Alan had the ‘Great’ idea for new Ali play

Alan Muir with a  copy of the playbill from the night Muhammad Ali  boxed in Paisley, a time when most people still called him Cassius Clay despite his conversion to Islam. Also on the card was the legendary Walter McGowan. Pic: Robert Perry
Alan Muir with a copy of the playbill from the night Muhammad Ali boxed in Paisley, a time when most people still called him Cassius Clay despite his conversion to Islam. Also on the card was the legendary Walter McGowan. Pic: Robert Perry
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A controversial visit by boxing icon Muhammad Ali to Scotland at the height of his fame has inspired a new comedy drama.

The Greatest, which will premiere during the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, will recall his infamous exhibition bout at Paisley Ice Rink in August, 1965.

Ali left the arena with boos ringing in his ears after what fans felt was a half-hearted performance against fellow American Jimmy Ellis.

But the debut stage play from Cumbernauld journalist and stand-up comic Alan Muir will suggest Ali had been knocked off his stride the night before his Paisley appearance – after being flattened by a “ginger-haired Glaswegian”.

The show will have a week-long run at Oran Mor in March as part of its “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” series. The Greatest is set in a care home, where an unlikely friendship is struck up between Jimmy, a cantankerous pensioner, and Orwell, a cynical young video blogger.

Alan said: “I’ve always been fascinated by Muhammad Ali. I was amazed when I found out he had visited Scotland in 1965 to take part in an exhibition bout in Paisley of all places.

“The more I uncovered about his visit to Scotland in August of that year, the more I knew I had to write about it. It was fascinating, funny and a slice of Scottish history I had never heard before.

“As fate would have it, it tied in perfectly with a play I was planning – featuring an unlikely friendship between a cantankerous pensioner and a young video blogger.

“The Greatest isn’t just a story about boxing – at its heart it’s about human connection and the importance of family. I hope it’s also funny into the bargain. Jimmy in particular is a brilliant character to write – brimming with one-liners and gloriously profane insights.

“Orwell – his video biographer and confidant – is a great match for him, and the pair challenge each other as their unusual friendship grows. The Greatest touches on a range of themes, happiness, friendship, inclusion, masculinity and the perils of living in the past while you’re trying to hold on to today, and the small matter of whether the world’s greatest boxer was flattened by a ginger Glaswegian.”