Ali's unlikely friendship with sportscaster Howard Cosell

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Ali was a brash, young black boxing champ from Louisville, Kentucky, and Cosell was a Jewish sports reporter from Brooklyn -- but the two formed an unlikely friendship. (WPVI)

Muhammad Ali will always be remembered both for his powerful jabs in the ring and his playful barbs outside -- and one man who was a frequent foil for his one liners was ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell.

Ali was a brash, young black boxing champ from Louisville, Kentucky, and Cosell was a Jewish sports reporter from Brooklyn -- but the two formed an unlikely friendship.

For over 30 years, they played their roles to perfection -- Cosell as the pompous commentator, and Ali had just the needle to puncture that pomposity.

But there was also genuine respect and affection -- especially when Ali felt slighted by others. When Ali adopted a Muslim name, so many people refused to call him Muhammad. Cosell was one of the first reporters to address him by his chosen name. And when Ali was banned from boxing and imprisoned for refusing to be drafted, Cosell stood by him.

And in a touching moment at Ali's 50th birthday in 1992, just a few years before Cosell died, the sportscaster came to the podium to honor his friend.

"All of the years, all of the times together, I've enjoyed them," Cosell said. "You're a very special man. With a very special meaning to all of the American people. I congratulate you. It's my honor. Your name is Muhammad Ali."
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