All Points West: Ali was ‘The Greatest’
     2016-06-10      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Boxer Muhammad Ali died in a Phoenix, Arizona, hospital on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74.

He was the most widely regarded sports figure in the 20th century.

He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, and began training when he was 12 years old. At 22, he beat Sonny Liston in an upset in 1964, winning the world heavyweight championship. A short time later, Clay converted to Islam, changed his “slave” name to Ali, and sounded the drum beat for African American pride, and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

In 1966, he was imprisoned, after refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing religion and opposition to the war in Vietnam. The boxing establishment stripped him of his boxing titles. After his appeals, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971.

Considered to be the “greatest” fighter, he won the heavyweight title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. He won several fights in 1964 when professional bouts had a poetic ring to them – the “Fight of the Century,” the “Super Fight II,” and the “Thrilla in Manila.” All three fights were against Smokin’ Joe Frazier, probably his fiercest rival, and the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.

After the Fight of the Century against Frazier – the first of three fights between the pair who were both undefeated with legitimate claims to being world champion, Ali was 31-0 and 25 KOs; and Frazier 26-0, 23 KOs – Ali and Frazier appeared on the Dick Cavett Show, and just as bold as ever, rattled off several rhyming answers in a racially tinted response to Cavett’s needling questions about how the fighters got along, and a possible next fight. Ali said, “When he (Frazier) hears the bell, he will be in trouble. … This has been the history of America.
You love to see two colored men beat up each other. … We don’t get along, so we’re going to get it on. He thinks he’s the best, so he’s going to jump in my chest. So, you don’t have to agitate and try to push it on no farther, unless you want us to start now, and you get hit in the middle.” In playful jest, both fighters easily lifted the lithe talk show host into the air, Ali then saying that even black men who opposed to each other at times must unite.

Ali possessed an imposing physique. He was 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds at his heaviest when fighting, making an impression on his foes and the rest of the world, how a giant man could be so light on his feet, and landing such devastating punches. He described his pugilistic style of floating like a butterfly, but stinging like a bee, as unbeatable. He retired from boxing in 1981, after 61 bouts, 56 wins, 37 of those by knockout, and only five losses.

In the end, he was hospitalized in Phoenix, Arizona, with a respiratory problem. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since the 1980s.

A funeral was to take place June 10, in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported tickets would be sold because of limited seating.

The CJ, the Telegraph in Great Britain, and many other world newspapers printed details of the service. Ali’s spokesman Bob Gunnell said, after a 30-minute Islamic service led by Muslim scholar Zaid Shakir on June 9 in Freedom Hall, where Ali once fought, 15,500 people will gather on June 10 at the KFC Yum! Center, a 22,000 seat basketball arena in Louisville, and along with millions around the world to watch an interfaith service live at noon (central time) on the internet. The procession will begin at 7 a.m. (central time).

Speakers will include Lonnie Ali, his oldest child Maryum Ali, former President Bill Clinton, Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and comedian Billy Crystal, and representatives of the Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, and Mormon faiths. Talk about being a unifying influence.

Atallah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, will give a poetry reading.

On July 19, 1996, I and millions of others watched the televised images of Ali lighting the cauldron at the Atlanta Olympic Opening Ceremony.

He was the final bearer, receiving the torch from swimmer Janet Evans, who watched him slowed by Parkinson’s, trembling. He lit the small rocket that carried the flame to the cauldron. Evans told reporters, “to stand there in front of the world and inspire even more young people like myself, to be and do and accomplish anything we want to do, it was an epiphany for me. It was a defining moment in my Olympic career.”

These are but a few accomplishments of a man who was highly revered, not just in the sports world. About at least a half dozen news programs on this past Sunday’s talk shows that aired eulogized the boxer telling their parents’ stories. Like my journalism contemporaries, a lot of us were just kids at the time.

Ali was not just a fighter in the ring, but he was a fighter for justice, and social equality. He made an impact on the most powerful political and religious circles as well because of his contentious, but authentic beliefs and actions.

