LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) – Muhammad Ali maybe the greatest but for the record, he’s never beat Victor Bender.

“He and I fought to a draw as youngsters,” recalls Bender. “We only had one 1 fight.”

Bender didn’t become a professional fighter but he did become one of Ali’s lifelong friends. The two met as 13-year-olds in Louisville and from the start, Bender knew there was something special about young Cassius Clay.

“He constantly would train. He constantly would work hard,” said Bender. As a young amateur he was dedicated compared to the ones that were there. “

Bender also attended Central High School with Ali. He remembers him not as the Louisville lip but as a shy kid, especially around girls.

“One of the girls said, ‘he’s going to be my boyfriend.’ And the other girl said, ‘no he’s my boyfriend,’” said Bender.  “The champ said, ‘I’m not going to be neither of your boyfriends.’”

Life took the two friends in completely different directions. Bender entered the US army. Ali didn’t. Ali changed names. He became a Muslim. Bender remained Baptist.

“We still respected each other behind that.  By me identifying with his philosophy of what he believed in, he identified with what I believed in.”

In spite of his success, Bender says Ali never changed.

Always a champ in more ways than one.

“He’s always thought about ways to contribute to help someone else. Whether it be monetary or educational, he was always there to assist.”

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