The man who spent most of his life as The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, has left this earth at the age of 74. On Friday June 3rd of 2016 the world lost the legendary Louisville Lip. Regardless of society’s opinion of him, no one can deny that he was one of, if not the, greatest heavyweight that this world has seen.
It is said that Muhammad Ali started his amazing boxing career as directly after the theft of his bicycle. Apparently when the then Cassius Clay reported the loss he also spoke of what he would do, if he found the thief. It has been rumored that the policeman told young Cassius he must learn to punch properly first. He almost immediately began training for what would be known as the greatest boxing career of a lifetime. Muhammad Ali was the ripe old age of 12.
Ali’s Olympic Adventure
While Fred Stoner is most always accredited with Ali’s training, it was the man named Joe E. Martin who advised him to go to Rome and ‘gamble his life’. Up to this point Clay already had Golden Gloves titles under his belt. It may not be a well-known fact; however, this mountain of a man was terrified of flying. Ali took Martin’s advice and flew to compete in the 1960 Olympics and brought home the Olympic title of light heavyweight champion.
Dishonor at Home
The young Clay, champion that he was, still had to face dishonor when he returned home to the prejudices of the 60s version of home. Cassius the Great was turned away as he was not welcome in certain public places deemed as ‘whites only’ This, of course, was due to the color of his skin and that would not be the last time society disappointed the man with the soul of a butter fly.
He would later deal with the south’s, along with the country’s, opinion of his conversion to Islam and his refusal to be taken by the infamous Vietnam draft. Muhammad Ali has been quoted as saying that ‘color does not make a man a devil’. He went on to say that ‘it is the heart and mind and soul that count. What is on the outside is only decoration’.
This latter rebellious resolution came to an ugly head as he refused when called to come forward for his induction into the draft when it was his name spoken. The consequences were expeditious and severe. Ali received a sentence of five years’ imprisonment on a draft evasion conviction and his hard won title was revoked.
He was freed after an appeal; however, he was not allowed to travel outside the country or enter the boxing ring. Ali turned his energies toward what he felt were the injustices of African American individuals being forced into the front lines of the Vietnam War while they were also denied basic rights. He could be found lecturing on college campuses about these unjust hypocrisies.
Perhaps Mr. Ali’s biggest match was against Parkinson’s disease, for which he stayed in the ring for 32 years. This mountain’s grace under fire, both physically and verbally, was stolen from him a little at a time during that wretched war. Though he struggled he forever remained a champ.
Years later, in what might be called the culmination his declining health, he stayed his will in the face of a storm of controversy. Just last December Muhammad Ali released a bold statement in response to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban proposal. He stood his ground saying, “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”
As Cassius Clay he took society by storm and the controversy bull by the horns in the Jim Crow era 1960s. As Muhammad Ali he remained the epitome of articulacy and integrity with the fortitude and strength of a mountain. The Louisville Lip may no longer be with the world, but his light cannot fade for his fans shall carry his memories as a torch to light the way forward.
It is believed that Mahammad Ali was taken by septic shock in the hospital he went to for respiratory issues. On Saturday the world mourned the loss of Muhammad Ali with memorials, demonstrations, and various heart felt homages. His hometown of Louisville, Kentucky lowered their flags to half-mast. Locals at the Muhammad Ali Center wrote tributes and left flowers to honor the legend.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised him for being an interfaith pioneer; a humanitarian; civil rights icon; and sports champion. The spokesperson of the United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, titled Ali ‘a world champion for equality and peace’. In 1998 the UN bestowed the three-time heavyweight champion with another title as one of their ‘messengers of peace’.
The spokesperson also recounted the initial budding of his relationship with the U.N. Muhammad Ali championed against racially motivated injustices and apartheid in the 70s. A while after, Ali journeyed around the globe advocating political and racial resolution as well as children’s initiatives.
Penned By: Michael Wolf