AN AUTHOR has described meeting boxing legend Muhammad Ali and said he was the greatest man he ever met.

Tony Flood - a former Fleet Street journalist and Sky Television executive who now lives in Eastbourne - said the three-times world champion who died on Friday aged 74 was simply a legend.

Tony said: "He had this amazing charisma, and would light up a room as soon as he entered it.

"I knew almost instantly that he was a great man when I met him after he had just beaten Brian London at Earls Court Exhibition Hall in 1966.

"I asked him why he was so boastful – did he really mean it or was it just to sell tickets? He replied with a grin: 'It's hard to be humble when you are as great as I am'. It was a marvellous quote that he was to repeat often.

"When Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, fought world heavyweight champion Sonny Listen in February 1964 Liston was the most frightening man on the planet. But Ali showed us how to stand up to a bully.

"He said: "Sonny Liston is nothing. The man can't talk. The man can't fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he's gonna fight me, he needs falling lessons."

There have been accusations in the national media that he cheated on at least two of his four wives but Tony has leapt to his defence.

He said: "Ali's own son Junior has referred to his father being a womaniser but Ali was repeatedly propositioned by star-struck women who threw themselves at him.

"My celebrity revelations book 'My Life With The Stars' tells how I was present when one gorgeous brunette was hell bent on offering herself to him.

"That's why the book has the supplementary title 'Best, Ali and the panties' which refers to separate occasions when ladies used an item of underwear to try to tempt Ali and George Best.

"Obviously there can be no excuse for cheating on a wife, but Ali and Best were probably tempted far more than any other men - even Hollywood film stars.

"He was the greatest man I have ever met. "

Tony is president of local Anderida Writers Group and has spent most of his working life as a sports and leisure journalist on various national and regional papers,

Tony, formerly Controller of Information at Sky Television, Editor of Football Monthly magazine and Sports Editor of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, retired in September 2009 after spending eight years with the Sunday People. He now writes books as well as theatre reviews for the Argus.