Muhammad Ali, The man the legend the icon

Muhammad Ali, The man the legend the icon
By Robert Brown, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 21, 2013) Doghouse Boxing

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali’s boxing career is un-paralleled in its achievements, from winning an Olympic gold medal to capturing the heavyweight crown in 1964 as a 6-1 underdog against Sonny Liston, who was at that time considered to be an unbeatable and unstoppable force. Ali recaptured the crowd in 1974 against the brutal and indestructible George Foreman and of course there’s the epic trilogy with Joe Frazier and again regaining the crown for a third time at the age of 36. Just about any person on earth would be satisfied with those achievements in one life time.

However those achievements pale in comparison when you consider Ali’s role in relation to social activism, religious understanding and racial equality.

In a time nowadays when boxing is raft with scandal after scandal about steroid use and corruption, I’m here to remind you about one of the most important roles boxing played with the help of Ali in social and democratic change.

We have come from a society that segregated and marginalised minority racial groups particularly African American people, this situation in a way was not helped by the antics of the first African American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.

Johnson ignored the laws of white society by marrying white women which was condemned at the time and smiling in the face of white contenders as he beat them to a pulp. Jack Johnson himself was a pioneer but unfortunately was the wrong man at the wrong time.

Joe Louis come along and made a substantial effort to behave in the exact opposite way as Jack Johnson, he didn’t marry out of his own race, he didn’t smile or celebrate after victories and he didn’t boast or brag during press conferences, Joe Louis was the poster boy, black heavyweight champion that white society of that time could deal with and accept.

Muhammad Ali came to prominence during the 1960’s which was a time of political and social upheaval, dominated by the out spoken and differing opinions over the validity of the Vietnam war, it’s hard to believe that one of the worlds most revered and unifying figures was at one time one of the most hated and politically divisive figures in the entire world.

This was demonstrated when after Ali refused induction into the US armed forces because of his religious beliefs, he was sent a telegram by ex-champion Gene Tunney which stated, you have disgraced yourself, the American flag and the principals for which it stands, that sentiment that Tunney expressed was echoed by a large portion of America.

As a consequence Ali was stripped of the heavyweight crown and as a result couldn’t fight for nearly 4 years until his conviction was over turned in the supreme court, as a result of Ali getting his conviction over turned the whole world began to admire Ali’s stand and his principles.

However let’s not forget the important role Howard Cosell played in Ali getting his message across to the public through the support of Cosell who himself was such a recognised and imposing figure, without Cosell championing Ali’s case and keeping Ali’s plight at the front of everyone’s mind and being able to tap into the social conscience of America Ali’s result in the supreme court may well have been quiet different, Cosell played a major role in securing the eventual freedom of Ali. Ali then went on to have a successful boxing career.

In the time of fear and war and global terrorism we are almost heading back to a time of pre 1960’s a time of fear, a time of misunderstanding and a time of ignorance, particularly towards the Muslim religion. This is a time we need to remember the work that extraordinary figures such as Muhammad Ali are doing in unifying the world through his extraordinary achievements, both in the boxing ring and promoting peace.

Because ladies and gentlemen what Muhammad Ali taught me most of all is the biggest problem in the world isn’t war, isn’t famine, isn’t even's ignorance. No matter where we live on this earth remember one thing, we are all human.

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