When I heard the news of Ali’s passing away, this is what struck me – Boxing was a sport then when he used to play it. Well, that sums it up. Muhammad Ali for me, was one of the greatest sportsman who bought glory to perhaps the ugliest and nastiest game in our sporting history. Rest, I don’t want to know. Rest, as they say, is history.
Prudently, I am not a big devotee of the sport itself, have never been. Boxing for me, is Raging Bull and Rocky Balboa. I watched a glimpse of his heydays in the documentary, ‘Facing Ali’. Honestly, I have never ventured beyond the cinematic versions of the sport that itself is on its way to redemption. But, I know who Muhammad Ali is. I always did.
Influential people have always inspired me. I look up to them for achieving the glorious applause of life, and their way of conducting themselves towards the pinnacle of life gets my adrenaline flowing. Muhammad Ali is perhaps, and quite courageously, the man of the moment.
He doesn’t belong to my generation, he retired from the sport when I was at the peak of infancy. The sport he played and conducted himself in is a dying art today. But Ali has been a patriarch of the sport itself that possesses very few superstars – am leaving out the self-acclaimed ones for a different chapter. Yet, the fact that Ali stood out in my memories through history and my education of sports is in itself, an enormous tribute to his stature.
Muhammad Ali has been a saga of adverse episodes and staggering accomplishments. His emergence as Cassius Clay, conversion to Islam, being jailed for refusing to participate in the Vietnam war, his unsurpassable feat of winning the heavy weight championships a record 3 times, his iconic bouts with contemporaries like Joe Frazier and George Foreman, being a civil rights activist and ferociously outspoken sportsman (one of his kind in his generation), being at the helm of propagating and encouraging medical institutions to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PR). He just wasn’t a sportsman and a boxer, his fight lasted outside his ring and his victories were far greater and noble than what he achieved within his squadron.
My take on Muhammad Ali is that of his adversaries. (Borrowed from ‘Facing Ali’) A fierce competitor, a through professional and a gentleman who held the sport in high esteem. He fought hard, in the rings and outside it.
Very few can garner such respect, even in those evergreen days. This is my derivative of Muhammad Ali.
Image Courtsey: Time Magazine Cover, June 2016 edition.