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Irish plumber floats his way to Ali’s 72nd birthday

Tony Kelly with Muhammad Ali: 'It was just a ballsy move that paid off for me.'

An Irish plumber helped boxing legend Muhammad Ali celebrate his 72nd birthday after he knocked on his door just to say hello.

Tony Kelly was unknowingly working on the same street where Ali lives in Louisville, Kentucky. His friends told him who the famous resident was but the Donegal man thought they were joking.

The 24-year-old from the fishing village of Greencastle on the Inishowen peninsula is a huge fan of Ali. So he decided he had nothing to lose but knock on the door of the house last Friday.

He was even more shocked when Ali’s wife Yolanda invited him in to meet the boxing icon, who just happened to be celebrating his 72nd birthday.

"I told her I was one of his greatest Irish fans and I’d love to meet him. With that she invited me in to meet him. It was amazing — something I will never forget until the day I die," Tony says.

He even managed to get a cherished picture with Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984.

Tony revealed how he thought his chance meeting with Ali may not come off after Yolanda said he was not available. The Donegal man insisted he was a huge fan and his bravery paid off when Yolanda told him to call back in an hour.

"She told me that Muhammad was unavailable at the moment and to call back in an hour’s time and that he would be delighted to meet one of his Irish fans as he is proud of his Irish heritage. An hour later I called back and was welcomed in to their home."

When Tony went through the doors of the home, he said he was just blown away by meeting Ali.

"Muhammad was sitting on his chair. I introduced myself and said hello and he said hello back. We posed for a few pictures, All my friends said how lucky I was as they spend very little time in that house and it was just a case of right place, right time.

"Muhammad Ali has fans all over the world and he is such a people person that they didn’t mind me calling by. But it was just a ballsy move that paid off for me and I got to meet a true living legend."

Tony is the son of Liam and Margaret Kelly and moved to Kentucky in Nov 2012 where he married wife Megan. They met when Megan was on a trip to Ireland working on an organic farm in Greencastle.