The fastest hands of any heavyweight you’ve ever seen… The fastest feet of any heavyweight you could ever imagine… The quickest wit ever gifted a pugilistic combatant… More heart and determination than seems humanly possible… One of the toughest SOBs ever to walk the earth… You see what happens when you start talking about Ali? You can go on and on, forever and ever… That’s why we all just throw our arms in the air and call him “The Greatest”.
That said, this man can’t just be reduced to a boxer who punched people in the face for money. He was a civil rights activist, a political activist, a social activist, a human rights advocate, a shining beacon of anti-establishment populism the world over. Surely, you would be hard-pressed to find a human being in this world unfamiliar with his name or his message.
Perhaps best known was his conscientious objection to fighting in the vietnam war. Ali faced incredible opposition and ridicule from every direction, including: His government, the general populous, fans of the sport, as well as some of his own fellow rights activists. He was even presented with the option to serve the military in an entertainment capacity to boost the morale of the troops. Ali was disgusted, and he refused to submit to these external pressures, preferring instead to hold fast to his beliefs. This led to him being arrested for draft-dodging, robbed of his title, his license to box, and his ability to earn a living. A new battle arose for him to fight, this time inside a court room instead of a boxing ring.
After 4 years of delivering speeches in colleges all across the country, and the rising tide and blood and guts overseas, this iconic figure of counter-culture reform won his battle by clear knockout. His conviction was overturned, and he was once again licensed to box professionally. I think you’ll find that almost nobody even attempts to justify the action in Vietnam today, and it’s really easy to condemn that war in hindsight, but not quite so easy at the time when you’re coming under fire from all directions. You were right champ, you were right.
On the topic of mixed martial arts that we all love here, Ali was involved in one of the earliest, highly publicized mixed martial arts contests that ever took place. He faced Antonio Inoki in a special rules match that was watched by over a billion people worldwide. The match did end up being a bit of a debacle, bit it was an historic moment none the less.
Always the warrior, Ali has battled against Parkinson’s disease for 32 years. This degenerative neurological disorder slowly robbed Ali of his unparalleled physical dexterity, as well as his legendary verbal abilities. Undeterred, this great champion refused to acquiesce, continuing his crusade of equality and reiterating his beliefs whenever the opportunity arose. He was criticizing some of Donald Trump’s political rhetoric as early as December of last year. Sadly, he died yesterday at a Phoenix hospital while being treated for respiratory complications at 74 years of age.
This is a man who embodied courage in every way imaginable. The thoughts and feelings he inspired are undeniable, his legacy indelible, he was…. “The Greatest”. Far be it for me to try and look back at his life with any semblance of perspective or experience to try and relay his message… Let’s hear it from the man himself in his own words.
-Muhammed Ali – “The Greatest of All Time”