My Thoughts on "The Greatest"
It was interesting how many text messages I received the night Muhammad Ali passed away. Texts such as, "Rough day for boxing fans and sports fans alike :(" Another I received was, "Ali died bro!" Yes, it was a sad day for boxing. Ali was one of the most influential, entertaining, and greatest boxers that has ever laced on a pair of gloves. But when I told my friends that texted me I was not much of a fan, it surprised them.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Muhammad Ali as a boxer. He essentially was a welterweight in a heavyweight's body. He truly floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. His footwork was graceful, his hand speed was lighting, and his power was shocking. There has not been a heavyweight to this day that resembled that pure boxing style Ali had. Unlike many fighters today, he fought anyone and everyone. Unfortunately, he stayed in the business a little too long. To see him get bloodied by a young Larry Holmes was a sad sight to see.
Ali also had the gift of charisma. He filled stadiums all around the world. He made everyone smile with his jokes, rhymes, and showmanship. You could not help watching his interviews, wondering what he was going to say next. He truly was fascinating in and out of the ring.
Although Ali also had a dark side. Like Iron Mike Tyson after him, Ali was influenced by some very bad people early in his career. He joined the Nation of Islam at a young age which was essentially the Ku Klux Klan for blacks. Ali said the most vile and racist things about whites. But Ali did not stop there. Prior to the fight of the century against Joe Frazier, Ali called him an ape, a gorilla, and an uncle Tom. Was he trying to sell the fight? I am almost certain he was. But to sell the fight by insulting a black man by insinuating he was betraying his own race in the 1970s was going too far.
Ali even proclaimed himself as God and said there was no way Frazier could beat God. Frazier responded by saying, if he was God, then Ali was in "the wrong place tonight." Frazier was right. He beat Ali in one of the most vicious fifteen round heavyweight fights in boxing history.
I did appreciate Ali for what he has done in the ring. I appreciated the well deserved attention he gave to the sport. I appreciated the underdog spirit he displayed in "The Rumble in the Jungle" when he knocked out George Foreman at the end of the eighth round. I appreciated how he influenced so many fighters like the great Sugar Ray Leonard.
Was Muhammad Ali perfect? Absolutely not. Nobody is. Did I like his politics and the things he stood for when he was involved with the Nation of Islam? No. But when I look back on Ali's life, I can definitely appreciate the heart, grit, and fighter's spirit he showed. Most of all, I can appreciate all he did for my beloved sport of boxing.