NEW ORLEANS— On September 15, 1978, Muhammad Ali wins his world title for an unprecedented third time. And while that date is celebrated by Ali fans around the world, the title fight took place in the Louisiana Superdome and was the brainchild of local businessman Don Hubbard.
Hubbard told us, “I think I messed around and talked myself into it. I met this guy in New York, Butch Lewis and he was working for Bob Arum at that time and he wanted to come to New Orleans for the Superbowl and he couldn’t find a house so I found a place for him and he invited me to the fight in Las Vegas, Ali-Spinks I, and I was excited because I had never been to a fight before.”
That’s right the man who was to produce one of the biggest fights in history had only been to one match. Ali lost that first fight to Leon Spinks and a rematch in Miami or South Africa was on the board, but to land the big fight in New Orleans, Hubbard had to convince Ali to come here. He was able to do that with the help of entertainer and NOLA native Lloyd Price.
“So I sat and spoke to Ali for a while and I explained to him that ‘you can possibly go to Miami. Miami is not big enough for you, you can’t go to South Africa because Nelson Mandela is still in jail you’ll be the Tom of the year if you fought in a segregated audience in South Africa,” said Hubbard.
So the fight in our city was on, but that’s not to say that there weren’t detractors.
Hubbard said, “Don King called one day (hahaha) Don Hubbard he said you know you’re getting ready to lose all of your investor’s money, I want to come down an help you so I said ok Mr. King what are you doing to do for me? He said I’m going to show you how to promote. I said what does it cost for your service, and he laughed and said give me 50k and I’ll run out front and make sure that everything is tight
Needless to say, Hubbard turned down that offer and went on to produce a masterpiece! Ali regained his title in a fight that put our city and the Superdome on the map.
“Muhammad Ali gave me as a token of his appreciation. Those 3 stones at the bottom represented the 3 people he beat for the title and the big stone on the top is him, said Hubbard.
Don Hubbard currently owns and operated the Hubbard Mansion on St. Charles Avenue.