Today we woke to a message that a lot of us had feared would be the case but were still saddened to see its confirmation. “RIP Muhammad Ali” the message read. The almighty had come to collect it’s champion. Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay passed away on June 3rd 2016 in Phoenix Arizona at the age of 74. The previous day he was taken to hospital with a respiratory condition to which he was placed on life support. His condition however did not improve and it was announced he had passed.
The sport of boxing is an aggressive one, there’s no doubt about that. Two men pummeling each other till the other can’t take anymore. A 20 square foot stage where all the ‘talking’ is done. Muhammad Ali on the other hand come in to the sport with a style and charisma that would not only see him do his talking in the ring but very much outside of it which saw him become a favourite among the people. Growing up and boxing in a time where racism and injustice were an everyday thing, Ali was able to take that hate and animosity towards himself and black Americans and channel it into a driving force that would give him the energy and power to become one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen.
His rivalry with Sonny Liston, when he fought under his birth name Cassius Clay, was one of the first fights Clay introduced us to his slick talk, humour and poetic way with words. The two men would go toe to toe on two occasions with Clay being the victor in both bouts. The iconic image of Clay standing over his fallen enemy shouting “Get up and fight sucker!” is an image that will forever be synonymous with greatness.
“The crowd did not dream when they put up the money / that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.”
Smokin’ Joe Frazier quickly became Ali’s next foe when the two men would go head to head on three occasions from 1971-1975 with Ali beating Frazier in the 2nd fight and the 3rd fight famously known as ‘Thriller in Manilla’. There was no love-loss between the two heavyweights. “Joe Frazier should give his face to the Wildlife Fund. He’s so ugly, blind men go the other way. Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!” Words from Ali before their meeting in Manilla. Not one to mince his words.
“If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait till I whup Foreman’s behind.” You can’t help but chuckle at the simplicity of the trash talk but at the same time feel a sense of admiration for a man who would time and time again taunt his opponents with his words to again back it up with his quick and agile rope-a-doping ways in the ring.
George Foreman and Muhammad Ali met in 1974 with Ali knocking the undefeated champion down in the 8th round. Although the two men did not hold the same hatred towards each other as Frazier and Ali did, the build up and the dubbed ‘Rumble In the Jungle’ had been called one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century.
As this is being written messages from the mandem are in abundance. Although we were not alive to witness ‘the greatest’ box, we are very much fans of the sport so he is an individual we all know and respect. Over the years since Ali’s hay-day we have seen boxers adopt styles and personas that some would say would not have seen the light in boxing had it not been for him. ‘The baddest man on the planet’. A title given to former World heavyweight champion Mike Tyson for his no holds-barred approach in the boxing world, an icon and memorable figure. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather. 49-0. A quintuple champion in who boasts with a similar charisma to Ali in his belief that he is truly the greatest and best there ever will be. These great boxers are icons of our time but as with everything we must always pay homage and respect to those who came before them.
A man came and gave us memorable moments, a legend left but remains in all our hearts.
RIP Muhammad ‘Louieville lip’ Ali