Remembering the late Muhammad Ali

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali was a great fighter. He fought in the boxing ring. He also fought in rings of religion, race, government, war, disease and culture. Muhammad Ali fought with his fists. He also fought with his mind, his words, his creativity, his courage. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought in the boxing ring. He fought Sonny Liston, the biggest, baddest fighter of the sixties. He was not given a snowball chance in hell of winning. But he fought and won. Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, the biggest baddest fighter of the seventies. They said he did not stand a chance. But he fought and won. Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier three times. Frazier was not the biggest but he was the baddest of his time. Frazier won the first time as Ali was coming off a 3.5 year forced lay-off from fighting. They fought two other times and Ali won both. Three times he became the heavyweight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought in the culture ring. He fought those who wanted him to “stay in his place.” They wanted him to talk in the way they wanted, act in the way they wanted, be in the way they wanted. But he refused to “stay in his place.” So many hated what he said and the way he said it. But in the end they too came to love what he said and how he said it. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought in the ring of religion. He proudly chose the Nation of Islam as his religion. His name was changed from Cassius Clay to Cassius X to Muhammad Ali. He became the most hated person in the United States of America. But he never backed off his religion. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Citizen Medal to the man who was once so hated. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought in the ring of race. Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal for his country but could not vote in his state or eat in most restaurants in his home city. At one time he could not return to his hometown of Louisville because he was so hated. He stood by his race. He was unapologetic. He spoke against South Africa’s apartheid at the United Nations. Now, the city of Louisville has a monument to him. When he passed, the city lowered the flags to half mast. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought the U. S. Government. The government drafted him into the military but he refused to go on the basis of his religion. The government convicted him and imposed a five-year sentence and a $10,000 fine. He was prohibited from fighting in the boxing ring. He lost millions of dollars and other opportunities. He did not know if he would even fight again. But he kept fighting, ultimately winning a unanimous decision from the U. S. Supreme Court three years later. In 2005, President George Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought against the Vietnam War. He said it was wrong. His stand inspired so many others to stand against the war, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali had Parkinson’s, a very debilitating disease. Eventually, he was unable to speak. He didn’t hide his disease or shrink back. He was visibly shaking from the ravages of the disease but he lit the Olympic torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He inspired others to fight Parkinson’s. He could not defeat this disease but he fought it for 30 years. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought with everything God gave him. He fought with his mind. He had just a twelfth grade education, graduating 376th out of a class of 396. But he was extremely smart. He outwitted all that he fought regardless of the arena. He fought with his words before he got in the rings, after he was in the ring and after he left the rings. He fought with words of poetry and words of prose. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

Muhammad Ali fought with his creativity. He did things that had never been done before. In the boxing ring, he leaned back when punches were thrown at him. It was all wrong but it worked brilliantly. He used the rope-a-dope to beat George Foreman.

He used his feet and hands in ways no heavyweight fighter had ever done. The courage of his convictions and the strength of his stands changed the world, not just boxing. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter.

When Muhammad Ali was on his dying bed, all his organs had ceased to function. However, his heart kept on beating. His fighting spirit kept his heart beating when all else had ceased. His family said to him, “It’s alright. You can stop fighting now.” Muhammad Ali finally stopped fighting on June 3, 2016, but his fighting spirit lives on in us.

Fighting for right is so powerful.

Fighting with all the tools that God gave us is so powerful. Combining both is powerful beyond words.

Such was Muhammad Ali’s life.