Muhammed Ali was a loud, brash and extremely talented American. He was deeply religious, a man of conscience, a family man and perhaps most of all he was an original. One of a kind. There will never be anyone like him again and for this reason today, we mourn his passing.
Ali was arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time at a time in our history where black athletes were allowed to compete as long as they did so quietly. At a time in our history when African Americans were not allowed to succeed, Muhammad Ali not only succeeded, he succeeded gloriously, intelligently and (of course) loudly. In the sixties Ali refused to bend to white societal laws and expectations. Society allowed him fame and notoriety but it did not allow him to follow his conscience. Ali was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam war and he would pay the price for his convictions. He would rather give up his boxing title and celebrity than turn away from his religious beliefs.
He gave it all up. Born in Louisville as Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali won the light-heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960. As a professional boxer he won the heavyweight title three times and in 1967 he was stripped of his title for “draft evasion”.
Never at a loss for words, Ali once said before the Liston fight in 1964, “the crowd did not dream when they lay down their money that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.” It was then the phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” became Ali’s rallying point. Ali had many memorable fights on his way to winning the championship three different times. There were the three fights against Joe Frazier that included the “Thrilla in Manila” where Ali proclaimed after word (that was) “the closest thing to dying” he had experienced. Then, when Ali was 32, there was the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in 1974 where he won the title for the second time.
Ali himself estimated at one time that he sustained 29,000 punches to the head. In the end, Parkinson’s Disease, brought on by his punishing career finally managed to quiet the great Muhammed Ali.
He will be sorely missed. He was 74.