Muhammad Ali – 17 January 1942 – 3 June 2016 – ‘The Greatest’
“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are,” – Muhammad Ali
Throughout history, the world has known various characters, enlightened beings who in one way or another have transformed human thought.
Men and women over the course of history who have broken certain stereotypes. Special folks who have pushed against the aberrations of power, governments, injustice, and discrimination.
Those who did not hesitate to defend their principles and their thoughts, even when those struggles threatened to strip them of their integrity and potentially life itself.
Unique humans, possessors of untamable spirit, endowed with brilliant minds. But especially, with a heart capable of holding the noblest feelings towards others.
Different characters, born at different times, with different activities. But all “touched” by kindness, equality, and love.
One of them without any doubt was Muhammad Ali. A man who through his fists fought for equality of races.
Muhammad surprised his country and the entire world after announcing his new faith in the 60s. He also refused to fight in the Vietnam war.
Ali converted to Islam, he left behind the name of Cassius Clay which he believed was a slave name, in order to become Muhammad Ali and fight to demand the end of discrimination.
His mission: Defending the causes of his belief. He is placed alongside Jim Brown- football player, basketball players, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jackie Robinson, who was the first black baseball player to get into the Major League baseball. Each and every one of them fought for equality.
Muhammad believed in the words of his friend Martin Luther King. A social fighter of the twentieth century who struggled peacefully against segregation and racial discrimination in the US.
“I have a dream, one dream, keep dreaming. Dream of freedom, justice dream, a dream of equality and hopefully no longer had a need to dream them,” – a man like Ali, who fought for justice.
The Former world heavyweight champion lived with the greatness of a man of integrity, a man who acted according to his principles. He thought freely defining his life, he was always convinced of his convictions.
Perhaps this happened since his childhood. He did not understand why “good” things always were white and the”bad ones” black. For Ali, the color was not a factor; a small kid who did not understand why his brothers were slaves; men and women of African origin who were brought by force and sold in America, beings considered the property of their masters, who could be bought or sold, and even marked or mutilated to prevent them from escaping, living subjugated and threatened.
A childish mind could not imagine who had decided that African Americans should be treated differently, who gave the right to whites to profit from the life of their neighbors, to humiliate them and make them feel inferior? Who said white people were superior?
That child who knew consciously or unconsciously that we were not different, a kid who was able to predict the future: “I am the greatest. I even told myself when I knew I was not. ”
An ideology that made him transcend borders. This led him to be the voice of people and the idol of nations. But also brought bitter episodes, insults. Even to the disapproval of many who disagreed with his thinking.
Ali not only dazzled the world with his brilliant boxing skills but also with his sincerity and loyalty to his ideals. The proof is that when he won the gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics, in the light heavyweight category, but he threw the medal to the Ohio River. The reason?, the “Olympic black” as they used to call him, was still the “black guy,” discriminated against, no matter the merits…only the color of the skin.
Muhammad learned to leave the sorrows of being “black” and transformed them into actions. He did not sit to watch time pass. He didn’t wait to see if the world was going to change.
Ali put the gloves on and he went to fight with everything he had. He shook everyone with his personality, sometimes irreverent, sometimes too honest!
“Serving others is the rent to be paid for a room on Earth,” – this how the “King of Boxing” defined his actions.
A devotee of Islam, Allah, his God, is the only one (in the words of Ali) able to judge actions, which would decide his future life in heaven or hell. The belief that led him to do the good in so many ways.
A fact that made him one of the most heard voices inside and outside the ring. He was able to foresee beyond black or white, and in his walk, he discovered that the world was full of colors, beliefs, traditions, and ways of thinking. All of them worthy of being respected.
Influential in November 1990, he met Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on a ‘goodwill visit’. He made to negotiate the release of 15 Americans who were being held prisoners in Iraq.
A man who fought in the courts and in the Congress to create in 1999 “Boxing Reform Act Muhammad Ali”. This protects the rights and welfare of boxers.
He did not allow the Warriors of the ring to be abused by unscrupulous promoters who took advantage of the lack of education of the fighters to deceive and steal the purses they deservedly earned.
The child born in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, found his passion for poverty and discrimination. His motivation was to change the world. To make himself heard. A burning desire that led him to do what is necessary to fulfill his dream of greatness in reality.
Proud of his race, Ali tried to erase the bitter past of an era of slavery. Where men, women, and children were stripped of their identity, traditions, customs that seemed to be lost in time through evil, humiliation, and maltreatment.
Muhammad came to the world with great pride, he was always special. He possessed that “something” which would lead him to be at the top. Ali had the vocation of boxing in his veins. He knew it since he decided to end the abuses of another child of his age (12 years) who stole his bike.
Guard up and ready to reclaim what was his, Ali did not hesitate to confront those who sought to abuse it. However, it needed something more than courage. Joe Martin, a policeman in the town knew how this little “Rascal” came enraged, warning him to face the “thief” but first… he must be ready to learn to box.
Even with the body of a child, Ali electrified everyone who saw him in his first steps in the gyms. Muhammad Ali knew boxing was in his veins “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
So, the time passed and he became known for his distinctive style, agile, with incredible reflexes, bouncing and swaying … he was like no other fighter seen of his era and even in this one. He floated, he learned movements in front of the past, but also innovated, molded, and created his own style.
Endowed with a speed never seen before in a heavyweight division, he was able to fight like a lightweight, he moved like a dancer who knew the exact chords to dodge and “nibble” at the right time in the right place.
Being one of a kind who shone with his own light and left fame, money, and his glittering career aside in order to defend his ideals, refusing to be part of the Armed Forces of the United States at the Vietnam War.
A Refusal for which paid a very high price. Because he was not only stripped of his world title but also he was held apart from all activity for more than three years.
He was even close to being sent to prison. But he was aware of the possible consequences. Therefore, he knew the consequences of his decision.
However, none of this mattered to him. Even though being away from the ropes was painful. Alternately, not to follow the struggle would be betraying his beliefs. He always was willing to stand up for those beliefs, while respecting others.
He was Muhammad Ali, a genuine warrior able to see the world in a different way. A gifted man, who never denied his roots. He lived as the GREATEST. With linguistic talent and agility, which helped him to offer a big “show. ”
He conveyed his strengths to all those who had the fortune to know him. He always gave a hand to everyone. Furthermore, with humbleness, kindness, and without distinctions. A man who decided to be free, who broke the chains and inspired millions.
Ali left the body that locked him for more than 30 years in a cage. An illness that stole his motor skills but a condition that never could affect his spirit and much less weaken his heart.
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. And Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali