On Friday night, I was still up when television programming was interrupted with *BREAKING NEWS*. It had been reported earlier that day that Muhammad Ali had to be rushed to the hospital and that he was being placed on a ventilator. I knew what was about to come: Muhammad Ali had died.
In that moment, the reflections that I had made me travel back to my childhood. I remember watching many of the Champs greatest fights on Wide World of Sports on ABC. That was a time when boxing still was exciting to watch. From Joe Frazier to George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Roberto Duran, et al, I saw some of the greatest boxing ever. Muhammad was also entertaining. He amused sports writers and made everyone laugh. He especially made Black people proud. His bravado was revolutionary at a time when it was naturally expected by white people for Black people to capitulate and be seen but not heard. Not Muhammad. His mouth was as fast as his fists. This is the Muhammad Ali I remember before he was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease.
When it was announced that he had the disease, I was still in high school. I didn’t have much of a reaction. But as the years would go by and the Champ’s physical condition deteriorated, I was ever more thankful of the memories of the fast talking, quit witted, comical poet and humanitarian that left us with so many memories.
At this moment, I reflect on what I admired about Mr. Ali. And truthfully, it was not his boxing. The traits I liked in Muhammad was that he was bold and courageous. You see, he stood up for racism and injustice at a time when that wasn’t popular. When he said he was “The Greatest of All Time” he meant that. Call it a premonition of destiny but he lived up to ever word of it. However, to be great, one has to overcome many things. And when he was convicted of draft dodging, after protesting the Vietnam War, Muhammad suffered a lot financially and personally. He angered government officials and they tried to destroy him. He lost an incredible amount of money at this time, not being allowed to fight. It would be a long 5 years. However, he continued to speak out about what he believed. He earned the entire world’s respect and was raised up. You see, Muhammad Ali was just an athlete–he was a conscious man who was strong enough to lived by his convictions. He took hard jabs at a society about pervasive racism against his people.
Since the 1960’s, The name Muhammad Ali has been known to the word. And the mere mentioning of it can spark even the hardest person to smile.
The tributes will be many.
Mine is just one of them.
However, I am very sincere when I say…that I’m glad that God gave us Muhammad Ali for 74 years.
His funeral is planned for Friday in Louisville Kentucky.
After a long, wonderful life and journey, The Greatest of All Time shall now be put to rest where it all began….
RIP Muhammad Ali.