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Muhammad Ali’s passing leaves the world a duller place – SportsUntapped.com
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Added June 6th, 2016 by Ian

Muhammad Ali’s passing leaves the world a duller place
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Millions of tears were shed around the world late Friday night by people from all walks of life when the news of Muhammad Ali’s death at the age of 74 in Scottsdale, Arizona spread. It’s impossible to describe and encapsulate the 1960 Olympic Light Heavyweight Champion and three-time Heavyweight Champion’s life in just one article. There was simply so much more to the man than boxing and it wouldn’t do him justice. For those who don’t know much about the legend and icon who was born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky it’s recommended you take the time to do some research on his exploits in and out of the ring and decide for yourself where he belongs in history.

For those who know all about his influence, charisma, courage, achievements and social conscience, you’re either one of the millions who loved him or one of the minority who dismissed him as nothing more than an arrogant loudmouth and/or draft dodger. Ali was a self-promoter who was generally regarded as the most famous and recognizable person on the planet when he was in his prime and for good reason. His boxing skills, humanitarian work and quick wit were second to none. However, like all humans, he had his faults. He generally made up for them though when he certainly didn’t have to, by standing up for the civil rights of himself and others even if put his career, income, freedom and ultimately his health in jeopardy.

Ali will always be remembered for becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at the time in 1964 when he shook up the world as a 22-year-old by stopping the fearsome Sonny Liston. And to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he went on to stop Liston again in their rematch. Ali’s pro boxing record of 56-5 with 37 Kos between 1960 and 1981 speaks for itself. He took on the best boxers of his era and three of his five losses came in his last four bouts. He was never knocked out, but was stopped once when his corner halted his 1980 contest against Larry Holmes after 10 rounds. All five of his defeats came at the hands of past, present or future world champions.

The Greatest invented the Ali Shuffle, the Rope a Dope and the slogan “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” He fought a heavyweight-record 255 championship rounds in 25 title fights including 19 title defences. In fact, he took on more top contenders and champions than any other heavyweight in history. Of course, he was just as well known outside of the ring for his religious and political views and his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Ali, who was married four times and has nine children, lived life to the fullest before Parkinson’s Syndrome took its toll on him and still did as much as he possibly could for mankind afterwards.

For those unfamiliar with Ali, this is a brief recap of his life which I wrote on his birthday several years ago.
I was thinking back to the days when Muhammad Ali ruled the boxing world and perhaps the rest of the planet too for that matter. It was Ali’s birthday recently and I wondered he’s been up to lately. I also wondered if today’s youth really knew who Ali was when he was king of the ring. We must go back to October of 1954, when something triggered a change in boxing and world history. This is when a 12-year-old Cassius Clay had his red and white bicycle stolen in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Crying with anger, he boated to local police officer Joe Martin that he was going to “whup” whoever had stolen it. Martin told the youngster he better learn how to fight first. And learn he did.

Just over a decade and a name change later, from America to Zanzibar and the U.S.S.R. to Australia, everybody knew who he was and with good reason. Ali was blessed with movie-star good looks and was a hustler, entertainer, poet, actor, singer, comedian, magician, religious spokesman, diplomat and one hell of a boxer, perhaps the greatest ever. He was hated by many early in his career though and dismissed as a clown by them. But his charisma and boxing skills eventually turned him into the undisputed “peoples” champion as the world fell in love with him and the affair continues today.

Granted, Muhammad Ali was no angel and he never professed to be. He could be sassy, cocky and perhaps seemingly cruel at times, but usually did so in a charming and childlike manner with a gleam in his eye. He had the skills to back up his words, often predicting the round his foe would fall in. Ali also became a true world champion and took his show on the road to places such as London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Manila, Toronto, Vancouver, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, New York, Munich, San Juan, Kuala Lumpur, Kinshasa, Jakarta, San Diego, Dublin and Zurich. He attracted presidents, prime ministers and royalty wherever he went while children flocked to him in the hundreds as they saw him as simply being just one of them.

I first saw Ali fight on Dec. 7, 1970. It was his second bout back after being inactive for three-and-a-half years due to a suspension for refusing induction into the U.S. Army. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he had said. I jumped into my grandfather’s arms and cried with joy. “He won, he won,” I screamed, as he knocked out Argentina’s Oscar Bonavena in the 15th and final round in Madison Square Garden. From then on I was just one of millions under Ali’s spell, never missing a fight or television appearance for the rest of his career.

Ali fought and defeated the greats of his era, including Archie Moore, Ernie Terrell, Bob Foster, Earnie Shavers, Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry, Zora Folley, Jimmy Ellis, Cleveland Williams, Joe Bugner, Leon Spinks, Sonny Liston (twice), Floyd Patterson (twice), Ken Norton (twice), Joe Frazier (twice), George Chuvalo (twice) and perhaps his greatest feat of all, knocking out big George Foreman in Africa. He was tough and took his defeats like a man, never complaining. Ali once fought the last 10 rounds of a bout against Norton with a broken jaw. He was also the smartest boxer I’ve ever seen and could adapt to any opponent and situation in the ring. Ali was one of the best clutch athletes in history who often won bouts with his efforts in the later rounds.

After retiring from boxing in 1981, Ali acted as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting foreign leaders around the world. He visited Iraq for 10 days in 1990 and secured the release of 15 American hostages after Saddam Hussein said he couldn’t let the great Muhammad Ali go home empty handed. Ali’s popularity lived on as shown by the release of ‘When We Were Kings’, a documentary of his battle with Foreman in Zaire, which won an Oscar in 1996. The film drew big crowds around the world 23 years after the fact. Ali also touched millions more across the globe that year when he lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and the BBC and in 2001, actor Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the fighter in the movie ‘Ali’. He was also awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005, which is the highest honour bestowed upon an American citizen. Ali is still a champion now as he battles Parkinson’s Syndrome, which he was diagnosed with in 1984, and seeks no sympathy from the public. His mind is intact and he still possesses the mischievous wit and humor he’s noted for. People say boxing hasn’t been the same since Ali left. Frankly, the world hasn’t quite been the same without him in the spotlight.

It’s arguable that Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer that ever lived, but it’s hard to deny he was one of the most quotable, photographed, unique, remarkable, and beloved human beings to ever grace our planet. He’ll be sadly missed, but never forgotten, especially by those whose lives he touched along the way of his amazing journey. May he now rest in peace.

 
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