Mercoledì, 24 Ottobre 2018

Ali's Italian 'godson' bids for European title


(By Sandra Cordon).
Rome, June 6 - Italian boxer Muhammad 'Ali' Ndiaye
says he has a lot to be grateful for as he heads into a major
European match this weekend.
Senegalese-born, Ndiaye was born to a boxing champion
father, and as a baby, he was raised into the air in an informal
pre-bout ceremony by visiting American boxing legend Muhammad
Ndiaye's later marriage to an Italian woman brought him a
family, citizenship, and the stability to pursue a career in the
boxing ring, he says.
Former Senegal champ Ndiaye, 33, faces his next challenge
Saturday night in Brindisi on Italy's Adriatic coast, where he
will face French boxer Christopher Rebrasse for the European
super middle-weight championship.
Ndiaye, who styles himself the godson of Ali, says he is
proud of his African origins, but equally proud to be Italian,
where he has lived most of his life, acquiring a Tuscan accent
along the way.
He credits much of his good fortune to his marriage in 2002
to Federica, a woman he met on a train. The couple now has two
"If I had not married, I'd still be a (street vendor),"
claims Ndiaye, who counts Josefa Idem, Italian Minister for
Equal Opportunities and Sports, among his supporters.
His family life has given him the stability necessary to
focus on becoming a boxing champion, a trait that also came from
his father.
Moussa Ndiaye was a five-time national boxing champion in
Senegal and a friend of Muhammad Ali, the three-time world
heavyweight champion who became Ndiaye's unofficial godfather in
"Today, I am proud to be Italian," says Ndiaye. "Italian
blood runs in my family, my wife and my children are Italian,
even though I was born in Senegal and am happy with this and
with my parents".
The boxer, who lives and trains in the Tuscan town of
Pontedera, not far from Pisa, says he hopes that his life story
might be an inspiration to others, particularly disadvantaged
"There are young people who could become champions, but
they cannot; so they must be given a chance".
His views extend into the political arena, where debate now
rages over suggested amendments to liberalize Italy's
immigration laws. He supports the idea, promoted by Congo-born
Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, of extending citizenship to
children born in Italy to foreign parents.
"Mine is not a unique case," adds Ndiaye. His community of
Pontedera has many foreign-born "promising young boxers,"
willing to serve Italy in the military or in other forms, yet
cannot because they are not citizens.
"They feel Italian, live in Italy, speak Italian, but they
are not nationals," he says.
Ndiaye also likes Equal Opportunities Minister Josefa
Idem's proposal that young immigrants who distinguish themselves
in sport should be entitled to become Italian citizens before
the current age threshold of 18.
As for his future beyond Saturday night's match, Ndiaye
says he might like to someday become a firefighter in Pontedera
when his boxing days are over.
But his greatest dream?
"I would like to get together with Ali, despite his
declining health. He saw me when I was born and then when I was
nine years old, so I have a few memories.
"I would like to see him again".

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