Muhammad Ali died yesterday at age 74 of respiratory illness. He had been afflicted with severe Parkinson’s disease for the final three decades of his life.
Ali one proclaimed himself to be “the Greatest.” To many he still is. Facing Ali (2009) is a 5-star documentary of his career, in the words of those who most notably squared off in the ring with “The Greatest.”
It must also be noted that in many ways Muhammad Ali will be the greatest example of why boxing must be banned, if we are to be a civilized society.
If this is how it ends for ‘the Greatest,’ then how horrible must it be for all the others?
His autobiography My Own Story published in 1975 tells his it as no one else can, up through the George Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974.
As loved as Ali is at the time of his death, it is hard for some to believe that he was once vilified; exiled from boxing for 3 years during his prime, for refusing draft entry into the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
White mainstream media had refused to recognize his name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, reflecting his conversion from Christianity to Islam.
Muhammad Ali’s religion & politics became the line between brash & charismatic versus uppity & dangerous in the late 1960’s.
When Ali spoke his mind on the unfairness of being drafted into a war he didn’t believe in, he became a global icon for the oppressed fighting against U.S. imperialism.
Ali embraced his role (and sacrificed more than any superstar athlete ever sacrificed), for a cause nobler than himself.
This is why he was so loved, and today is so mourned.