In some circumstances, there are events that occur that cause us to stop for a moment and reflect. On June 3, 2016 I was sent a text that did just that, stop me in my place and make me sorrowfully reflect, marvel, and appreciate the person that was Muhammad Ali.
Though I never saw one of Ali's fights live, I was not immune to the influence and greatness that he displayed both in the ring and outside of it. My father was a huge Ali and boxing fan, and I remember sitting and watching the documentary When We Were Kings (1996), which showcased the fight in Zaire Africa between Ali and Foreman. I was captivated!
WATCH TRAILER HERE: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118147/?ref_=ttawd_awd_tt
I'm sure now we have all seen the social media posts, television specials, news media about Muhammad Ali's death and some of his signature bouts throughout his career now that he has passed. However, his achievements and influence were so much more important than just a magnificent boxer, he was a man that truly epitomized an athlete standing for what he believed in, not apologizing for it, while still being a role model for all people. You can turn on any channel and watch some of the things Ali achieved, but in case you haven't, here are some important aspects of his life you may appreciate.
Ali, then Cassius Clay won a Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 at the age of 18. Many people may know that, but most didn't realize he had 2 National Amateur titles prior to that and a record of 100 wins to 8 losses. Four years, 19 fights and 15 knockouts after winning his Gold Medal, he was given the opportunity to fight against the defending heavy weight Champion Sonny Liston. Ali was the under dog 7-1, but used his combo of powerful quick jabs and quick feet work to shock the world and beat Liston in 7 rounds. Ali was 22, it was 1964 and his statement "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" had caught fire, he had just proclaimed himself "the greatest", and was ready to defend it.
This may have been enough for most people, but Ali continued to challenge racial tensions during the 1960s by being a vocal social activist and promoting the need for not only black equality, but equality for all people regardless of race or creed. He converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, but it was his staunch actions of defiance against America's unjust government practices that really makes him the revolutionary we appreciate him as. He marched with Malcolm X and spoke with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. in order to discuss ways to help the African-American community. In 1967, after successfully defending his heavy weight title 8 times, he refused to serve in the military in the Vietnam War and was sent to prison, while being stripped of his boxing titles. Let's try to fathom this in today's world. Imagine the biggest athlete in the world (i.e. Lebron James) going to prison for making a political stance, getting his championship banners torn down and losing 3 years of his prime athletic career. Its hard to imagine, but that is exactly what happened to Ali and he never apologized or recanted his reasonings for making that decision. Instead he famously stated, "No VieKong has ever called me Nigger".
After sentiments for the war continued to sour, New York appellate court released Muhammad Ali in 1970 and he quickly began his journey to attain the heavy weight crown. However, when Ali returned he fought the immaculate powerful Joe Frazier and was knocked down in the 15th round, losing in the decision. He fought Joe Frazier two more times and won both in epic fashions, but each fight was incredibly punishing to the health of both fighters. Their story is one that has been rarely told, but showcased an interesting dynamic between two great heavy weight fighters and friends.
I can go on for days about the influence of Ali and continue discussing his life, but you can find enough of that just typing in his name and searching the internet. Yet, one point that may go unnoticed about Ali's life is his actions for Black people. I admire Ali, for taking the biggest fight of the decade (Ali vs Foreman) "Rumble in the Jungle), and bringing it to Africa in one of the most impoverished areas of Kinshasha, Zaire better known as the Congo in Africa. I know that had alot to do with promoter Don King, but it was Ali who insisted on doing it in an area that was beneficial to his people, and many say that it was him who chose the location since he realized the financial benefits a country would receive for hosting a heavy weight bout. That fight is just one of the many marvels you can take away from the life of Muhammad Ali. CBS Sports Jonathan Rumley writes it best, "He (Ali) stood as a symbol of bravery, courage, and freedom whose life will never be forgotten."
Thank You Ali, you will forever be missed, and your legendary works will never be lost.
Here are some articles that you may finds helpful in your search of learning more about Muhammad Ali and what influence he had on the world.
1) History - http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/muhammad-ali
2) CBS Sports (Quotes and pictures are great!) - http://www.cbc.ca/sports/moresports/muhammad-ali-greatest-quotes-1.3616827