Rarely do we come across a warrior who earns his living with his fists but never loses sight of the bigger fight outside of the ring; a man whose boastful and playful statements during a time when a man of his color was not welcome to make those kinds of statements. Well, until he could back them up anyway. A man that could punch so hard he could knock you out falling backwards. How does a man like that become an ambassador of peace and unity? How does a man like that become ousted by a society only to capture all hearts in the end? He must be a great man, one could argue The Greatest!
Muhammed Ali was born Cassius Clay in January of 1942 in Lousiville. By the age of 12, his boxing journey would begin; 10 years later he would win the heavy weight championship of the world. I wanted to speak of the man's accomplishments, then I came across something my nephew posted on Facebook, which touched me deeply.
The following words are penned by Matthew Bassin: "He would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He would handcuff lightning and throw thunder in jail. He would shake up the world by dethroning Sonny Liston (and he let us all know it). He would tackle that big bear a second time and declaw him for good. He would fight for his beliefs. Even if it meant being stripped of his title for three years in his prime. He would rally back from a title shot loss to Joe Frazier. He would stun the world and regain his title in Zaire by roping and doping George Forman ("That all you got George?" he would whisper while doing it). He would thrill us in Manilla, causing the great Joe Frazier to not answer the bell for the 15th round. He would stay too long, as some of our greatest athletes do ... and he would suffer for it. Parkinson's disease for 32 years. A fight no one, not even our greatest fighter, should ever have to bear. He would not shy from the limelight as the disease took its toll. He would fight. As only he does. He would fight with his mind and his words, while he was still able to. He would fight for our troops captured overseas. He would light the torch in Atlanta. A sight to behold on the world's grandest stage. A return for our 1960 light heavyweight gold medalist. And now he has returned. To that bright squared-circle that none of us can see, only feel in hearts. His body is no longer in pain. His mind and mouth has returned to him. His spirit, which has brought us all so many joys in ways we do not even think about (from future athletes, to future leaders, to something as simple as an underdog boxing script that would become 1976's Oscar winner "Rocky") would last forevermore. He would be The Greatest. And not just in the boxing ring. He would be The Greatest. 'The hands can't hit what the eyes don't see. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Rumble young man. Rumble.'"
Typically, as you know, I write my own words, but I could not have bested what Matt wrote, so, thanks.
Besides Ali's contributions to the boxing world, he was a fighter for human rights. He was truly one of the best humans walking the planet. In a battle between us and them he always stood up for the underdog, and if you had Ali in your corner, how could you lose?
I remember growing up and adults saying that they wish someone would just shut him up once and for all. But I can remember thinking (even at that young age), if someone shut him up then we would suffering a huge loss! As a grown man, I came to love him. Because of Ali, I don't count the days, I make the days count. "Rumble young man. Rumble!"
Fish is the opinionated morning jock on Classic Hits 92.7. He offers up his opinion at 7:50 a.m. every morning (Monday through Friday). Let's start the revolution. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org