|Muhammad Ali, Boxing Legend Celebrates his 71st Birthday Today!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 17, 2013) Doghouse Boxing
Former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali celebrates his 71st birthday Today! The one who dubbed himself “The Greatest” is still visible at boxing functions and when needed around the world in helping persecuted people!
He’s had quotes like “I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark”! We laughed then and miss the Ali we once knew. He was part of a heavyweight era that was filled with boxers who will enter or have entered the Hall of Fame.
Ali had two careers. The first was Ali at his best. He beat the likes of Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Zora Folley, Archie Moore, Henry Cooper, Karl Mildenberger and Cleveland Williams in going 28-0. Then came the 3 ½ year absence from the ring that took its toll. Though he could still hang with the best in a then division full of even better fighters like “Smokin” Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Ernie Terrell, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, George Chuvalo, George Foreman, Jimmy Young, Leon Spinks, Bob Foster, Mac Foster, Trevor Berbick and Larry Holmes, Ali though not as quick with each fading year unfortunately stayed too long in the ring like too many past champions. His final record was 56-5, losing 3 of his last 4 fights.
Ali came back with wins over Quarry and Bonavena before his first of 3 fights with Frazier. He lost for the first time in his career after 30 straight wins. He would follow-up with 10 straight wins after the Frazier defeat before losing for the second time suffering a broken jaw in losing to Norton while going the distance. It was at that time in Philadelphia this writer met Ali for the first time at 16th & Chestnut Streets. Though his jaw was wired so was he addressing a crowd around him what he was going to do to Norton in the rematch.
Wherever Ali went he drew crowds. Whether it was in Newark, NJ, where 2 gangs stopped fighting one another when they saw Ali step from his limo and run to greet him or at a “signing show” when the fans left baseball great Joe DiMaggio’s line to greet Ali.
Ali welcomed the public like no other sports figure. It was 2 weeks later after meeting him for the first time this writer knocked on his door in Cherry Hill, NJ and his second wife Belinda answered and was asked “can I speak to the champ?” Within a minute she was back opening the door to this stranger who greeted Ali with “why don’t you give Doug Jones or Ron Lyle a rematch?” He loved it when you confronted him unlike Frazier and Holmes along with some other champions. He thrived on it and always came firing back.
Ali’s camp in Deer Lake, PA, was filled with bus after bus with visitors to see “the champ”! Your grandmother would feel at ease in that log cabin used for his gym. It’s where this writer first met the great trainer Cus D’Amato, a friend and fan of Ali’s. He convinced Ali to be the first to win the title a record 3 times in defeating Foreman. Many of the former champs from Mike Tyson to the Klitschko’s idolized Ali like so many did.
In some 61 fights Ali only fought only a lone opponent with a losing record and that in his fourth fight. He reversed losses to Frazier, Norton and Spinks. His only stoppage was at 38 when a 31 year-old Holmes dealt out enough punishment that the referee called a halt in the tenth round. It was the same way “Sugar” Ray Robinson defeated Henry Armstrong and Rocky Marciano defeated Joe Louis. They met their opponents when they were on the down side of their careers.
Another Ali quote was “I am the greatest! I said that even before I knew I was”! Ali was one of a kind. Many like Holmes, Greg Page and Riddick Bowe tried to imitate him but none could duplicate him! On November 27, 1990 Ali met with Iraq President Saddam Hussein asking for the release of American hostages in Iraq and Kuwait. Just 5 days later Ali left with 9 hostages to bring back to the US.
Ali has possibly been one of the most recognizable people to walk the face of the earth thanks to satellites and world wide coverage of his many acts! For a man who was hated by many when he refused to be inducted (which was punishable to 5 years in prison but reversed 4 years later) into the US Army in 1967 to the man who in October of 2000 was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace. In November of 2005 Ali was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Ali has been in the home of the Rev. Billy Graham and the palaces of kings and queens throughout the world and has always brought a smile to their faces. I for one can admit to that with my own experiences with him.
Let’s all give a shout to Ali in celebrating his 71st birthday!
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