in July 1977, the boxer Muhammad Ali was Heavyweight Champion of the World. He agreed to visit Tyneside to help raise funds for local boys' clubs, after receiving a request from the former boxer Johnny Walker. Perhaps the most significant moment in the trip for the proud Muslim Ali was the blessing of his marriage at the Al-Ahzar mosque in South Shields, an event which was of great importance for the local Yemeni Muslim population. He and his wife Veronica had been married in Los Angeles on 19 June 1977, and the blessing offered further confirmation of Ali’s faith and his importance as a Muslim icon. Ali commented many times during his visit that hefound his welcome on Tyneside to be warmer than any he had received in the United States. Ali also found time to eat one of Tyneside's most important culinary products: a stottie. Among his other activities were a game of darts, a visit to Pendower Special School, an official reception at the Jesmond Banquet House, charity dinners at the Mayfair and the Gosforth Park Hotel, a visit to the Civic Centre, and a long interview conducted by Reg Gutteridge in the Eldon Square Centre which was broadcast on ITV’s World of Sport. During the interview he asserted that, to him, Tyneside practiced what the United States preached in terms of its race relations.
Russell Routledge, Muhammad Ali: Tyneside, 1977 (Amberley Books, 2014); The King of South Shields (2007 documentary).