He was a man of the times. A man who, after all is said and done, changed the world in a way that only he could and now, the journey has come to an end. Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, known to billions around the world as Muhammad Ali, has passed away aged 74. Ali died after a long battle with illness.
To the world he was the young up start who made his professional boxing debut in 1960 winning a six round decision over another former champion, Tunney Hunsaker. Between 1960 and 1963 he had a record of 19 wins with 15 knock-outs and remained undefeated. By 1963 he had become the main contender for then champion Sonny Listers crown. Eventually the match was set down and many believed that Lister would take an easy win. As one publication describes it: Ali taunted Liston during the pre-fight buildup, dubbing him "the big ugly bear". "Liston even smells like a bear,"
Ali said. "After I beat him I'm going to donate him to the zoo." He declared that he would "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee", and, summarizing his strategy for avoiding Liston's assaults, said, "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see."] Ali turned the pre-fight weigh-in into a circus, shouting at Liston that "someone is going to die at ringside tonight". Ali’s pulse rate was measured at 120, more than double his normal 54. Many of those in attendance thought Ali’s behavior stemmed from fear, and some commentators wondered if he would show up for the bout.
The outcome of the fight was a major upset. At the opening bell, Liston rushed at Ali, seemingly angry and looking for a quick knockout. But Ali’s superior speed and mobility enabled him to elude Liston, making the champion miss and look awkward. At the end of the first round Ali opened up his attack and hit Liston repeatedly with jabs. Liston fought better in round two, but at the beginning of the third round Ali hit Liston with a combination that buckled his knees and opened a cut under his left eye. This was the first time Liston had ever been cut. At the end of round four, as Ali returned to his corner, he began experiencing blinding pain in his eyes and asked his trainer Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves. Dundee refused. It has been speculated that the problem was due to ointment used to seal Liston's cuts, perhaps deliberately applied by his corner to his gloves.
Despite Liston's attempts to knock out a blinded Ali, Ali was able to survive the fifth round until sweat and tears rinsed the irritation from his eyes. In the sixth, Ali dominated, hitting Liston repeatedly. Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round, and Ali was declared the winner by TKO. Liston stated that the reason he quit was an injured shoulder. Following the win, a triumphant Ali rushed to the edge of the ring and, pointing to the ringside press, shouted: "Eat your words!" Then, during an interview in the ring, he shouted, "I shook up the world!" "I talk to God every day." "I must be the greatest!"
It was the beginning of a stellar career that took Ali around the world. He didn’t fight between 1967 and 1970 because he refused to be drafted by the US Government stating that "no Vietcong ever called me nigger".
On March 8th 1971 Ali entered the ring for the first of a series of fights against champion Joe Frazier. Ali portrayed Frazier as a "dumb tool of the white establishment". "Frazier is too ugly to be champ," Ali said. "Frazier is too dumb to be champ." Ali also frequently called Frazier an Uncle Tom. Dave Wolf, who worked in Frazier's camp, recalled that, "Ali was saying 'the only people rooting for Joe Frazier are white people in suits, Alabama sheriffs, and members of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm fighting for the little man in the ghetto.' Joe was sitting there, smashing his fist into the palm of his hand, saying, 'What the fuck does he know about the ghetto?'" – there were wins and losses as Ali’s career began to take off again. Frazier was a winner and then a loser against Ali.
Then there was the rumble in the jungle between Ali and big George Foreman. Foreman was considered one of the hardest punchers in heavyweight history. In assessing the fight, analysts pointed out that Joe Frazier and Ken Norton—who had given Ali four tough battles and won two of them—had been both devastated by Foreman in second round knockouts.
Ali was 32 years old, and had clearly lost speed and reflexes since his twenties. Contrary to his later persona, Foreman was at the time a brooding and intimidating presence. Almost no one associated with the sport, not even Ali's long-time supporter Howard Cosell, gave the former champion a chance of winning. As usual, Ali was confident and colorful before the fight.
He told interviewer David Frost, "If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait 'til I whup Foreman's behind!" He told the press, "I've done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick." Ali was wildly popular in Zaire, with crowds chanting "Ali, bomaye" ("Ali, kill him") wherever he went. In the eighth round, Ali dropped an exhausted Foreman with a combination at center ring; Foreman failed to make the count. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome in 1984, a disease that commonly results from head trauma from activities such as boxing.
Ali had been married four times and had seven daughters and two sons.
In the end his career and his public life became part folklore and part reality television with the final years being a reversal of both – quiet and battling with Parkinsons that largely robbed his mobility and the very freedom he always enjoyed. Ali was never really a controversial figure he had flair and fight, determination and prowess. He really did “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Matthew Tukaki is the Editor in Chief of EntreHub.org. Historical content has been copied from Wikipedia where references to the pull quotes are freely available. Matthew is also a die hard boxing fan and sports followers. You can follow him on twitter @tukakimatt
Don’t forget our elders can suffer in silence too: suicide prevention
Many people think that mental health and suicide are not topics that impact our elders but they could not be more wrong. The data tells us there continues to be an emerging trend when it comes to peop...
Wherever you look these days, not matter the developed country, whole population groups and peoples struggle with the daily grind of life. From children in state care to mental health, from affordable housing to the primary health system and from education to employmen...
For the last few years I have been fortunate to have been involved in the aged care sector and have seen both the lows and highs. Today we live in a world where most of us are living longer thank to more awareness around healthy living, the advancement of better medica...
You can’t go past a news paper, radio show or television news story these days without being flooded by all things Bitcoin or Crypto Currency. Some say it’s the new world of money while others suggest its all just a passing fad. Whatever your position or preference of...