Craig Duncan who has lived in Buriram for six years, sent us this interesting account of his encounter with Muhammad Ali . We thought that following the great boxer’s recent, sad demise, it would be appropiate to share it with our readers.

Its not often that I post about my time living and working in Los Angeles, but I want to share this story about an experience I will never forget. I moved to Los Angeles in 1998 until 2003 for what was to be a dramatic change from my current chosen profession, which is the stuff you read about or see in movies. I worked for a limousine / security service company called CLS as an executive chauffeur. CLS was the biggest and most respected executive transportation company in L.A, as well as in other major cities in the USA. I had the privilege to not only meet Ali during my time but to serve him and his wife for a weekend in 2003.

Ali and wife were in L.A for the weekend to attend a Parkinson’s disease star- studded charity event held at The Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. On my arrival at LAX, I made contact with my rep whose name was Kendy. She meets and greets your client at the gate, brings them kerbside to the vehicle and returns to the terminal to collect their baggage. The vehicle I was driving at the time was a Yukon Denali ,like a Yank Range Rover . I now have Ali seated in the back passenger- side of the vehicle and his wife seated behind me.

As I patiently wait for Kendy to return, some 5 minutes pass but still no baggage. I observe an LAPD cruiser driving past me then it pulled in some 15 yards in front of my vehicle. At this point the two officers started to approach the vehicle. I decided I would exit the vehicle to meet the officers away from my clients. One of the officers explained to me that I had to move as I was breaking the law being parked up. I was well aware of this due to tighter security at all US airports after 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I noticed at this point Ali had exited my vehicle and was now standing leaning against the wall of the terminal . The officer was still asking me to move my vehicle so I turned and gestured towards Ali and said to the officer, ” Sir, you see that man standing there, he is my client.”

The officers noticed it was Ali and said and I quote,” You just stay right here.” Both officers were in awe at the chance not only to see this legend standing some yards away but at the opportunity to shake him by the hand. They approached him and started to talk to him. “Hey Champ this, Hey Champ that, “as they went on.

Within the next few minutes Kendy arrived with the baggage and I started to load it into the vehicle. As I am doing this I observed a United Airlines crew bus pulling up in front of me. When the crew were starting to disembark, someone had clearly noticed the two officers and myself standing with Ali. Now I was in the middle of a situation and needed to get Ali back into the vehicle as quickly as possible. Giles Harrison ,a friend of mine at the time, had some paparazzi at LAX looking for their next big picture to feed the media. Low and behold ,now the “papps” have arrived to take up a photo opportunity that is maybe one chance in their lifetime.

The drive from LAX to Beverly Hills is approximately 30 minutes or so and I decided to take the surface streets through Culver City, Cheviot Hills and onto Beverly Hills. As I approached the Sony Picture Studios to make the right turn onto West Washington Blvd ,I observed a municipal water works van parked up at the intersection. As I glanced in the rear- view mirror I could see Ali had the window fully down and was gesturing with his trade mark clenched fist.

He had caught the attention of the water works guys as I was pulling up at the red light awaiting to make the right turn. I thought to myself any minute now one of the workers is going to recognize Ali. Seconds later one of them shouted to his fellow workers and pointed out Ali in the back seat. Ding.. Ding.. Let round 2 commence for the frenzy to shake Ali by the hand.

I am now out of the vehicle, the traffic lights are at green and I cannot move. I walked around to the passenger side of the vehicle as one of the workers was shaking Ali by the hand with tears streaming down his face.This situation went on for a few minutes or so with all the 5 workers falling over themselves to shake Ali by the hand. At this point the traffic lights had turned from red to green and back to red again. Pedestrians were starting to cross the intersection in front of my vehicle and now I have around 20 people trying to get a glimpse, picture or even talk to Ali .

I called my dispatch as I was worried that a frenzy was about to take place and I needed to get out quick. If my mind serves my correctly, Andrea M Bulletti took my call and informed the Beverly Hills PD to dispatch a car to assist .I now I have 30+ people around my vehicle as the PD pulled up some 5 minutes later.

The BHPD calmed the situation and escorted my vehicle as far as Pico Blvd and went on their way. I had been given instruction to call dispatch 5 minutes out from arrival at The Regent Beverly Wilshire so they could have a welcome party to greet Ali. As I pulled into the hotel driveway, I could see the hotel was hosting an event with a few well-known celebrities pulling into the valet parking area.

As I pulled up to the steps of the main building, I observed 8 hotel employees, management and bell boys standing on the steps. I made a quick exit from my vehicle to allow Ali to get out as the welcoming party were waiting. At this point I observed around 30 guests or so standing applauding Ali. I can honestly say he was clearly so heavily medicated due to his Parkinson’s that he was unaware of the outpouring of total respect he was getting.


As his wife approached me, I gave here my contact information as I was on call that weekend to take care of any requirements they may have. I approached Ali as he was about to enter the hotel and shook his hand. I remember I said to him,” God bless you.” I am not religious in any way, shape or form but I needed to say something to him.


During my 4 years or so with CLS I had the privilege to have worked with some of the biggest names in the music and entertainment business and could most likely write a book on the experiences. I had  VIP all access passes at concerts, movie and TV sets, the privileges that money could not buy. Some of these musicians and actors were my idols growing up and still are to this day.I never was star struck and remained professional in every way. I can honestly say that the pinnacle of my career at CLS was meeting and serving this great man. Unfortunately these days the word “Legend” is used too often to describe people that are no more than average ! One thing for sure, as the world today is mourning the passing of Muhammed Ali, there is no greater or will there be anytime soon such a LEGEND period !




By Juninho