Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest’ among the boxers and a sporting icon of the world, goes into history. On June 3, 2016 he passed away at the age of 74. He became victim of the dreaded Parkinson’s disease. Son of Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and Odessa O’Grady, a cook for the wealthy people in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay Jr. rose to great height of fame by hard work, strong conviction and self belief.
When Cassius Clay was 12, he lost the bike his parents bought him a bike on his birthday. That made Clay furious and he reported to Policeman Joe Martin with the threat that he would spank the thief. The policeman, a boxing trainer, consoled the angry young man and trained him in boxing. And surprisingly, this young man won the Gold medal at the age of 18 in 1960 Rome Olympics. That was the turning point in the iconic career of the great boxer, who has never looked back after that.
Soon he became a professional boxer and defeated well known names in boxing world to be world champion three times, defeating Liston in 1964, George Foreman in 1975 and Leon Spinks in 1978. No mean job! He had memorable fights against Floyd Patterson (1965), Joe Frazier (1974), Homes (1980) and Trevor Berbick (1981). The last two fights were after he returned from the retirement in 1979. He has won many more and has lost just a few. During his peak period between 24 to 29 years he could not fight and spent time in prison. He refused to take part in Vietnam war, got converted to Islam in 1964 and thereafter was known as Muhammad Ali. However, not happy with the teachings of ‘Nation of Islam’, he abandoned it in favor of Orthodox Islam.
There was a big change in his mind after he left the boxing arena. He turned to peace and harmony. He was UN Messenger of peace. He was a fan of Nelson Mandela, singer Elvis Presley, philosopher Bertrand Russel and many others. Ali had a soft corner for children and had traveled to Afghanistan to help the struggling schools. He secured release of 14 American hostages from Iraq. He journeyed to South Africa on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
‘Muhammad Ali, one of the most recognizable faces on earth is one of my inspirations, ’declared President Obama after assuming the office. Way back in 1974 President Gerald Ford invited him to White House to heal the rift caused by Vietnam War and deep racial divide in USA. President George Bush honored him with Presidential Medal of freedom in 2005. The World Boxing Council honored him with the title King of Boxing in 2012.
Louisville Mayor Fischer said, ‘As a boxer, he became The Greatest, though his most lasting victories happened outside the ring. Very true, Ali enlarged the boxing arena to encompass the whole globe. Ali once said, ‘I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It will be a better world.’ Today on his passing away a glowing sun gets into twilight. The world salutes him. May his words come true!