Former Muhammad Ali training ground honored with historical marker

Former Muhammad Ali training ground honored with historical marker
Muhammad Ali trained at the Presbyterian Community Center under Fred Stoner Sr. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - One of the Louisville locations that once served as a training ground for “the Greatest” has been honored with a historical marker.

The installation was unveiled Saturday outside the Presbyterian Community Center in the Smoketown neighborhood, adding to a growing series for the icon in metro Louisville. The building is now home to the Smoketown Family Wellness Center.

The building has been standing since 1892.

The Presbyterian Community Center in Smoketown was formerly known as Grace Hope Presbyterian Church.
The Presbyterian Community Center in Smoketown was formerly known as Grace Hope Presbyterian Church. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Though Ali did train at Columbia Gym under Joe Martin, he also honed his stinging boxing skills under the supervision of Fred Stoner Senior.

“What most people don’t know about the story then is yes, he trained there. But he would come over and train here under Fred because this was more where the African Americans trained, who were more fluid in their boxing style,” Mayor Greg Fischer explained.

Stoner’s family, including his son, were present as the latest marker was unveiled on Saturday.

Fred Stoner Jr. spoke about his father's community impact, which he says extended beyond boxing.
Fred Stoner Jr. spoke about his father's community impact, which he says extended beyond boxing. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

“My dad just didn’t influence my life, he influenced a lot of other lives,” Fred Stoner Jr. said. “Not just because of the boxing; he was a character builder.”

Stoner Sr. was the first African American to be named to the Kentucky Boxing Commission. He passed away in 1981.

While an Ali historical marker has already been installed outside his childhood home on Grand Avenue, Fisher said there are plans to place markers at other notable spots in the city. That includes Chickasaw Park, where he ran in the morning before school, Columbia Gym, the origin of the now famous red bike theft, and Central High School, Ali’s alma mater.

The event helped cap off Ali Week in the metro, dedicated to honoring the icon through service and fellowship on the anniversary of his death.

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