Few weeks ago the world boxing community in particular was knocked into unconsciousness literally when the sad and ugly news made the rounds around the world that the boxing legend Muhammad Ali was dead!
The ultimate leveller had finally landed a final knock-out punch on Ali from which recovery seemed impossible — yes, he was knocked out cold!
The same man that was used to taunting and knocking opponents out cold inside the squared circles in different continents was himself dealt a devastating blow by the grim reaper and he went down six feet below.
Ali was buried in a blaze of glory in his hometown of Louisville in the United States of America last week.
The self-proclaimed “greatest” boxing champion ever had gone to meet his Creator whom he recognised and acknowledged to be ‘the greatest’ after suffering the Parkinson’s disease.
The story of Muhammad Ali is one that elicits black pride and power.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky in the US the young man was forced into pugilism and activism by fate.
As a 12-year old boy Ali soberly went to the police station in town to report that his bicycle had been stolen by a local thief.
Instead of doing justice to his case the police officer and boxing coach (Joe E. Martin) he met on duty laughed heartily and directed him to learn how to box in order to beat any thief in the near future.
Ali obliged him and went home fuming!
He hit the gym and began the gradual process of becoming a professional pugilist in defense of his right and making name and money for himself.
Ali made his professional debut on October 29, 1960 winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker.
From then until the end of 1963 the strongman that flew like a butterfly and stung like a bee amassed a record of 19–0 with 15 wins by knockout!
He defeated boxers like Tony Esper, Alonzo Johnson, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Doug Jones, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark and Henry Cooper.
Clay also beat his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore in a 1962 match.
In each of these fights, Ali vocally belittled his opponents and vaunted his abilities; he poetically used his gift of the garb to ‘demolish’ his opponents even before the matches could take place.
He would play mind games and sized up his rivals psychologically before getting into the ring to back up his trash talks.
Ali was controversial all through his life.
He dumped his religion of birth, Christianity, for the Muslim faith drawing the opprobrium of many Americans and followers of Christ worldwide.
He consequently dropped the “slave name” of Cassuis Marcellus Clay for Muhammed Ali after his conversion to the Nation of Islam.
He had refused categorically to go to Vietnam to fight in the foreign war insisting that his religion forbade him from engaging in such combats.
He paid dearly for his refusal to ‘defend’ the American national colours as his world boxing heavyweight championship belt was withdrawn from him.
Instead of joining the war train in Vietnam Ali waited patiently for three years before recapturing the same title from the then Champion George Foreman in the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ in Kinshasa, former Zaire under the leadership of the late kleptocrat Mobutu Sese-Seko.
Apart from the rumble in the African jungle another great fight took place in Manila, the Philippines called the “Thrilla In Manila” involving him and Joe Frazier.
By antagonizing the white establishment in the U.S by refusing to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam war Ali was called names and was sidelined for his manifest unpatriotism but he regretted nothing.
Ali had married four times in his lifetime bearing children and paying alimonies to those ladies he had divorced.
Indeed he had some troubled relationships with women who craved for his wealth and fame.
The world sporting community witnessed at first hand the debilitating effects Parkinson’s ailment had on Ali during the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta.
Ali was billed to light the Olympics flames and as he struggled to do so perched on top of the podium his trembling hands almost betrayed him but he got it right by defeating the neurological infirmity and lighting up the flames to the ovation of thousands in attendance and millions more watching at homes across the globe on TV.
The late Ali mesmerized the world with his talent and power of the fist and tongue. He was a good grappler, a great sportsman.
But he went beyond his professional career to demonstrate his fiery oratory, poetic excellence and activism.
He not only fought opponents inside the ring but fought outside same against the American racism and hypocrisy at his time.
All these combined produced a charismatic persona loved and admired by millions around the planet.
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