Calgary

Olympic boxing medalist Willie deWit officially welcomes Mohammed Ali to fight for clients in Alberta

Canadian Olympic boxing medalist Willie deWit couldn't resist a gentle jab at Mohammed Ali in a Calgary courtroom Wednesday. OK, the jab was a verbal one, deWit is now a superior court judge and Ali is a criminal defence lawyer who shares a name (though different spelling) with one of the greatest boxers who ever lived.

Mohammed Ali practised law in the U.K. for 13 years before recently moving to Calgary with his family

Former Olympic boxing medalist, Justice Willie deWit, welcomes lawyer Mohammed Ali to the Law Society of Alberta. (Zachary Shlah)

Canadian Olympic boxing medalist Willie deWit couldn't resist a gentle jab at Mohammed Ali in a Calgary courtroom on Wednesday.

OK, the jab was a verbal one. DeWit is now a superior court judge and Ali is a criminal defence lawyer who shares a name (though different spelling) with one of the greatest boxers who ever lived. 

"Mr. Ali, I have to ask you one question, are you a boxing fan?" deWit inquired.

Justice deWit, who apparently hasn't lost his sense of humour since being appointed to the bench, didn't try to hide his grin as the clerk read aloud the name of the latest member of the Alberta bar.

After practising law in London, England, for the past 13 years, Ali recently moved to Calgary with his wife and three children.

In Ali's corner was Zachary Shlah, a Calgary lawyer who acted as his principal. Shlah told deWit that Ali is a "highly intelligent, detail-oriented" lawyer who speaks several languages.

"It's my sincere pleasure to welcome you to the Law Society of Alberta," said deWit.

DeWit's pronouncement means Ali can now practise in Alberta.

Ali no stranger to the boxing ring 

Ali confirmed that not only is he a fan of the sport, he was once a boxer himself. In fact, he'd specifically requested deWit perform his transfer hearing.

"I used to box in the early days," said Ali outside the courtroom. "It's nice to connect with someone who's been at that level."

Before becoming a lawyer, deWit competed as an amateur heavyweight boxer and won a silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. 

DeWit was a criminal lawyer for 22 years in Calgary and it's that credential which Ali says ultimately inspired him to choose the judge.

Though it was all smiles in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, soon, the gloves will be off as Ali begins fighting for his clients in his new hometown.