LONDON (AP) — Hugh McIlvanney, widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest and most authoritative sports writers, has died. He was 84.
The Football Writers’ Association, of which McIlvanney was a life member, said the Scottish journalist died on Thursday after a battle with cancer.
As a writer predominantly for British newspapers The Observer and then The Sunday Times, McIlvanney covered many of the biggest sporting events and forged close relationships with figures such as Muhammad Ali, Alex Ferguson and Jock Stein.
McIlvanney, who had a distinctive turn of phrase and gravelly voice, said his greatest privilege as a reporter was getting invited to Ali’s villa in Zaire in 1974 for a three-hour interview the day after the boxer regained the world heavyweight title by beating George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Following McIlvanney’s retirement in 2016 after 60 years as a journalist, Ali paid tribute by saying “his words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the great champions of his time.”
McIlvanney, whose late brother William was a crime novelist, also wrote books on soccer, boxing, and horse racing. He was consulted on Ferguson’s autobiography, Managing My Life, with the former Manchester United manager writing “once the decision to go ahead with the book was taken, it was simply a matter of getting the best sports journalist of our time to write it.”
McIlvanney was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (2009) and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame (2011). He was the first journalist inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame two years ago, and was honored with an OBE in 1996.