“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”Muhammad Ali
Ali proclaimed his right to his belief system and never faltered, willing to risk everything for his truth. He was a true hero in the black community, a leader, role model and man of conviction. He dared to vocalize the anxieties of a people whose ancestors built America through free labor, yet were denied the true perks of American citizenship.
The Greatest with Sam Cooke in 1963
"Last night I had a dream, When I got to Africa,
I had one hell of a rumble.
I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first,
For claiming to be King of the Jungle.
For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don't get wet.
When George Foreman meets me,
He’ll pay his debt.
I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see Muhammad Ali."
Muhammad Ali was a legend in and outside the ring. There has not been a fighter since who held his astute magnetism. He took on America and blasted her for her hypocrisy, in and outside of the military, which was riddled with racism. He had integrity and polish, though he may appear to have been raucous and raw. He wasn’t. He was real. He was undeniably, a man of peace, love and truth. A champion in the ring and a champion of the people.
Ali lived extraordinary. His first introduction to the ring came when his red and white Schwinn was stolen and the young, furious Cassius Clay at age 12 vowed to deliver a serious can of whip ass to the thief who stole the bike that his dad had given him for Christmas. Police officer Joe Elsby Martin, also a boxing trainer encouraged Clay to re-channel his anger in the ring and train to fight. Ali recalled in his autobiography:
|With Joe Elsby Martin|
Six weeks later, Clay won his first bout in a split decision.
|Ali defeats Liston|
|1960 Summer Olympics|
After his high school graduation in 1960, Ali went to Rome and won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. In his 1975 autobiography he wrote that he threw his gold medal off of a bridge into the Ohio River to protest the racism he still encountered in his hometown in Kentucky. There have been disputes with regard to this account. During the 1966 Summer Olympics where he lit the cauldron at Opening ceremonies, he received a replacement.
He opened on Broadway in Buck White and performed an excerpt on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. Though the production's run on Broadway was brief in New York's John Abbot Theatre (only 7 days), Ali would receive decent reviews.
He also did a spoken word album in which he covered Ben E. King's Stand By me.
In 1971, he would lose a fight to Joe Frazier. Called "The Fight of The Century" the defeat never hindered Ali's drive. He would fight Frazier and defeat him two more times, one match known as "The Thrilla In Manila". He defeated Joe Frasier (1974) in the iconic "Rumble in The Jungle." He regained his title from Leon Spinks in 1978 and made history as the fist World Heavywight champion to the title 3 times. But 1980, Ali had come out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes. Sadly, his defeat to Holmes showed evidence of the last fight of his life with the beginning of Parkinson's Disease.
Still, a man of purpose and humanity, Ali saved a distraught veteran ready to jump to his death in 1981 in Los Angeles, was saved by Ali. When Ali's PR manager asked police if Ali could be of help, he was told no. But the PR manager alerted Ali anyway and he was able to persuade the vet from jumping to his death.
November 1990, Ali met with Saddam Hussein to negotiate for the release of Americans held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. By December, Ali would accompany fifteen freed U.S. hostages out of Iraq.
Ali was the first boxer to grace a box of Wheaties in 1999.
On his visit to Ireland back in 1972, he was not aware of his Irish roots. His great-grandfather, Abe O'Grady, a white Irishman who immigrated to the US in 1862 married a freed slave, (the daughter of Lewis and Mandy Walker of Todd County, Kentucky) shortly after the civil war. The son of this union, John Lewis O'Grady was Ali's maternal grandfather. Ali's mother was born in 1917. In 2009, Ali would return to his great grandfather's ancestral home of Ennis Ireland and meet members of the O'Grady clan.
The 2009 return to his mother's roots in Ireland.
|Billy Crystal gave a moving and heartfelt eulogy.|