On Saturday, June 4th at 12:10 a.m., the world lost one of the greatest human being that ever lived and that was Muhammad Ali. To be honest, I’ve not watched any of his fights in the ring of course, one of the reasons is that I was too young and I’m not what you consider a huge boxing fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve followed guys like Pernell Whitaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Marvin Hagler and many others, but the reason I was a fan of Muhammad Ali was because I have always gravitated to the people who were outspoken and stood up for what they believe and human rights. In the ring, Muhammad Ali was a 3-time world heavyweight champion and one of the funniest, trash-talkers ever and someone I wrote my first book report when I was younger in school. While most people were looking up to or naming Presidents who they wish they had the chance to meet, my idol was Muhammad Ali. He was born Cassius Clay, but later converted to Islam to become a Muslim where he changed him name to Muhammad Ali during a time when racism was at an all-time high. His fights against the like of Sonny Liston, Ken Norton, Joe Frazier and George Foreman are legendary, but his fights with issues pertaining to the civil rights movement are what made him “The Greatest”. When you think about the civil rights movement, usually athletes try to avoid that topic, but Muhammad Ali along with guys like Jim Brown and Jackie Robinson were the exception.
As mentioned before, athletes never talked about issues related to the world or how people are treated because they’re trying to protect their brand and it would cost them money. Muhammad Ali was very vocal on the way the United States government handled the Vietnam War, race and class. Many in America criticized him when he chose to align himself with the Nation of Islam and a lot of the sportscaster refused to call him Muhammad Ali. In 1967, he was arrested because he violated the Selective Service laws to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. Below is the statement he issued as to why he wouldn’t join the armed forces and fight in the Vietnam War.
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what, “he said. “They never called me n—-r, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape or kill my mother and father. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
As a result, Muhammad Ali was convicted of refusing to report for induction. He was also stripped of his passport, fined $10,000 and couldn’t box where he didn’t fight for over 3.5 years as the Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction. After boxing, Muhammad Ali spent most of his time fighting Parkinson’s disease and also trying to find a cure of the horrible disease that he had since the early 1980s. Throughout the years, Muhammad Ali still kept busy despite the disease whether it was carrying the Olympic Torch to Atlanta in 1996, helping to get people released from other countries while being held captive, earning a Medal of Freedom in 2015 or letting the world know that Islam is a peaceful religion. There are so many stories people have shared about the times they met him and how he didn’t let Parkinson’s disease keep him from helping the world. Unfortunately, he had to be admitted into the hospital on Thursday evening because of a respiratory condition and eventually passed because of septic shock. RIP to The Greatest of All-Time, Muhammad Ali, trust me you will never be forgotten and the world was a better place with you here, but you don’t have to suffer anymore.