Miami Beach

Medallion dedicated to Muhammad Ali mysteriously vanished years ago

Muhammad Ali, Alex Douad, and Ferdie Pacheco at Miami International Airport.
Muhammad Ali, Alex Douad, and Ferdie Pacheco at Miami International Airport. Miami Herald file

In the concrete floor of Hall C of the Miami Beach Convention Center, where in 1964 a 22-year-old Cassius Clay “shook the world” and upset a heavily favored Sonny Liston, a bronze medallion commemorating the historic fight was embedded 27 years later.

It was a fabulous dedication ceremony in July 1991 to honor the man, now known as Muhammad Ali, by naming the hall after him. A plaque on the wall was unveiled, a tribute from the city of Miami Beach. Along with it, the bronze disk was put in the ground to mark the spot where the boxing ring from that storied fight had stood.

Now decades after he changed his name upon converting to Islam, after his suspension from boxing because of his objection to serving in the military during Vietnam, and after a comeback from his three-year exile from the sport that solidified an unparalleled legacy as the Greatest, that medallion, about 10 inches in diameter, is gone.

Ali, who died at 74 last week, was buried on Friday in his hometown of Louisville.

The round hole where the bronze disk is supposed to be is filled with concrete. Not one of the many people contacted by the Miami Herald can remember what happened to it. Historians are stumped. Older city officials aren’t sure. Some think it might have been stolen 15 to 20 years ago, but a search of police records didn’t yield any reports of a theft.

A bronze medallion commemorating the historic fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston was embedded in the floor of the Miami Beach Convention Center in 1991, but has since disappeared. City of Miami Beach

Alex Daoud, who was the Beach’s mayor when the plaque and medallion were installed, recalled the dedication fondly, noting it was the first time the city had recognized an African American. It had special significance to him, because he says he used to spar with Ali.

“He was such a nice human being,” he said.

Another piece of history can be found in the lobby of the convention center’s executive offices. The scale used at the weigh-in for the 1964 fight is displayed under a signed photo of Ali.

Beach officials want to name Convention Center Drive after Ali and are exploring the creation of a statue or bust to place in the convention center after it is renovated.

Maria Herandez, project director of the convention center district, said the city plans to reach out to the family.

Still, the mystery of the medallion remains unsolved.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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