We saw this coming from a ways off but God showered grace on Muhammad Ali so that his departure was not so hard to take. He was such a brash personality, he tended to offend many in the early years. Over time as he backed up his talk outside the ring with action inside the ring, we got used to it and eventually enjoyed the banter.
Great in the ring
The man known as Cassius Clay was a newly minted Olympic champion and when the draft came calling. He said he would not fight another set of brown people who did nothing to him. The penalty for speaking out was 3 1/2 of his prime boxing years. He emerged as a man to be reckoned with as an early contender for the Championship belt held by Joe Frazier. That and other fights netted him the World Championship three separate times and gave him worldwide notoriety. At about the point of his retirement he declared that he had Parkinson’s Disease.
Great out of the ring
I doubt that Ali ever met a stranger even though he was one of the most recognized people on the planet. From Malcolm X to Martin King Jr. to nameless boys in Kinshasa; Ali provided inspiration, hope and visible humility to millions as he wrestled with civil rights, poverty in America and Parkinson’s Disease. I was pleasantly surprised to see an entire wing to the Ali Center donated by Angelina Jolie. She was another of the fans who gave support to “the Greatest”.
You may have been one beside me stirred almost to tears to see Ali light the Olympic flame in Atlanta. We have grown older together, Ali and America. The years with him have sparked us, entertained us, enlightened us and the world will never be the same.