Muhammad Ali Dies
By: Sean Crose
The Greatest is no more. Muhammad Ali, the most famous boxer, if not the most famous athlete, of all time, has passed away at 74 years of age. “After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease,” Ali’s spokesman, Bob Gunnell, told NBC News on Friday night, “Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening.”
Thus ends the story of a giant of the modern age, a kid from Louisville, Kentucky who went on to become heavyweight champion on the world and a social icon. Ali will unquestionably be long remembered for his humanitarian and civil rights activities, but it will be his time in the ring that Ali will be most remembered for.
A heavyweight who moved like a man several divisions lower, Ali truly captured the public’s imagination with his agility, a slippery dancer’s approach that, coupled with some serious punching power, made the man as unique a talent as the fight world had heretofore seen.
Yet Ali’s way with words were nearly equal to his ring savvy. Here was the best of all trash talkers, a man who could play a charming rogue while slicing the opposition with his tongue. Ali knew the value of getting in an opponent’s head and played his verbal card to the hilt.
In a sense, he had to. For Ali faced opposition unseen in the heavyweight division before or since his era (with the possibility of the 1990s). Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton and Ernie Shavers were just a few of the men Ali met and bested during his illustrious career.
After winning a Gold Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Ali went on to beat then-champion Liston in 1964. He repeated the feat, via stunning knockout, in a 1965 rematch. Ali was not always lauded as an iconic figure, however. Aside from converting to the Islamic faith and changing his name from Cassius Clay, Ali was known as an outspoken civil rights activist and opponent of the Vietnam War.
Indeed, Ali’s refusal to join the military caused him to lose his heavyweight crown and quite possibly his prime years. Not to be kept down, he finally returned to the ring to rule the first half of the 1970s. Although loses to Frazier, Norton and Leon Spinks were unquestionably tough to swallow, subsequent victories made his success all the sweeter.
After regaining the title from George Foreman in 1974, a full decade after he had first won it, Ali went on to lose and again regain the title in 1978. Indeed, his rematch victory against Leon Spinks, who had won the title from Ali months earlier, was the last great ring achievement Ali would have. A few years later, the world would see a disastrous loss at the hands of former sparring partner Larry Holmes and later still news would come news of Ali being afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.
Yet as his body gave out, Ali went from being a controversial figure to a universally lauded icon, one who certainly showed courage against an opponent he couldn’t beat. His death yesterday will undoubtedly resonate worldwide – and rightfully so.
For there will never be another like him.