A few words about Muhammad Ali
Where to begin.
It wasn’t just boxing where Muhammad Ali had a seismic impact, it was the world over. If you didn’t know anything about boxing you most likely knew about Ali.
Sometimes a fighter chooses to do his talking in the ring, Ali did it outside the ring with boastful predictions that entertained millions and have been repeated many times over.
“If you were surprised when Nixon resigned, just watch when I whup Foreman’s behind!”
And on 30 October, 1974, as he so often did, Ali shocked the world.
Legendary boxing writer Colin Hart, a man who travelled the world reporting on Ali and others told me: “The consensus was he (Ali) was going to get murdered.” Hart was the only British boxing writer who tipped Ali to win.
In the immediate aftermath, and as the heavens opened, surrounded by media and well-wishers in the dressing room Ali, who had David Frost’s mic for company, looked down the camera and told the world: “Everybody stop talking now. Attention. I told you, all of my critics, I told you all I was the greatest of all time. Never again say I’m going to be defeated. Never again make me the underdog. I want all boxers to put this in the pages of boxing, staying on the ropes is a beautiful thing when you make him hit his best shots and you know he’s not hitting you. I told you I was going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. His eyes can’t hit what his eyes can’t see."
Not only did Ali rope-a-dope George Foreman he rope-a-doped the boxing world.
‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ is undoubtedly one of the most iconic fights of all time. Ali had many a finest and memorable hour and that was certainly one of them. The list of which goes longer than the amount of times he had to fend off ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier in 1971, 1974 and 1975.
He wasn’t just memorable for his boxing, he was memorable for his principles and the way he stood up to those who thought they could bring him down. He stood up to all types of man and woman. He would not fight in Vietnam, he would not bow to public pressure… he chose to walk his own path regardless of what the world said about him.
The world has since spoken about him every day and will continue to do so. Wannabe fighters will always hear the sounds of “Rumble, young man, rumble” and thanks to social media and YouTube they will always see his fights and his triumphs.
It wasn’t just the tactics against Foreman or the skill and will against Frazier, it was his dominance over Archie Moore. It was 1962, it was pre-Sonny Liston, it was pre-Muhammad Ali and while Moore was past his best it was nothing short of brilliant from the 20-year-old in his 16th professional fight.
Go and look back at how Ali dominated George Chuvalo in 1966. Speed, skill and stamina for 15 rounds against a man regarded as the toughest man of his era.
I could type about Muhammad Ali until my fingers cramped up. I never saw him live, I never met him and while Marvin Hagler was and still is my personal boxing hero Ali’s influence on my love for boxing was there from the early days, thanks to memories from my father staying up the small hours to watch him live on television. Ali was boxing according to my dad so it was only natural I would follow up and look into what made him so special to one man.
The world is now in mourning for Muhammad Ali. Tears, memories, re-telling of stories and pressing play on his fights will go long on into today, tomorrow and beyond.
The last word though should go to Ali.
American writer George Plimpton, a man who wrote many a word on Ali, once asked ‘The Greatest’: “What would you like people to think about you when you’re gone?”
“I’d like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, one tablespoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, he took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern and then he mixed willingness with happiness. He added lots of faith and he stirred it up well then he spread it over a span of a lifetime and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”
Muhammad Ali: 17 January, 1942 – 3 June 2016.
Rest in peace.