As a young kid watching on a grainy black-and-white television some of the bouts he fought, not so much interested in two men beating on each other, or listening to both the criticism and praise for Ali’s flamboyant outspoken manner, I stopped to watch the style in which he did it. Added to the words he spoke – a braggadocio showman using humor to quell the edgy moments, and the eloquent phrasing of tasteful pre-era Rap – he was an example to us all.

The tragedy at this time is that I cannot fit all the rich stories of how he touched people over his lifetime into this column. I encourage you to take the time to read more about him. Maybe there’s something important future generations will remember about him.

There are sports heroes in this world. Then, there is Ali.

Share this story on Facebook
LOGIN or REGISTER for exclusive access to premium content

Good Afternoon friend!
Recently Read Sports
1716All Points West: Ali was ‘The Greatest’
1125Gering, Scottsbluff open tennis season at McCook
806Bearcats' stellar season hits wall in playoffs
868Final Point: When the Friday night lights stay dark
1126Horseshoe pitchers toss up points for state tourney
1127American Marksman names Sure Shot its qualifying range
1202Gering soccer teams stumble
1127Bearcat tennis wraps regular season
1870Super Hero Run raises child abuse awareness
1127Gering runners first
813Bearcats let out new-year’s roar with pair of victories
1127Bearcat golfers win at home
794Gering Seniors one win from state championship Pitchers, batters , fielders pace Senior 36ers’ first 3 wins
1128Mitchell is keeping team-first mindset
1229WNCC softball sweeps Southeast behind Hancock's no-hitter
1128Bulldogs’ Krzyzanowski 2nd, Bearcats 3rd in Class B
1014 Bearcat wrestlers take 4th in GNAC tournament: Adams sets state career win record
1129Mitchell Golf team looks for life lessons in the game
726Legion boys hitting season stride
1131Prep Football Roundup Heartbreak loss ends Mitchell’s season
Most Read Sports 2012
4038Mitchell track off to a strong start
3928Morrill baseball back in business
3331Rivals make good friends, better training partners
3298Gering wrestling builds on experience
3192Bulldogs basketball ready to run Class B gauntlet
3143Mendoza spirit lives on in softball tournament
2944All Points West: Time to get tough Huskers
2925Gering resident lives his dream
2804All Points West: We’ll miss 2016 seniors
2765Raising the bar high
2738Kizzire and Kautz take first place
2732Basketball girls hungry for more wins
2725Gering breaks two records at Chadron: Track season gets underway at Chadron Indoor Meet
2660Cougars clench 18th straight Region IX title
2598Sterkel Colorado bound, inks with Rangers
2591Beam to golf at Midland
2522Doing the heavy lifting
2439Gering girls’ soccer team creating team first attitude
2258Scottsbluff hopes to repeat as state champs
2237Morrill Lions move to eight-man offers opportunity
Most Read Sports 2011
4038Mitchell track off to a strong start
3928Morrill baseball back in business
3331Rivals make good friends, better training partners
3298Gering wrestling builds on experience
3192Bulldogs basketball ready to run Class B gauntlet
3143Mendoza spirit lives on in softball tournament
2944All Points West: Time to get tough Huskers
2925Gering resident lives his dream
2804All Points West: We’ll miss 2016 seniors
2765Raising the bar high
2738Kizzire and Kautz take first place
2732Basketball girls hungry for more wins
2725Gering breaks two records at Chadron: Track season gets underway at Chadron Indoor Meet
2660Cougars clench 18th straight Region IX title
2598Sterkel Colorado bound, inks with Rangers
2591Beam to golf at Midland
2522Doing the heavy lifting
2439Gering girls’ soccer team creating team first attitude
2258Scottsbluff hopes to repeat as state champs
2237Morrill Lions move to eight-man offers opportunity
Platte Valley Companies
Fresh Foods
American Legacy
Spectrum Photo
Kendell Henderson
= = = Platte Valley Companies' = = =
Sports Page

Check out the
Gering Bulldogs on