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Spirit of Muhammad Ali lives on at Fighter’s Heaven training camp

Anadolu Agency visits site where American boxing great trained 50 years ago

09:43 - 4/06/2022 Saturday
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A view from the training camp called Fighter's Heaven, where US Muslim legendary boxer Mohammed Ali prepared for big matches in 1972, in the rural Deer Lake of Pennsylvania, United States on June 01, 2022.
A view from the training camp called Fighter's Heaven, where US Muslim legendary boxer Mohammed Ali prepared for big matches in 1972, in the rural Deer Lake of Pennsylvania, United States on June 01, 2022.

The spirit of boxing legend Muhammad Ali continues to live on at a boxing camp he founded 50 years ago in rural Pennsylvania.

Anadolu Agency visited Fighter's Heaven in the small town of Deer Lake six years after the icon, who fashioned himself "the greatest," died following an over three-decade battle with Parkinson's disease.

The secluded camp spans several acres on a northeastern Pennsylvania mountaintop, and features a large log boxing gym adorned with tributes to Ali, a kitchen and dining area, and a mosque where Ali prayed.

Mick Stefanek, the facility's general manager, said Ali founded the camp in 1972 during the late days of his career in order to get away from the distractions of New York City and refocus on boxing. He would train at the site for some of his biggest fights, including headliner events against greats Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

"Everything here at the camp has been brought back to life to give you the feel and resemblance of what it was like when Muhammad Ali was here training," said Stefanek.

Ali originally trained on an outdoor ring at mink farm not far from where he would eventually establish Fighter's Heaven. A spate of bad weather left Ali searching for a place nearby where he could build an indoor gym, eventually settling in on a piece of property owned by the farm's owner, boxing enthusiast and promoter Bernie Pollack.

Ali would use the camp up until his final fight against Trevor Berbick in 1981, losing the 10-round fight via unanimous decision.

The boxing great would continue to own the property for nearly two decades after retiring from the sport, selling it in 1997 after leasing it for a dollar per year to a group home dedicated to helping women.

The camp was purchased in 2016 and turned into a museum "to honor the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali," said Stefanek.

There is no entrance fee charged for visitors, but donations are sent to a local organization that works with people with disabilities, the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky and the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research.

"It was free and open when Muhammad Ali trained here, and we want to keep that spirit alive," said Stefanek. "Ali was generous, kind and charitable, and we're keeping that part of his life and legacy alive."

The camp has seen visitors from just about every US state, as well as people from every continent except for Antarctica.

This year will see the camp receive a state historical marker on Oct. 22 to recognize its 50th anniversary with a ceremony in the works.

#Muhammad Ali
#boxing
#Pennsylvania
2 years ago
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