A couple of days ago a legend in the boxing world passed away. Muhammad Ali was considered to be one of the best all time boxing legends. He died June 3rd 2016 at the age of 74. For the last 30 plus years he lived and battled with Parkinson’s. The World Heavyweight Championship title was won by him 3 times.
His originally name was Cassius Clay. Early in his boxing career he changed his name to Muhammad Ali claiming that Cassius Clay was a slave name. Muhammad Ali was his chosen religion name when he became Muslin. His change of faith came after being inspired by a meeting he had with Malcolm X.
Known for numerous catch phrases in the boxing world he was often called the silver-tongued boxer. He was big into civil rights and often proclaimed himself “The Greatest”. Another of his catch phrases was “Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee”
He was always making predictions about his fights. As a couple of examples, in a fight that he had with Archie Moore in Los Angeles, he predicted on a chalk board that he would knock out Moore in the 4th round and did it. Another prediction was that he would then become the next Champ by way of a knockout with Sonny Liston where he would knockout Liston in the 8th round. He proceeded and did it in 7 rounds.
He was a man who stood by his beliefs no matter what the cost. In 1967 he was drafted to go to the Vietnam War to which he didn’t believe in. He was a conscientious objector and tried to get a deferment based on the fact that he was a Muslim minster. Unlike numerous other conscientious objectors at the time he chose to stay in America and fight or plead his case in an American court. Many individuals at the time of the Vietnam War who had become draft dodgers simply left and went to Canada.
His refusing to get drafted ended up in a long court battle that lasted from 1967 to September 1970. Because of his refusal to serve the American army he was convicted of draft evasion. He was then sentenced to jail for 5 years. That decision was however overturned in 1971. The act of standing up for what he believed in ended up making him a figurehead of resistance. This was what made him become a hero to the people.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1981. By then his speech was already starting to get slurred. He would say that if he had won his last few fights that people would think that he was Superman. Now they know that I am only human like everyone else.
He was a champ in all ways. Living up to being The Greatest as he use to say before his fights after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease he poured himself into working on humanitarian causes. In 1985 he traveled to Lebanon and then in 1990 traveled to Iraq to try and get American hostages released. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, he lifted his shaking arms and lit the Olympic flame.
He understood his role in life. He knew that if he wouldn’t have been a famous boxer that many of the things he was able to accomplish would have never happened and he was thankful for everything in his life.
He continued to travel for years crisscrossing the globe where he made appearances pushing philanthropic causes. He would meet with Presidents, heads of state, royalty and yes even the Pope. He once said that if he ever had any regrets, it was that he didn’t spend more time with his nine children.
In 2005 President George W. Bush awarded Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for all he had done.
The final years of Muhammad Ali, he did all he could, never quitting, but Parkinson’s got the best of him where he was barely able to speak. As Ali often said “I never thought of the possibility of failing, only of the fame and glory I was going to get when I won,” Ali wrote “I could see it. I could almost feel it. When I proclaimed that I was the greatest of all times, I believed in myself, and I still do.”
May he rest in peace and continue to be an inspiration to us all.