Published On: Mon, Jun 6th, 2016

Farewell to the great Muhammad Ali

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The World has lost a champion, a true fighter, a great humanitarian and a real inspiration. On Friday the 3rd of June the sporting legend Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. He had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.  Ali’s family were by his side during his last moments, praying for him.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in January 1942, began boxing as an amateur after his bicycle was stolen and a police officer offered to train him. He later went on to win a gold medal as a light heavyweight at the 1960 Olympics then turned pro, fighting his bout in his hometown. Then there was no turning back.

In 1964 Ali became heavyweight champion, the youngest, ever at the time, against Sonny Liston. It was the same year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. He converted to Islam and declared “Cassius Clay was my slave name, and now I am free.” Ali faced a backlash, with many criticising him for converting and changing his name. But Ali’s strength was in his conviction, his beliefs and standing for what he believed in, no matter what.

And this is precisely why he refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War. He was threatened with a jail sentence but he stood his ground. He was prepared to go to prison, but not to fight in Vietnam. Ali refused to go against what he believed and this resulted in an interruption to Ali’s career after he was banned from boxing for almost four years. But it was a price that he was willing to pay. During the time Ali famously said, “I ain’t got nothing against no Vietcong; no Vietcong never called me nigger.”

But Muhammad Ali is not just known for the incredible boxing ability he possessed, he was also a civil rights activist, often speaking of racism in America during the 1960s, advocating for racial equality and social justice. He was a real inspiration for Black Americans; he broke down racial barriers, became a voice for Black Americans and made them feel proud of their identity and who they were. But he was not just loved by Black Americans alone; he was and still is, loved by so many across the globe. Muhammad Ali was a citizen of the world, who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. He inspired many people from all walks of life to fight for what they believed in.

And this is why the entire world is mourning the loss of a great man. The big names and celebrities might be taking the headlines with their tributes, but the common man and woman are shedding tears for the legend. Even in Lyari Karachi, boxing fans have been lighting candles for Muhammad Ali.  This just goes to show how he touched the lives of so many, in every corner of the world, regardless of their race, religion or nationality.

Parkinson’s syndrome slowed Ali down, his speech became slurred and the illness became very visible during his public appearances. But Ali did not lose his charm and wit. And the spark remained in his eyes right till the end. Even during his illness, Ali lit the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and carried the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Games in London. His movement was slow; his hand shook, but that magnificent presence could still be felt.

Anyone fortunate enough to watch Muhammad Ali fight will remember his speed and aggression. He was an explosive fighter in the ring, but he was also very graceful and moved around the ring like a ballerina. Many boxers have come and gone. Some have been great, but Muhammad Ali was undoubtedly the greatest. No one has earned the same amount of respect both in and out of the ring like Muhammad Ali. He commanded respect and he earned it.

It is not surprising that International news has been all about Muhammad Ali following the news of his death. The world has been robbed of a true legend in every sense of the word. But the blessed ones live on even after they are gone, and Muhammad Ali will live on in the hearts and minds of many people all over the world. He was an exceptional fighter, a witty and charismatic man, and a poet too. Ali came up with some fantastic one-liners and quotes that are now ingrained in our minds. Who can forget the famous, “I float like a butterfly sting like a bee.” Ali was also a humanist, an inspirational leader and a man with a big heart, who was always up for a challenge and did not yield. He had such immense self belief, which can be summed up in one of his famous quotes:

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

Farewell to the great Muhammad Ali. A man who wanted society and the world to be a better place, not just through his boxing, but through his actions and his words that touched the hearts and lives of so many from all walks of life. He was a fighter both in and out of the ring.

Muhammad Ali: 1942- 2016

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