Friday, June 3, 2016

Muhammad Ali - Dead At 74

Muhammad Ali, widely hailed as the greatest heavyweight boxer in the sport’s history, died late Friday night after being hospitalized in Arizona his week with a respiratory issue.
Ali, 74, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since the 1980s. His prowess in the ring and his personality and social activism make him one of the most recognizable sports figures of the last century. He secured an Olympic gold medal in the 1960 Summer Games and became one of the youngest heavyweight champions of all time, stunning the boxing world with a knockout of Sonny Liston to claim the title in 1964 at 22.

It marked the first of three times Ali would win the heavyweight title. Shortly after the native of Louisville defeated Liston, Ali became a cog in both the civil rights and anti-war movement. Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay after he joined the Nation of Islam, and he was convicted of draft evasion in 1967 after he refused to fight in the Vietnam War because of religious beliefs. His opposition to the Vietnam War cost him the belt and led to a three-year ban from boxing.

His conviction for dodging the Vietnam War draft was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971. Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and suffered his first pro loss a year later in a title bout against Joe Frazier, who won via unanimous decision. It was the first of three memorable fights against Frazier – with Ali winning the last two.

Ali reclaimed the heavyweight belt against George Foreman in one of the most storied events in sports history, "The Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974. Ali employed the "rope-a-dope," in which he allowed Foreman to tire himself out as Ali absorbed punch after punch, before he claimed the bout in Zaire -- now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- with a knockout. In 1978, a clearly overweight Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks but won it back in a rematch six months later, making him the first fighter to win the heavyweight title three times.

Ali retired from boxing in 1981 with a 56-5 record, three of the losses coming in his final four fights. He had 37 knockouts. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years after his retirement. Family members believed his years of boxing contributed to the disease. After his retirement, he concentrated on philanthropy and social activism.

My memories around the great man come from watching this fight - The Rumble In The Jungle. I remember having to be asleep early because the fight was broadcast early in the morning but all our fathers were determined to see what was going to happen. This film is a great documentary of the times and really worth your time if you want to see Ali in his prime when he was at full power. No one had ever existed like him and we will never see his like pass our way again and that is a shame.

My friend Michael was black and that made Ali a hero in his house, a devotion he passed on to me. We both even had the action figure which is one I would love to have in my collection again. I so remember that RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE fight and how Ali turned it around in the final rounds after tricking Foreman into punching himself out with the famous ROPE A DOPE tactic. It was quite a moment for a ten year old.

Today, one of my personal heroes passed away and I hope everyone remembers his courage and his class. He is now amongst the immortals.



Sam G said...

When I was in the First grade Muhammad Ali stopped in my very small town for some sort of promotion and he stopped by the school. All I remember is being in the school hallway along with a flood of kids and towering over us all was Ali. He took up almost the entire hallway (or so it seemed to my 6 year old mind). Shortly after this was when the Muhammad Ali vs. Superman comic came out.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I admired him tremendously for his opposition to the Vietnam War and his refusal to submit to the draft, even if it meant prison. He had the courage of his convictions.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Great story, Sam.

DrGoat said...

He was the greatest. So far this year has seen the passing
of many of the great from my generation and the one before it.
I suppose that is the way of things but it's very sad.