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Jakarta Post

Ali leaves lasting legacy in Indonesia

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, June 6 2016   /  09:32 am

In the history of boxing, Muhammad Ali’s fight against Dutch heavyweight Rudi Lubbers in Jakarta on Oct. 20, 1973 may have been an exercise in preparation for his rematch against Joe Frazier, but the event left a lasting legacy, one that is rich in cultural and political significance.

By staging his fight in a predominantly Muslim country, it was easy for Ali, who converted to Islam in 1965, to get the overwhelming support of Indonesians, 35,000 of whom turned up for the fight at the Gelora Bung Karno Soccer Stadium in Central Jakarta.

It certainly did no harm that Ali’s opponent was a Dutch national.

“Lubbers clearly was a representation of Dutch colonialism and the Indonesian people were energized to see their political victory being repeated in the ring,” sports writer Julio Rodriguez wrote in Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and Culture.

Ali retur...