The Legend that is Muhammed Ali
Let’s forget about the boxing, forget about the championships, the Fight of the Century, the Rumble in the Jungle, the Thrilla in Manilla. Let’s forget about the athlete for a second because Muhammed Ali was much more than just a great boxer.
I first heard of Muhammed Ali when I was a kid but I guess I may have been too young to realize why Ali was famous although I knew he was a boxer. I didn’t comprehend his stature until I entered my teens and learned more and more about his legend. By the time I was able to understand fully what Ali meant to a generation of African-Americans and Black people globally, Parkinson’s disease had taken hold of him. However, even though the Ali that my parents knew was no more, I was able to watch the those famous bouts on T.V. whenever they were replayed. I was able to learn by studying about him and hearing boxing broadcasters reminisce about the loud mouth who didn’t go to Vietnam.
As an adult I can fully appreciate the life and times of Muhammed Ali. I have never met Ali but as with Nelson Mandela it feels that their accomplishments as human beings and the importance they had on the culture as icons kind of made it feel that I have met him. This was the same feeling I had when Nelson Mandela passed away, these 2 men embodied the struggle and the overcoming that Black people have had to deal with over hundreds of years. From being unjustly locked up for 27 years to having the title stripped and being banned from fighting in your own country. Muhammed Ali as with Mandela became an icon as much for his human side as for his athletic side.
So as I said earlier, forget about the records and championships and the brilliant fights. I want to remember Muhammed Ali as the man who had compassion for his fellow human beings. I would like to remember the Muhammad Ali who spoke his mind about what was going on in America during his time.
I want to remember the Ali who became a Civil Rights fighter. This is not to diminish the accomplishments he had inside the ring but as you know, Muhammad Ali’s pivotal years were at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The 1960’s and early 70’s were a very troubled time in America for Blacks. Segregation and racism, separate but equal was being put down, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated, the Black Panthers were active but it was Muhammad Ali that probably was the most influential black person in America. Which other black American could have said No to the U.S. Army and not only not run to Canada but not go to jail and come back and turn public opinion in his favour? Muhammad Ali became more popular once he regained the right to fight and his legend grew. He was a social icon, a black man that fought the white system and won. Not only did he win but he became a rallying point for black people who had an opinion and desired to challenge the social order.
One of the things I will remember most about watching all the footage about Muhammad Ali was his rhymes and poetry. Some say he was the first rapper before rap became rap in the early 80’s. Muhammad Ali made you love him or hate him but he was entertaining. Ali was serious when he had to be and he was fiercely proud to be black and to uplift African-Americans and Blacks globally through his boxing and being champion. Despite the fact I was not alive to hear Ali’s brilliance through his own lips, I will forever remember the man for doing what he believed in. It reminds of a phrase, “Sometimes what is right is not popular and what is popular is not right”. You can determine where that fits in Ali’s decisions in his life but for I will remember Muhammad Ali as Legend, as Icon, as a (Social) fighter and yes and as a Champ!