COLLECTING memorabilia is a hobby for many but a 79-year-old Californian only keeps items that evoke wonderful memories.
Vernon Parker has such fondness for a series of Malay Mail paper cuttings from 1975.
It was from the period boxing legend Muhammad Ali fought Britain’s Joe Bugner at Merdeka Stadium — the duo’s second bout after their Las Vegas Valentine’s Day date two years earlier.
“It was one of the highlights of my life,” Parker told Malay Mail from his Oklahoma home.
“I remember hiding away a copy of Malay Mail at my workstation everyday so I could bring it home.
“Back then, Malay Mail was the first paper to arrive at our office. The way they presented the news was different and it got better during the Ali-Bugner clash.
“This got me collecting every edition featuring stories on the bout. I knew it would be a piece of memory to share with my grandchildren one day.”
Parker, then 36, was with the US Embassy as an attache for narcotics and dangerous drugs.
It was also through Malay Mail he discovered where Ali was staying — the old Hilton along Jalan Sultan Ismail.
“Stories in Malay Mail confirmed the rumours,” remembers Parker.
“From then on it was history,” added Parker, referring to how Ali ended up at his house for a pre-fight party.
Eager to rub shoulders with Ali, Parker left the embassy details at the hotel’s concierge.
On his way out, he was stopped and informed by the staff Ali was sending his bodyguards down.
He was brought to Ali’s room and they spent 30 minutes chatting privately.
It was at that moment Parker coughed up enough courage to invite “The Greatest” to his house.
To his surprise, two days later (Thursday) Ali confirmed his attendance and arrived at Parker’s bungalow in black Baju Melayu on Saturday.
On Monday, he beat Bugner via unanimous decision after 15 rounds to defend his World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council heavyweight titles in front of 20,000 people.
When told Malay Mail was going digital, Parker paused, then reminisced about the good old days.
He recalled the paper being a source of information for the US Embassy in the mid-1970s and 80s.
Parker remarked: “No internet back then, so thank you Malay Mail for providing us these copies.
“Perhaps the time is right for the publication to move forward. I’m sure it’ll serve its online readers the same.”
When Parker went home for good in 1976, among the prized possession in tow were Malay Mail reports on the fight.
Parker’s favourite edition was a colour special days before the clash.
It was frontpaged with a bold Black Superman Versus the Great White Hope heading.
“What a way to put together a special edition for the greatest boxing match in Malaysia.”