muhammad Ali Center Global Education and Charitable Fund. The Irish biotechnology firm Alltech established the fund with Ali to promote educational and humanitarian goals. Alltech president and founder Pearse Lyons said Ali will revisit Dublin — where he fought Al “Blue” Lewis in 1972 in front of a crowd of 25,000 — for “a new and equally profound fight, a fight in the name of benevolence.”
Research by genealogists found that Ali’s great-grandfather Abe Grady emigrated to Kentucky in the 1860s. Abe married an African-American and they had a son called John Grady who was Ali’s grandfather. He in turn had a daughter called Odessa Lee Grady who was Ali’s mother. Ali was originally Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior but changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to the Nation of Islam.
Genealogists also claim that both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are descended from Irish families of shoemakers with their ancestors leaving Ireland within weeks of each other in April and May 1849.
Obama’s ancestor came from Moneygall in County Offaly in the midlands and Biden’s is believed to have emigrated from Carlingford, County Louth in the north-east. As a result of waves of migration, about 34 million people in the United States claim an Irish connection today.