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Muhammad Ali – Greatest Ever!
He was The Greatest.
Muhammad Ali has died at age 74.
The legendary athlete who changed the face of boxing and influenced a generation was hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier this week. Always known as a loving husband and family man, the beloved figure was surrounded by his children who had flown in from around the country.
“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die,” Don King, who promoted some of Ali’s biggest fights, told the media. “Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.”
Ali once calculated he had taken 29,000 punches to the head and made $57 million in his pro career, but the effect of the punches lingered long after most of the money was gone. That didn’t stop him from traveling tirelessly to promote Islam, meet with world leaders and champion legislation dubbed the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. While slowed in recent years, he still managed to make numerous appearances, including a trip to the 2012 London Olympics.
Despised by some for his outspoken beliefs and refusal to serve in the U.S. Army in the 1960s, an aging Ali became a poignant figure whose mere presence at a sporting event would draw long standing ovations.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali began boxing at age 12 after his new bicycle was stolen and he vowed to policeman Joe Martin that he would “whup” the person who took it.
He was only 89 pounds at the time, but Martin began training him at his boxing gym, the beginning of a six-year amateur career that ended with the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960.
Ali had already encountered racism. On boxing trips, he and his amateur teammates would have to stay in the car while Martin bought them hamburgers. When he returned to Louisville with his gold medal, the Chamber of Commerce presented him a citation but said it didn’t have time to co-sponsor a dinner.
In his autobiography, “The Greatest,” Ali wrote that he tossed the medal into the Ohio River after a fight with a white motorcycle gang, which started when he and a friend were refused service at a Louisville restaurant.
It cannot be understated that a Black man such as Ali with all of his success was publicly scorned as he challenged the Vietnam draft, fought for civil rights, and was on the right side of history for all of it.
Muhammad Ali will forever be ‘The Greatest’ in life and death. Float with the butterflies.