Muhammad Ali Closely Connected To Roseville Man

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ROSEVILLE --Jeff Ellis did not realize the significance of his family's friendship with Muhammad Ali when he was a small child, but that changed when he grew up.

"Here's the greatest of all times at my house and him and my father are best friends...unbelievable,"said Ellis upon reflecting on Ali's death.

Ellis' father is former heavyweight boxing champion Jimmy Ellis, who fought his way to the title when Ali was stripped of the championship when he defied the draft during the Vietnam War.

The two boxed as teenagers and Ellis once beat Ali in an amateur bout. Ellis says Ali and his brothers hung out with his dad and his brothers, all of whom dabbled in the boxing game.

He says Ali came to his house often to visit and for family cookouts. Ellis laughs at his fondest memory of Ali which demonstrated his personality that closely matched his public persona in many ways.

"He picked me up and looked me in my face and said 'You know what, you are ugly, and I am pretty," chuckled Ellis.

Ellis' Roseville home is filled with memorabilia and photos of his father and Ali who were sparring partners for each other even as pros. One showed the two on a training run in the Philippines just before the epic "Thrilla in Manila" fight with Joe Frazier.

A crowd of locals jogged behind them even at 4 in the morning.

"It was just like in the 'Rocky' movie," said Ellis.

The two eventually fought as pros with Ali winning a 12-round technical knockout.

Jeff Ellis remembers his mom telling her husband not to hurt Ali and she also told Ali not to hurt Jimmy.

Upon Jimmy Ellis' death in 2014, Ali said he and Ellis were cut from the same cloth, which makes Jeff proud.

He will be attending funeral services in Louisville, Kentucky, where his uncle will be a pallbearer. He said he would not miss such a historic event.

"There will never be another sports figure to me like Muhammad Ali and the way he served the world," said Ellis.

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