Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Best and Worst of Muhammad Ali

He was before my time.  My era was domineered by Mike Tyson and a few others.  However, Muhammad Ali is forever known as The Greatest in a sport where winners are forever known as "champ." The Thriller in Manila is considered one of the greatest boxing matches ever, and his stand against Vietnam is even more monumental.  However, there are incidents in Ali's past that gives him a true humanistic quality; and with it carries far less merit. 

This Champ is far more than a myth, and bigger than any icon. Forever, he will be equally yoked with his vast number of shortcomings. So what if he was married four times?  And so what if he fathered nine (known) children?  Those qualities are as human as it gets.  The Champ was a indeed a whore just as much as he was the wayward father.  It was a familial trait perhaps modeled by his brother and he from their father.  He separated himself from his friend Malcolm X for both ignorant and selfish reasons. Muhammad Ali was a braggart and spoke harshly about black opponents.  Saying that Joe Frazier looked like a "gorilla" and an "Uncle Tom" will go down as one of the most known setbacks for racial unity in sports history. These incidents serve as examples for Ali being anything other than one whom many consider to be great.

Muhammad Ali met with Saddam Hussein in 1990 to free 15 hostages in Iraq despite being discouraged to do so by then-president George Bush.  In the 1960s, Ali arguably did more for black advancement worldwide than anyone whose last name is not King, Marshall, or Little (Malcolm X).  Muhammad Ali gave athletes more confidence to succeed and provide for their families than any athlete in American history.  Muhammad Ali is an icon.  Muhammad Ali is gold medalist patriot.  Muhammad Ali is an American success story.  Muhammad Ali is a boxing god.

His bouts with Parkinson's Disease was perhaps the most necessary battle that he ever fought.  He was rude.  He was boisterous.  He was arrogant.  He was selfish.  The disease silenced him, perhaps in order for his figure to be truly appreciated.  Karma worked this time, or maybe faith was the deciding judge.  Nevertheless, sadly, Parkinson's won.  So, today, we can see him for who he truly is: A necessary victim who needed to be sacrificed for humanity.  He served the public well, although hurting those who knew him the most. 

Muhammad Ali was oddly the people's champion. And through his silence, he could mask his regrets.  Maybe it was the best way for him to leave the world: stoic and visible, prideful and an enigma. At the very least, he represented the characteristics that many would expect to see in any fighter.  

Rest in peace, champ.

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