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Initiative in Louisville, Kentucky, acknowledges role stolen Schwinn bike played in The Greatest discovering boxing

A stolen bike famously led to Muhammad Ali discovering boxing – and now, 100 bicycles have been donated in memory of the late world heavyweight champion, who died in June, to children in Louisville, Kentucky, his home city.

Like the one stolen from the 12-year-old Ali – then named Cassius Clay – one evening in 1954, which led to him meeting a police officer who ran a boxing gym, the bikes are from Schwinn and many are red.

> How a stolen bike set Muhammad Ali on the path to greatness

They were donated to the youngsters, who also received a lock and a helmet, at the Mayor’s Street Festival on Saturday, reports WDRB.

The recipients had all been chosen from children who had taken part in Bike Louisville’s Bike Sense road safety initiative.

Mayor Greg Fischer said: “The Champ inspired us all to believe that we could, like him, be ‘The Greatest’ at whatever we are willing to work hard to be, and with this donation, we’re rewarding hard work and focus.”

The bicycles were presented by officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department, with Lieutenant Jamey Schwab saying: "A lot of this goes back to the original interaction that Officer Joe Martin had with Muhammad Ali when he was a young man and had his bike stolen, and we had that original interaction between the police and young Ali and the rest is history.

Dave Duecker, vice president of product development at Schwinn, said it was “delighted to partner with Bike Sense for this donation, which will benefit so many children in the Louisville area.

“The inspiring story of a young Cassius Clay reacting to the theft of his red Schwinn bike is legendary, and we immediately accepted the City's invitation to participate in this innovative event.”

Arthur Owens, the father of one of the children who benefited, told WHAS 11: “We’re just glad he got to get out with other kids his age – other youth. They have a lot of programmes for the kids. I just like for him to do something different and be among his peers.”

> Hundreds of cyclists honour Muhammad Ali on The Greatest Ride

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.