“(I want to be remembered as ) a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”
” And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people, And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
–Muhammad Ali “The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey”
Boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, died on Friday in Arizona. According to family spokesman, Bob Gunnell, he has been at HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center in Scottsdale since Thursday with a “respiratory issue”. An issue complicated by Ali’s 32 year-old struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr on January 17th, 1942. He began training at the age of 12 and would go on to win the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston at the age of 22. He would go on to cap it all off with a record of 61 fights, 56 wins, 37 o these by KOs and 5 losses.
While his fights in the ring were memorable especially the famous Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman and Thrilla in Manilla against Joe Frazier, Ali was extremely popular for his vocal showmanship both within and outside the ring. It was a tactic he used to intimidate opponents and hype himself up. Famous basketballer Wilt Chamberlain, once challenged him to a fight but inspite of the former’s considerable physical advantages over Ali, he was intimidated into cancelling the bout because of Ali’s antics during a press conference. Ali kept chanting “Timber!“ and “The Tree will Fall!”. Before the fight against George Foreman, Ali told reporter, David Frost, “If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait ’til I whup Foreman’s behind! “I’ve done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” Ali declared after he had knocked out Sonny Liston, “Eat your words! I am the greatest! I shook up the world. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.”
Out of the ring, he was famous for his political opinions and values. After converting to Islam in the 1960s and being christened Muhammad Ali, he took to calling Cassius Clay his slave name. Ali refused to fight in the war against Vietnam stating:
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape or kill my mother and father…. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
This stance cost him almost 4 years of his career but inspired so many people around the world including Martin Luther King Jr, who had hitherto been reluctant to take a public stand against the War.
In 2009, Ali shared his personal philosophy “I never thought of the possibility of failing, only of the fame and glory I was going to get when I won,” Ali wrote. “I could see it. I could almost feel it. When I proclaimed that I was the greatest of all time, I believed in myself, and I still do.
Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali the Greatest.