There is no other topic that could be proper for this week’s column. Muhammad Ali has gone onto the path of no return and the world’s response is the greatest memorial one could have – the world has crowned him as “The Greatest of All-Time.”
The reaction that has taken place is a celebration of life for a man who changed the world of sports both inside and outside the ring, and a man who fought for his convictions, values and principles, who overcame so many obstacles to make a change and leave a better world for many.
My father, Jose Sulaiman, used to tell a story from one conversation with Muhammad. Ali saw humanity as eternal life, comparing it with all the grains of sand in the desert. Ali said he would paint one grain per year he lived, and then throw them into the desert to see his passing through life with colors until the wind of time would blow them away into eternity. Those 74 grains which Ali has dropped into the desert will certainly be seen by generations to come.
Muhammad Ali was of tremendous influence in the WBC and Jose Sulaiman’s presidency. My father was motivated from Ali’s principles and values. The WBC mission was outlined by those, which are: fight against discrimination, fight against abuse of power, fight for justice and fairness, change the world.
Muhammad Ali was a dear friend of my father. They shared many special moments and I am certain they are now together, in the company of Frazier, Norton, Angelo and Chris Dundee, Joe Martin, Bundini Brown, so many others who were part of this, the greatest era in boxing. When my father was at UCLA in ICU, fighting like a champion to get well, suddenly my father’s face illuminated as his hero and friend entered the room with Lonnie. It was so touching to see them hold hands while all in the room prayed some Muslim and Catholic passages. Ali’s visit to the hospital remained on my dad´s heart and mind until his last day.
I was fortunate to meet Ali since I was a little boy. He went to Mexico City and other cities in the country many different times. His sweet smile, his charisma, his love for children, always humble and ready to give autographs or take pictures with everyone. Anyone who ever met Ali was touched by his magic and that would become their greatest day in life.
Ali was a strong supporter of my father. He was present during three reelections. In 1980, he came to Mexico City and at the opening of the convention he met the greatest comedian in the history of Mexico, Mario Moreno “Cantinflas.” They clicked when they saw each other, then put an act which made the news worldwide as they pretended to be in a press conference as if they were fighting each other and my father had to pull them apart. Ali was a genius.
In 1988 Ali came again to Mexico City joining Don King and the reigning world champion at that time Mike Tyson .It was an unbelievable gathering. Mike was the sensation at the time, the youngest champion ever to win the heavyweight title. He was unbeatable and was very popular. Still, Ali was the center of attention and he slowly would move out of the way to give Tyson “his moment.”
I will never forget that day, as after the reelection the whole convention went to a huge Mexican restaurant called “Arroyo” and my father asked me to be with Ali until the table was ready. The champ was very hungry and asked me if there was something he could eat, I immediately got him something delicious called “chicharron,” he took a bite and said “this is good,” and while was taking another bite asked me “what is it?” I replied “pork” …Oh my God, he spit it out. He can’t eat pork!!!! and I was so ashamed and embarrassed. When he saw how I felt, he smiled at me and put his hand on my shoulder. Everything was OK.
Muhamad Ali won a gold medal in the Olympics, conquered three times the heavyweight championship of the world, became the most popular person on earth, fought against discrimination and abuse of power, was forced out of the ring during his greatest years as athlete from 25-28, and returned to the ring only to become the greatest of all time. His dedication to humanity has influenced and motivated millions around the world and his legacy is secured as the greatest ever in the history of boxing, inside and outside the ring.
When he retired, the WBC honored him by putting his picture on the side panels of all WBC championship belts. Every green and gold belt has Muhammad Ali showcased as a homage to the greatest of all time.
After many years of my father and Ali not seeing each other, one of the greatest days in boxing happened in Cancun in 2012. Muhammad Ali was crowned as “The King of Boxing” by the WBC. He received a crown, a robe and a Diamond belt. My father was joined by Vitali Klishtko, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sergio Martinez and Canelo Alvarez to crown The King along with Roberto Borge, governor of Quintana Roo, Jean Claude Biver, President of Hublot and 2000 members of the boxing community from all over the world, including 50 world champions. Ali was honored by his peers, by the boxing world and recognized as the greatest of all times.
This magical day brought the light back to the eyes of Ali. The King of Boxing was crowned, the world of boxing found the eternal icon to represent boxing for eternity.
Muhammad Ali loved children and touched millions of hearts with his actions all over the world. His favorite song “The greatest love of all” by Whitney Houston…
“…I believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride, to make it easier, let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be … The greatest love all, is easy to achieve, learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all….I found the greatest love of all inside of me…”
The world is crying with tears of joy as one of the greatest human beings has now found eternity, he is now resting in peace, looking down with a smile, realizing that all his sacrifice, dedication, and passion were worth it as he has left an indelible mark through his passing in this world. Today we celebrate his life, we find inspiration to move on forward and keep his dream alive, continue to honor his legacy and find motivation in his so many quotes and poems.
I want to finish by expressing our gratitude to Lonnie Ali, the” First Lady of Boxing,” the “Queen of Boxing”, a woman who is the greatest wife, soulmate, friend. She was by his side, always there, so attentive, so determined and dedicated. Always smiling, always there for him, never questioning nor complaining but rather celebrating each day as Ali’s life kept building his legacy day after day. In the quiet moments, away from the spotlight she was the Greatest of them all. May God bring strength to Lonnie, Marilyn, Layla and the rest of the family, staff and friends who made Muhammad Ali’s life a wonderful one.
LONG LIVE MUHAMMAD ALI…
When my father passed away, I received a beautiful poem which I’d like to share with all who loved and cared for Muhammad Ali…
God looked around his garden
And found an empty place.
He then looked down upon the earth,
And saw your tired face.
He put His arms around you
And lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful,
He always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering,
He knew that you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb.
So He closed your weary eyelids
And whispered “Peace be thine.”
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone…
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.