Cassius Clay. Muhammed Ali. This man did more to change perceptions in the world than nearly any figure I can think of. From being an awe inspiring boxer, to standing up against the morass of the Vietnam War, to being one of the first public figures to embrace true Islamic faith. (Pay attention ISIS… not because he wanted to kill, but because he REFUSED TO, due to his faith).
This put him at odds with the US Government, which he stood up to as well, steadfastly and confident in his faith. This caused him to loose the prime years and earning power of his stellar boxing career. But that is only the prelude.
He overcame the public discrimination of his faith and anti-war stance to become a boxing champion of the world not once, but three times.
He influenced more rappers with his off the cuff poetry at a time most of them could not spell rap, or have the vocabulary at hand to perform at will, impromptu, under the lights and pressure of a news conference.
But this is only still the first act.
He became an impressive ambassador for peace, justice, Islam and America throughout the world.
He used his fame skill and talent to help lift up so many, in his off stage persona, that likely that should be his legacy.
But it goes further.
Afflicted with Parkinson’s he strode into it with the confidence and pride that were his hallmarks. Long before Michael J Fox (not to belittle his battle, that was inspired by Ali) he had the balls to stand on the world stage at the Olympics to light the torch – in the throes of his tremors, in Atlanta.
No one one earth, with his stature, could have pulled that off with the elegance and aplomb that he did.
His poetry and quick tongue, were legendary. Which was a testament to his intellect,and skill in the ring – and the fact that he was one of the few boxers who never became afflicted with punch drunk. And that he surrounded himself with good promoters and corner men.
To my knowledge, no promoter took advantage of him. Nor did he ever squander the take. Few boxers can own that.
However, his most famous quote – “Float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee”, is not actually his, but his corner man who trade marked it.
It matters not. His off the cuff quotes are far better and mean more…
“Friendship is not something you learn in school, but, if you have not learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything”
” I know where I’m going, and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be…I am free to be what I want”
“The man who has no imagination, has no wings.”
His philanthropy is legion. It has and will continue.
Go with God, Muhammad Ali, in peace and light. Be kind to bee’s and love the butterfly’s.
Thank You for gracing us with your presence on earth and heaven.