Muhammad Ali 1942 to 2016
There are a tiny number of sportsmen and women whose ability and commitment to their sport combined with the way they play their chosen game elevate from mere superstars to swashbuckling heroes, think of: Seve Ballesteros, Ayrton Senna, Pelé and Martina Navratilova. But then you have stars like Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens who through a twist of timing or fate have significance thrust upon them, but significantly pick up the baton and deservedly achieve legendry status. But there is one man who achieved all this and so much more. A man who called himself The Greatest, but never really believed his own hype. A man that history will remember as The Greatest. A man taken from us today, Muhammad Ali.
My words today are intentionally brief as there is so much more you should be reading by people who are more articulate and informed than me. Like all important historical figures Ali is not without controversy; Many people have a problem with is conversion to Islam, his trash talk of opponents, and his refusal to serve in the Vietnam war. Others downplay the significance of his part in the civil rights movment. Without this controversy he would have been just another sportsman. As it was, he became one of the most significant and iconic people of the 20th century. A man who went from being unable to eat a hotdog in a restaurant in his hometown (Louisville Kentucky) in 1960 because of the colour of his skin, despite being an Olympic Champion; to being a personal friend of one American President (Bill Clinton) and an inspiration to another (Barack Obama).
For those that don’t know about Muhammad Ali here is some essential viewing:
- When We Were Kings: Leon Gast’s 1996 Oscar winning documentary about “The Rumble in the Jungle”.
- Ali: Michael Mann’s 2001 dramatisation of ALi’s life leading up to and during The Rumble in the Jungle.
- The Rumble in the Jungle, Ali’s most iconic fight, available online
- Michael Parkinson’s interviews with Muhammad Ali, also available online.