Feb. 4, 2013

AKA Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali once known by the slave name Cassius Clay is my favorite athlete, public figure and personality of all time. He will not be around forever and I want to write something about what he has meant to me and millions of fans around the world for five decades.

He first came to the world stage in Rome, Italy as a light heavyweight from Louisville, Kentucky. He was brash and exciting as he won the Gold Medal in those Olympics. He got back home and went to a food establishment with another African American friend. Clay threw his Gold Medal into the Ohio River as a matter of principle after they were refused service in that all-white-only establishment.

This was just the first inkling of Clay's (Ali's) moral compass.

Skip ahead to Ali refusing induction into the military service in 1967 in Houston. He would not step forward when his name was called.“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” Ali was stripped of his title and had little means of support throughout his exile until 1971. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction 8-0. I would say THAT episode took a lot of guts for an athlete to determine his status as a minister of teh Nation of Islam was MORE important than a heavyweight title.

Ali associated with some VERY controversial figures in the 1960's. Elijah Muhummad was the leader of the Nation and he was allegedly responsible for the death of Malcolm X (who Ali also hung out with). These were violent times and Ali's views (which have evolved) were seen as radical to mainstream Americans at the time.

It wasn't until many years later (1971) that Ali became more beloved by war protesters and mainstream America when he unsucessfully tried to win back his stripped heavyweight title from Joe Frazier. In 1974 he did regain that title from George Foreman and cemented himself as an icon for all times.

Ali has stuck to his Muslim practice every day of his life since 1964. He is a man of principle and not convenience. Ali has never traveled the easy road and mankind throughout the world treats him with reverential status. 

He is physically debiltated by taking too many punches in his long career and is not expected to inhabit planet earth for too much longer.

I really wanted to say my piece about him as a man more than a great athlete. He always has been and always will be "The Greatest" to me and many more like me.