He came into this life as Cassius Clay, and he left our world as MUHAMMAD ALI, champion of the world. He was the greatest! The greatest boxer in all of history. His life transcended sport and Muhammad Ali became more than a mere man but he was a man nevertheless. In boxing he became known by a quote, ” Float like a butterfly , sting like a bee.” His soul was like a butterfly, free and unchained even by the disease that entrapped his body for 30 years, Parkinson’s.
Sport, the sport of boxing brought him into our living rooms, and enabled him to be world renowned. Boxing gave him the court where he was the court jester, playfully poking fun at us by being audacious and sometimes even irritating. He rose above the everyday headline. He became known as a world ambassador for PEACE. In every village and town throughout the world, the name of Muhammad Ali, was known for not just his boxing skill but for his wisdom in expressing to the world simple words that resonated within each of us.
In death he still speaks to us with his words. ” Don’t count the days, make the days count.” “Live every day like its your last because someday you’re going to be right.” Words are powerful things, more powerful than an overhand right or by a rapier fast, stinging jab to the face. He spoke about how each of us can make a difference when he was quoted as saying. ” Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Impossible could have been a word used to describe what a young man from Louisville faced growing up in a Southern Town, in describing the odds of what he faced for his future.
Muhammad Ali was courage as he followed his beliefs and refused to go to Vietnam. It was controversial to say the least. A few would never forgive him for failing to serve his country, but he followed his conscience. He once said so many years ago now, ” Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights.”
His words echoed just in this last year when he spoke up regarding ISIS. He said, ” I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”
He was the Champion of the World. Muhammad Ali was unbowed and unapologetic for he knew he was the best. He had the heart of a champion, for even when his body failed and all of his organs had stopped functioning his heart, the heart of a champion kept going for 30 more minutes. We will not see his likeness again. In our hearts and minds he will be forever young, the brash kid from Louisville who danced and ran rings around his opponents in the ring and laughed and smiled his way into our hearts as a spokesperson for Peace.