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Ali fundraiser is a real knockout; EDGBASTON: The Greatest's poem hooks buyer to boost local health centre.

Byline: By Poppy Brady

A POEM handwritten by boxing icon Muhammad Ali which attracted international interest at a charity auction is to remain in Birmingham after a female fan secured it with a record bid of pounds 4,500Edgbaston-based charity worker Tessa Griffiths outbid rivals from Britain and abroad to buy the verse which she says will now inspire others at the mental illness and learning disability charity Future Health and Social Care.

The ode had been treasured for more than 30 years by Handsworth-born city council worker Kathy Williams who met her hero at a London nightclub where he wrote the verse for her.

It says: "The man who has no imagination has no wings. He stands on the earth, he cannot fly." Kathy decided to donate it at an auction and dinner to raise funds for children who wereorphaned in the Asian tsunami disaster.

The event has raised more than pounds 7,000 to help build an orphan village on the Thai island of Phuket, masterminded by former Halesowen teacher Pastor Brian Burton who has run the Phuket Christian Centre for the past 15 years. Erma Lewis, who organised the event and raises money for the Jamaican Hospital Appeal Fund, said: "We never expected the poem to raise this much, so we're delighted."

Ali fan Tessa, who chairs Future Health and Social Care in Calthorpe Road, said: "When I was a child my dad and me used to watch Ali box on TV. It was like watching ballet.

"I met him when he came to open the Muhammad Ali centre in Birmingham. It was two seconds of my life I will never forget - nobody ever expected him to come to Birmingham. I had my baby son with me and Ali gave him a hug. "I think the poem will be an inspiration to all people who visit our offices.'

MUHAMMAD ALI

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IN THE FRAME... Erma Lewis with Muhammed Ali's handwritten poem
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 6, 2005
Words:325
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